My all-time favourite illustration of a limiting belief and its consequences is a Bible story. Moses and the Israelites are camped out in the desert. He is laying out strategies for Canaan takeover. He needs information from someone on the ground, so he picks twelve men and sends them on a covert mission.
The spies were given simple and precise instructions: “Look the land over, see what it is like. Assess the people, whether they are strong or weak. Few or many. Observe the land, whether it is pleasant or harsh. Describe the towns where they live-are they open camps or fortified with walls? And the soil, whether it is fertile or barren. Are there forests? And try to bring back a sample of the produce that grows there.”
For forty days, these 12 men had the same experiences. They saw the same exact things – a productive, fertile and rich land, fortified cities, and physically imposing inhabitants.
Ten saw giants; two saw abundance!
At end of the mission, there were two completely different reports. Ten of the spies acknowledged that land was productive. But as far as Israel’s ability to conquer, the image of the physically imposing inhabitants overshadowed anything positive that the land had to offer. This is how they saw it: “We seemed like grasshoppers in our eyes, and we looked the same to them (Canaanites)”.
Two of the spies came to a different conclusion: yes; there were giants in the land. But they were nothing! The giants could be defeated! In the end, the Israelites believed the ten and shared in their limiting belief, at a great cost to the whole nation.
What is a limiting belief?
A limiting belief is a belief or a mindset that hinders a person’s ability, desire or potential to achieve what they are capable of, had they not held that belief in the first place. We can never be anything more than what we believe we are. Others may believe in us all day long, but what we believe is what we become. Here is a list of some common conversational phrases that indicate an underlying limiting belief:
“I am too old”
“It is too late”
“It hasn’t worked for others. It will not work for me”
“I don’t have the time/resources”
“I don’t have the right connections”
“This is my fate”
The first time I had someone speak on limiting beliefs, I was listening to a podcast by P. Desmond Adams (You can search for his podcasts – Mental Mastery Moments). My initial thought was that I do not hold any limiting beliefs. However, as I reflected on the topic I became more aware of limiting beliefs that were laying in plain sight. That is exactly what caused my friend and me to shy away from asking for a job at Peponi School. We did not believe that we were qualified to teach in what we considered an elite school.
As a person thinks in his/her heart, so he/she is. The question is – what do you believe? About yourself, your abilities, your potential? Do you hold a limiting belief that hinders your desire to even try?
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” Henry Ford3