"The limit is not in the sky. The limit is in our minds."
Ah...beautiful quote. We'll read this on an Instagram tile and think "Yes, totally!" But....are we really living with that truth? Are we aware of our own limiting beliefs and behaviors enough to change them? And more importantly....are we committed to doing it?
Before I start my rant....I want to share with you a beautiful short story.
As my friend was passing the elephants, he suddenly stopped, confused by the fact that these huge creatures were being held by only a small rope tied to their front leg. No chains, no cages. It was obvious that the elephants could, at anytime, break away from the ropes they were tied to but for some reason, they did not. My friend saw a trainer nearby and asked why these beautiful, magnificent animals just stood there and made no attempt to get away.
“Well,” he said, “when they are very young and much smaller we use the same size of rope to tie them and, at that age, it’s enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.” My friend was amazed. These animals could at any time break free from their bonds but because they believed they couldn’t, they were stuck right where they were.
When I first read this, my stomach dropped. It rang true for me in so many aspects of my life and hearing it played out in actual context made the concept really solidify in my psyche. I'm sure a lot of people will read that story and think "So what? Humans are so much smarter than elephants. We would never do that!"
I beg to differ. Maybe we wouldn't allow ourselves to physically be held prisoner by a force we could easily overpower....but we certainly let ourselves be held prisoner by our thoughts. While humans have a more developed cerebrum brain structure (conscious reasoning, will-power, etc.), we also have the same limbic brain structure (emotions, , memories of past experiences, etc.) as our elephant friends.
And when we're talking about the thoughts and limiting beliefs that are holding us prisoner, we're not talking about rational thought we wake up and consciously choose everyday. We're talking about the deep-rooted, murky inner workings of our subconscious programming.
So....it's not our conscious, beautiful, human brains that's holding us back. It's our subconscious beliefs that have been formed by past experiences and/or emotional traumas.
And while modern therapy has indeed shined light on the impact our childhood experience has on our adult psyche, they've failed to really help us change it. Because true change and transformation doesn't happen by talking it out for an hour every other week. Change happens on a neurological level through practicing thinking new beliefs with intense repetition and commitment. And transformation is solidified when we take action on those new beliefs despite the fear our subconscious tries to bring to the surface.
So you can read that short story and say "Poor, stupid elephants." But... I could tell an elephant a similar story about a human who felt crippled by their belief they could overcome an addiction or start their own business and they could say "Poor, stupid human."
Point of the matter is....we all have created our own self-imposed shackles in some area of our life.
So right now...I want you to take a deep breath. Close your eyes and ask yourself "How am I holding myself back?" or "What beliefs are keeping me stuck?"
Let the answers come to you. Because they will come. And when they do, look at them with curiosity and ask yourself some important questions...
-Where did that thought/belief come from?
-Is that thought/belief serving me?
-How can I challenge that thought/belief?
-Who would I be without that thought/belief?
-What new thought/belief could I introduce to move me towards my ultimate goal of freedom, success, and happiness?
Here's a few common limiting beliefs the human psyche upholds and a quick argument to combat them.
"I can't stop drinking/smoking/eating/using drugs."
Let's tackle this from a neurological level. The cerebrum structure of the human brain gives us conscious will to choose to engage motor activity and consume anything external. Meaning, as a human, you DO have control over your hand and it's ability to pick up food, drugs, alcohol, etc. So you telling yourself "I can't stop!" simply is not true. By saying you can't, you completely zap yourself of all of your power.
The only reason you think you have no control is because you have thought about your lack of will, time and time again, and consequently programmed a subconscious belief that you need this substance to cope. Because in your past, you have formed an emotional attachment to the substance and hard-wired your brain to seek out this habit.
With this knowledge, you can step back from your "addiction" and really think about how your language and thoughts surrounding it are keeping you stuck. You are a human with the ability to control your body. So how can you possibly tell me you can't stop consuming toxic substances? Forget about your emotions for a second and look at the facts. When you can be objective about this, you take all of your power back.
"I don't have enough resources."
How many people turn their dreams into a reality? A better question might be, how many people TRY to turn their dreams into a reality? Most people stop at the day-dreaming phase of accomplishing their desires of starting their own business and traveling the world right before they have to take any action to make it happen. Why is that? Because they get stuck in the belief that it's not possible.
But, if you take a step back from the story you've created around your own circumstance... look at the facts. Oprah Winfrey was born into poverty and had to fight her way to earn a scholarship to become the first African-woman TV correspondent. The CEO of Starbucks grew up in a housing complex for the poor and got turned down 242 times before finding an investor. Jim Carrey worked as a janitor and lived in a van and is now making $20 million per film.
Moral of the story...it isn't the resources that's keeping you stuck. It's the belief that you need more resources.
"I'll never overcome my anxiety/depression."
I can't help but throw in a personal anecdote here. I spent years of my life dealing with anxiety and depression. I've been in therapy. I've been on anti-depressants. I felt broken beyond belief. I felt like I was doomed to be a dark cloud in the sky for the rest of my life.
That was until I started doing the inner work. Meditating, journaling, self-care, and clearing the negative fog of my brain. When I learned to separate myself from my negative thoughts and anxious reactions, I found freedom. I will stand here today and say with conviction that I have overcome anxiety and depression. And if I can do it, so can you.
If my story isn't enough, look for stories that resonate closer to your own situation. Find people who have overcome their depression and use them as references in your brain to build up the belief in your own healing process. It is possible to overcome whatever mental turmoil you're going through. But, only if you believe it.
"I'm not worthy."
Perhaps the most common and most detrimental belief of all. Whether you picked it up as a child from something someone said to you or you've given into your own negative self-talk enough times to solidify this idea in your head...you have come to believe that you are fundamentally unworthy of happiness, freedom, and success.
This isn't an easy belief to find, accept, or change. This takes a lot of work to break through. But, I will ask you one question to start dismantling this belief, one brick at a time.
Do you think humans were put here to struggle, be fearful, and play small? Or do you think we were put here to thrive, go after our dreams, and be happy?
If you believe in the latter, I'll then ask....What makes you so special, then? If the entire human population was created to be free and happy and successful...what is it about you that makes you the sole human unworthy of accomplishing greatness? Why are you the only one who gets to play victim to your circumstances? Because at the end of the day, no matter how tied up in your own head you are, you are one of us. You are a part of something so much greater than your human brain could even fathom.
Take a deep breath and truly think about that. Don't fight that truth. Surrender to it. If you decide to live with this truth and believe that you were born worthy, no matter what you've done in your life so far, you can stop looking for praise, accomplishments, and validation outside of yourself to prove your own worthiness to you.
In any moment, we have the choice to break ourselves free of these shackles we have put on ourselves. We are limitless. We are free. We have the ability to create anything we desire and to overcome any obstacle that crosses our path.
But, the difference between the person that DOES and the person that DOESN'T is their set of beliefs. It's their decision to wake up, get conscious, and realize the affect their self-imposed shackles has had on their lives. And it's their choice to take action and choose a new belief.
In taking responsibility for every outcome we've created, we set ourselves free. We are free to choose something different. And in that freedom, comes empowerment. In that empowerment, comes momentum. And when you combine momentum and belief...there is no stopping you.