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Resolve to Change Your Limiting Beliefs

By Irene Leonard, Lawyer Coach

Reprinted with the permission of the King County Bar Association, January 2008.

When having a difficult time adopting a new behavior, it may be necessary to go further than just noticing your inability to perform the behavior and go deeper and focus on changing your thoughts. Habits and behaviors arise out of thoughts and feelings. Some thoughts are limiting, and until exposed, block actions.

Limiting Beliefs

What are limiting beliefs? They are beliefs, either conscious or unconscious, that stop or limit you from doing something you say you want to do.

For example, you've come up with a personal marketing plan. That plan may include doing things you've never done before and don't think you'd be comfortable doing, such as meeting new people or asking friends or colleagues for help with marketing yourself. Let's say you just don't find the time to make those calls. If you're like many people in this predicament, you're likely being stopped by fear or limiting beliefs and calling it procrastination.

One of my clients, Joe (not his real name), agreed to make five calls to potential referral sources. Although he knew he should make the calls, he did not make even one in the time period he agreed was a reasonable time in which to make them. It turns out he was embarrassed to make the calls because he didn't want people to think he needed more work.

Uncover Your Limiting Beliefs

An easy way to uncover your limiting beliefs is to work with a trained coach. Another tactic is to ask a friend or other lawyer in the firm to engage in a conversation with you to help you discover what the reasons are that keep you from doing those things you need to do. Ask them not to advise you, but to listen, be curious, and ask only "what" and "how" questions that will help you increase your self-awareness.

You could also journal: write at least two pages working through questions that develop from each other. For example:

Question: What are the reasons I have not made any calls?
Answer: I don't know.
Question: If you did know, what would be the reason?
Answer: Fear
Question: Fear of what? [This is a key question.]
Answer: Fear that they'll think I'm wasting their time. [A limiting belief.]
Question: What's the reason they'll think you're wasting their time?
Answer: They're too busy. [Another limiting belief.]
Question: How do you know they're too busy?
Answer: Well, I guess I don't really know if they're too busy. That's just me assuming the worst.
Question: What do you know about the people you might call?
And so on. Keep going, dealing with each objection as it rises.

When fear or limiting beliefs hinder your course of action, it's important to first realize that fear is the reason you're not taking action. Then identify the root of the fear or belief. Here are some common limiting beliefs related to making difficult calls:

Don't stop early in your investigation of your beliefs. Keep going until you realize your fears are not based on anything you can't handle. It's important to identify the belief so you can change the belief into a new, positive, more helpful interpretation of it. All of a sudden, the aha! will come. "They won't take my call" could become "Some people will be happy to help me." The pleasure of the aha! moment will actually help you take action on the behavior you've been avoiding.

Strategize to Change Your Limiting Beliefs

Once you understand what your beliefs are, come up with a plan or strategy to handle the difficulties. Start with small steps. Make just one call based on a well-thought-out script and see what happens.

When you're attempting to do something you've never done before, you're in an environment ripe for self-doubts and limiting beliefs. You need to determine what your values really are and what is important for your practice. Knowing what's important will help you create the desire to overcome your self doubts and limiting beliefs and start some marketing activities. Work through the obstacles. Be tenacious. Change your limiting beliefs into "ahas".