This is some incredibly powerful stuff and I want you to pay close attention. I want to start with the idea of a pyramid of behavior. There’s really four levels. The first level is results. One level below that are actions. One level below that are thoughts. And one level deeper below that are beliefs. So beliefs are at the base of the pyramid. What this means is that your beliefs impact your thoughts, and your thoughts lead to your actions, and your actions create the results that you see in the world. So, most people focus the majority of their energy on changing their actions, on the very top level of the pyramid. I’m sure we’ve all had an experience - I know that I have, of reading something - this new strategy, this new productivity hack, whatever it might be - and you go about implementing it into your life. Then a few months down the road it kinda slips and you stop doing it and sooner or later you’ve sort of given it up, right? Then you’re just back to doing what you normally do. The reason that that happens is because you’re focusing on making the changes in your life at the action level of the pyramid. But the actions come from the thoughts, and the thoughts come from the beliefs that you have about the world. And these beliefs are subconscious stories that we tell ourselves. This is what our subconscious really thinks and feels and believe about the world. And so when you focus all of your energy on changing your actions, you’re fighting the tide. You’re not really making long term changes. You’re only changing things at the surface. The highest leverage and biggest impact place that you can make changes in your life is at the belief level.
Remember when we talked about the biological limits of the mind? The subconscious drives the majority of our behavior. And it puts us on auto-pilot in many instances in our lives and we don’t even realize it. But when you make a decision in many cases, your subconscious has already made that decision for you, and you’re consciously finding a reason or a justification for why you’re making that decision. But here’s where it gets really interesting - your subconscious doesn’t care if you’re happy. Your subconscious doesn’t care if you’re fulfilled. It doesn’t care if you live a purposeful, meaningful life. The only thing your subconscious mind cares about, and this was programmed into it by millions of years of evolution. Remember we talked about that. The only thing your subconscious mind cares about is survival. And not just physical survival, not just keeping your body alive, but the subconscious mind wants to keep your identity alive. And so, the subconscious mind locks you into behavioral patterns again and again and again that are sometimes destructive, that are sometimes behavioral patterns you do not want to be in, and the behavioral patterns at a conscious level you desperately want to change. We’ve all experiences or somebody with struggling with something, struggling with a life change, you make some new year’s resolution says that “this time is going to be the time I’m really going to do it; I’m going to make a change.” And of course, a month or two later, they break down, they had that chocolate cake for dessert, they eat an unhealthy lunch, whatever it might be, and suddenly they just give up and they – “I’ll never be able to do that, I’ll never be able to eat healthy, I’m never going to be able to lose weight I’ll never be able to start a business.” Whatever it might be, they give up on their dreams. Even though they don't want to do that, the subconscious is extremely powerful, it overwhelms change at the action level, because change at the action level are not permanent and don’t matter.
Your subconscious doesn’t care about you being happy. The only thing your subconscious cares about is keeping you alive and keeping your identity alive. Now let’s look at the way that that manifests itself. The subconscious will lock you into a behavior cycle because the subconscious uses a very simple method for determining what is an effective survival tactic. It doesn’t look at the long run health implications of eating a cheeseburger every day for lunch for twenty years. All it says is, “Did I eat unhealthy in the past? Yes. Did it keep me alive? Am I alive right now? Yes. Alright keep doing that.” That’s the whole cycle of thought and action that your subconscious programs in. So whatever your identity is today, however that’s evolved, the people in your life, the stories in your life, the actions you’ve taken, your subconscious runs a test and says “is this keeping me alive?” again, it’s not looking. It doesn’t have the ability to forecast out using actual tables whether the decisions you’re making are best for your health or happiness in the long term, all it’s thinking about “is this keeping me alive today? Yes? Alright keep doing that.” And that’s why you see people get locked into behavior patterns, even things like smoking where they keep doing the same destructive thing over and over and over again. The subconscious sees change as dangerous, and again this has been programmed into our mind. It makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. Change is dangerous in many cases in a hunter-gatherer society. And these decisions are much different than they are today where we have much longer term implication where we have some of our systematic decisions we have to make.
But what this means is that change is resisted by the subconscious because it’s dangerous and because it’s unknown. Even if you know consciously that this change is incredibly beneficial for you- that you need to make it, that your health requires that you make it, that your business requires that you make it, whatever it might be - your subconscious doesn’t care. Remember, your subconscious doesn’t care about you being happy, it doesn’t care about you being successful. What it does care about is not doing things that it things are unknown and things it thinks are dangerous. And changes to your identity are perceived by the subconscious as extremely dangerous. The subconscious will do whatever it has to, to keep that identity alive. And the way the subconscious makes these decisions, the filter the subconscious uses are your beliefs about the world. And that’s what we talked about when we talked about perceiving reality. But I’m going to dig into that a little bit more deeply. I’m going to share with you a few examples of limiting beliefs.
Let’s start with the idea of the fear of sales. That’s something that many people struggle with, many people are afraid of, especially entrepreneurs, people starting their business. And we’ll also talk about the fear of success. Here are some of the ways the fear of sales or even the fear of failure can manifest themselves in limiting beliefs. And we’ll talk about how to uncover and really listen to yourself telling these stories. But here’s some things you might say to yourself even in the back of your head, you might not even notice it but it’s underpinning a lot of your actions. If you have a fear of failure or a fear of sales and this is just an example. There are limiting beliefs pervading your life in many, many different areas, and I’ll share with you a number of limiting beliefs that I had in a few minutes.
One, I might get rejected. Two, I might look sales-y, Who wants to be that cheesy, slimy salesman, right? People might not like me. Fear of financial failure. Fear to start the sales call, and fear to close. I don’t want to jeopardize my relationship, I don’t want to be that rude guy who goes in for the sales close, right? These are all little beliefs, little feelings, little stories we tell ourselves - I’m not going to be the sales-y guy so I’m not going to make the sales call, I’m not going to be the pussy guy that goes in for the close. Again, I’m not a sales trainer, I’m not here to talk to you about sales, these are just examples of limiting beliefs of stories you tell yourself that cause you to self-sabotage.
Here’s some examples of fears of success. We have these beliefs, these stories about what is okay, what buckets are acceptable for us to live our lives in. How much money it’s okay for us to make. And if we get outside of those buckets, our subconscious will cause us to self-sabotage so that we stay within the buckets that we feel like are okay. Because your subconscious doesn’t care about how much money you make, your subconscious doesn’t care about how successful you are. All it cares about is repeating whatever cycle has kept you alive today. So here’s some examples of the fear of success. I’m already overwhelmed and I don’t want to work more. I’m afraid I won’t be able to deliver on the promises I make. I’m afraid of a loss of freedom. I’m afraid of not being able to trust people. These are all stories, these are all limiting beliefs that people have who are afraid of success. And some of these ring incredibly true for me, and I’ve spent countless hours working on them. The loss of freedom in particular is something that I am terrified of and is something that has caused me to self-sabotage in many instances and something I’ve constantly battled against.
I wanted to share with you a couple real life examples of limiting beliefs that I have suffered with, myself personally. This is actually… I put this together this morning. This is actually a new project that I’m launching, and I’m not going to get into too much detail about the project but it’s something I’ve been procrastinating on, not going to lie. And procrastination is usually a very good indicator that you haven’t identified and rooted out the limiting beliefs that you have about that particular topic or project, and I went through the exercise this morning and I realized that there’s a number of limiting beliefs that I have about that project, and that’s why I’ve been procrastinating. I should have made progress on this two weeks ago and I’ve done absolutely nothing. Here are the limiting beliefs that have stopped me from doing that. 1. I’m afraid people won’t buy it. 2. I’m afraid that I can’t execute it and that I don’t have the ability to pull it off. 3. I’m afraid that my business partners won’t see the strategy the same way that I do, and it’ll cause tension between us. 4. I’m afraid that I don’t have enough time to do it, does that one sound familiar? Does that one sound just like one of the fears of success? And lastly, I’m scared to put myself out there with this project. So those are all real beliefs about a project that I’m working on right now that I know that I have. And I’m going to work through the framework that we’ll talk about in a minute to break down and destroy these limiting beliefs, but just those beliefs lurking in my subconscious has cost me at least two weeks, maybe more, on a project that I know has the potential to revolutionize one of my businesses. That’s how powerful limiting beliefs are. That’s how damaging limiting beliefs are.
Here’s another example of real world limiting beliefs. These are beliefs that I’ve had to work through, but the first time I ever went through the limiting belief framework, I identified a core belief about myself that I’m an introvert. And the number of sub-beliefs and what you’ll do when you go through this framework the first time, usually you’ll uncover a series of beliefs that are what I would call surface level beliefs. They’re beliefs that are kind of bubbling to the top. But the more you drill down, you’ll find that there are some really, really core beliefs about the world and about yourself that inform a lot more other beliefs. So, here the root belief here is that I’m an introvert. But here’s a bunch of limiting beliefs that manifested from that belief. I’m too shy. I can’t relate to anyone. I hate small talk. I’m awkward around people. I don’t like sharing myself with people. I feel trapped in conversations with people and just want to leave. I don’t speak up for myself in a business context. And I don’t want to talk to my customers in a business context. And so, think about that. Those are all extremely damaging beliefs. And those are all beliefs that I identified about myself about this core belief that I was an introvert. And it’s something that I’ve been able to reposition and change and we’ll talk about how to do that in a second but it’s something that I’ve been able to break down and the first time I went through this framework, I went to a cocktail party the night after I had done that with my wife, an she was shocked at all the strangers that I was chatting up and the people I was talking to and all the stuff that i was doing, but it was because I’d broken down these beliefs, and I’d uncovered what was really at the core of all this stuff like I’m not good at small talk and all these other things. These are just examples, again, I’m just trying to show you with some of my personal examples, how limiting beliefs impact your life in so many ways. And if you really dig in any particular area of your life, you’re going to find limiting beliefs there. And you’re going to find beliefs that have been holding you back, sometimes for years. And limiting beliefs that if you’d overturned them, you could have seen massive success in whatever you’re trying to achieve.
Some of the deepest limiting beliefs. There’s two really, really core limiting beliefs that rule people’s lives, and I’ve struggled with both of these, I’m not going to lie. But these are related to fear. And one of the deepest and you’ll probably uncover one of these two, maybe both of these beliefs, when you really dig into the framework, but one of these beliefs is that I am not enough. And that usually stems from early childhood, but it’s an incredibly powerful belief. People who believe that they’re not enough, so everything is about trying to be enough, trying to become - instead of just being. The other one is that the world is dangerous. This one for me was earth-shattering and it pervaded my life and my need to control things around me for the vast majority of my life, 25+ years. That was a belief that I did not write down when I was going through my initial inventory of the most damaging limiting beliefs in my life, and I uncovered it after a series of beliefs that I realized that that was the root of all of those beliefs. And when I went through the four question framework to break that belief down, I broke down into tears and I was bawling crying because it was such a core, powerful belief rooted in my subconscious. This is really intense stuff but it’s incredibly important, emotional work to do and you will see a dramatic change in your life when you break down these beliefs.
So how do you break down limiting beliefs? There’s a three step process. The first is to become aware of your limiting beliefs. The second is to challenge the truth behind those beliefs - and there’s a tried and true framework for doing that. Then the third is to implant and normalize and pattern new beliefs and a new identity into your subconscious.
So how do you become aware of your limiting beliefs? I gave you some examples and if any of those ring true to you or sound like something you would use to describe yourself, you’re probably struggling with some of the beliefs that I just shared with you. But there’s a couple different ways to cultivate the ability to be aware of your beliefs. One of the most powerful ways to do that, which we’re going to have a podcast on soon, is on meditation. Meditation is an incredible tool for really becoming aware of your thoughts and becoming aware of what is going on in your mind and catching yourself when you have these thoughts that you can then peg and say, “Hey wait a second. That was a limiting belief. I’m sitting here working on a project and this thought just flashed into my mind - ‘I can’t do it, I can’t execute on that, I’m not the right guy for that.’” Whatever it might be. The meditation trains your mind to capture and see your thoughts with sort of an impartiality that lets you then write them down and address them later.
So meditation is a start. The second way to do that is to look at negative fears and emotions you have around what you want to do. Write those down. You know, I love to use something like Evernote and I just keep a running list of limiting beliefs that come up. That I know, hey, that was a limiting belief, boom, and the thing about it is the more you do it, the more you cultivate the ability to see those thoughts flashing across your mind. You have to catch them and write them down, then put them through the framework. But it really requires a brutal self-honesty and cultivated reflection to be able to do that, which is what we talked about on the podcast about accepting reality. You have to accept reality as it is. You can’t wish away your limiting beliefs. They’re there and ignoring them is only going to cause self-sabotage.
So, how do you challenge the truth behind a limiting belief? There’s a four-question framework that you can run these beliefs through that will obliterate your limiting beliefs It’s an incredibly powerful framework - it is simple, but super effective. And the four questions were developed by Byron Katie in her book The Work, incredible book. Definitely recommend checking that out if you really want to do some deep, self-digging and really put in the heavy emotional work necessary to truly understand some of the stuff.
But the four questions, the first question is: Is it true? Is this belief true? And just ask yourself that on a surface level. Do you think it’s true? And many times you’ll say “Yes, I think it’s true, yes - I don’t want to be sales-y, yes I don’t think I have what it takes to execute this project. Or sometimes you know even at a surface level, that’s just not true, you know? It’s not really true that I don’t like talking to people - whatever it might be. But the first question is just simply, is it true?
The second question is: Can I absolutely know that it’s true? This is a much different question than the first one. The first question is only about your surface level perception. This is much, much deeper. On the fundamental level: can you know that this is true? What is truth? Can you unquestionably know for absolute certainty that this is the truth? I think that’s a much tougher question to answer, I at least personally feel that there’s very few things that I really know are absolutely true about almost anything. But this is really a deeper, more metaphysical question about, you know, what is the nature of this truth? Is it really true? Has anybody ever in history proven this wrong? Done something different? Have I ever proven this wrong in the past? Has there ever been an example that’s been different than what I believe? And if that’s the case then you cannot absolutely know that it’s true.
And by the way, one of the things that I should mention about this - I think the most effective way to go through this process is to take out a word document, pen and paper, whatever works for you, and write out your answers. Just write, you know what I mean? I wrote when I was going through some of the really, really powerful beliefs in my life. I wrote a page or more on every one of these answers to these questions. But here’s where the questions start getting really powerful.
The third question is: How do I react when I think that thought? And you have to really feel into this, feel the emotions that it makes you feel. How do you feel? How do you react when you think that you can’t be successful? That you’re not good with money? That you’ll never lose weight? How does that make you feel? Really dig in, feel the thoughts. Feel what it feels like. Feel the anger, frustration. The rage, whatever it might be. Feel it. Really - let it well up and live in it, write about it.
The last question is the most powerful question. Who would I be without that thought? This question is beautifully phrased. Who would I be without that thought? It’s not saying that you can get rid of that thought - it’s just a thought exercise. Who would I be without that thought? It’s almost like a weight is lifted off of you. Who would I be without that thought? You would be a better person, you would be more successful, you’d be crushing it, you’d be killing it, you’d be achieving everything you want, you’d be Elon Musk, whatever it is you want to be. As soon as that belief is gone, you can be that person. And that question enables your subconscious to visualize a reality where that belief is no longer true.
So I really want you to spend a lot of time on the last two questions especially. Really dig in, really feel the emotions about what it feels like. And then after you’ve gone through that framework, take the belief that you had, whether it’s the world is dangerous, or I’m not good with money, or I’m afraid to lose my freedom. Whatever the belief might mean. Take that belief and I want you to create a new belief. Not a negative belief - it can’t be the world is not dangerous. Because the mind doesn’t really respond at a subconscious level. The negative doesn’t really mean anything, it’s the world is dangerous and it creates these disassociations. You need to create a new belief like the world is full of love and joy. Or, the more successful I am the more freedom I will have. Has to be a positive belief. Create a new belief, and then that’s where we move into part three. That’s how you plant that new belief into your subconscious. And you do that through a process known as identity patterning. So there’s a couple steps that are necessary to identity pattern. Once you have that new belief, let’s just use the example of: the more successful I am the more freedom I will have. Take that belief, center yourself, and really get present in the moment. Pu your hand over your heart, really center yourself. Really feel it. And then state the belief out loud. The more successful I am, the more freedom I have. Whatever the belief is for you. And then imagine it in your mind, as richly and as powerfully as you can. It’s like the fourth question- imagine the world, your life, who you would be, how it would be without that belief. And feel those emotions. The more emotions you feel, the more gratitude, joy, excitement, happiness that you feel - the more powerful it’s going to be at a subconscious level. You really have to ground those emotions in. Feel it. Really soak it in.
Something else you can do. You can use imagery, you can use photos, you can use music to bind and speak that particular belief, that particular language, to your subconscious. But this process, it’s called identity patterning. It’s not just a one-time thing. You want to do it every day, you want to do it maybe twice a day for a week or two after you’ve really uncovered this belief and you really want to anchor it in. It sounds kind of weird, it sounds kind of goofy, oh put your hand on your heart and all this stuff. The reality is that is speaking to your subconscious at an emotional level. It’s giving your subconscious a new choice. So that when your subconscious faces the same situation, it doesn’t have to choose the choice of “I’m going to self-sabotage this time”. Instead it has this new emotional reality that it has felt, that it knows is possible, and so you can then make a proactive choice and the fear, the anxiety, the struggle, melts away. I really think you should try this out, even if it’s only with a single limiting belief. This will change your life dramatically. This is some really important, extremely powerful, really relevant information and if you execute this, if you try this even with a single belief, I think you’re going to see a lot of change in your life.