Today we have another great guest on the show, Catherine Plano. Catherine is the founder of the I AM WOMAN project and an international executive coach with more than two decades of experience working with top companies, having impacted more than 100,000 lives, and whose mission is to aid companies and individuals in becoming aware of their limitless potential and in using their extraordinary abilities to achieve their desired outcomes. Catherine is also a certified life coach and a certified master practitioner of NLP. Catherine focuses on changing lives daily through her coaching and motivational speaking. Catherine, welcome to the Science of Success.
Catherine: Thank you very much. Thank you for a great introduction. Thank you, Matt.
Matt: Well, we’re super excited to have you on here today.
Catherine: I’m super excited.
Matt: That’s awesome. And you’re coming in all the way from Australia, is that right?
Catherine: That’s correct. In Melbourne.
Matt: Great. Well, to get started, kind of tell me a little bit about your background and sort of share your story with our listeners.
Catherine: Sure. My background goes way, way back -- maybe about 25, 30 years ago. I really got into the whole spiritual side of things, the energy. I was doing a lot of that kind of work, which, back then--say, 25 years ago--was probably looked upon as a bit woo woo. But, you know, what I did -- I actually used to have my own center, and what had happened is I had an epiphany one day. It was, you know, all these people coming in and very dependent on me, and I was thinking, this is not how you empower people! People have those abilities and those resources themselves. I just need to show them how they can tap into that. So, that’s when everything changed for me. I got into coaching neurolinguistics, neuroscience, and brain science, and hence why I’m here today -- to help people, empower them, and transform them.
Matt: That’s fascinating. So, I’d love to kind of dive right in to some of the meat. Tell me about the concept. And we’ve talked a little bit about this in previous episodes of the podcast, but tell me a little bit about the concept of limiting beliefs -- you know, kind of what they are, how to identify them, and maybe even digging into how to combat them.
Catherine: Oh, I love this one. Limiting beliefs. I think, limiting beliefs, we all have them, and because they’re unconscious, sometimes they’re hard to identify because we live them out and we play them out every single day. You know, 95% of the time we play them out. And so for an example, a limiting belief might be--and this comes up a lot in my clients--is the value of money, for example. So, if you grew up... And I know with my family, we... I was born in France. We came to Australia; started a family in a new country; didn’t know how to speak the language. You know, obviously money, all of that stuff. So, we saw our parents argue over money, and I’m sure lots of people see their parents argue over money. So, as we grow up and we see this happen in our environment and we see that it causes conflict... Or it could be as simple as, you know, your parent might say “Money doesn’t grow on trees,” or “This is too expensive! Why do you have to buy this brand?” So, we start having these beliefs that money creates arguments or money creates conflict. So, as you can see, these are learned behaviors. They’re not really our own beliefs. It’s the meaning we have given a situation without really understanding it. And so how this plays out when we get older is... For example, this is one of mine that I had to hack into -- was that I believed that I had to work really hard to make money because that’s how I saw my parents. They worked really hard to make money. And, you know, you’re working crazy hours and still chasing your tail. Or it could be as simple as when you do have money coming your way, you give it away because in your unconscious mind, you believe that money creates arguments or conflict, so "I don’t want any part of that." So, and you find that quite often people are saying "You know, I work really hard. I mean, what is it? I'm not making the money." And so we deep dive into those limiting beliefs. And how we find them out, it could be as simple as, you know, I ask them, like, “What beliefs do you see in yourself that come from your parents?”, for example. Or “What beliefs do you see in yourself that come from an authority figure?” And this is a great way because we are... You know, can’t blame our parents. They did the best they could with the information they had at the time. But there is this thing called parent programming. And even I know when I was growing up, I used to say, “There is no way I’m anything like my mum!” And over Christmas, I spent almost three weeks away with my mum. I am so much like my mum. So, limiting beliefs come from our past.
Matt: I think you said something really, really important, which is the idea that sort of simple, innocuous things that happened almost in the background of our childhoods can plant these seeds that can dramatically change huge portions of our lives.
Catherine: Absolutely. And, you know, I think, too, it’s a matter of being more conscious in our mind and being the observer of our thought. And when I get this belief--it might be a silly belief--I just go, where does this belief come from and what does it really mean? Just by probing myself with a couple of questions, I’m actually activating the prefrontal cortex, which is that thinking part of the brain. And if you want to create change, this is what you need to do all the time, which takes practice. I nowhere near have perfected it, but I am still practicing it daily.
Matt: And that’s so funny because, you know, I’m somebody that... I’ve been kind of digging into the concept and trying to understand how to uncover and remove limiting beliefs for a number of years. And still, to this day, I have a list of probably 20 or 30 limiting beliefs that I’ve uncovered in the last, you know, let’s call it two or three months that I’m still working through. And so, at least for me, personally, it’s been a journey where you never really find or remove all of them, but you just have to constantly kind of cultivate the awareness of, you know, what’s that thought that just crept into my mind? And, hey, that seems like a limiting belief, and that could be something that’s holding me back or preventing me from achieving what I want to achieve.
Catherine: Absolutely, because sometimes they do. They have consequences. Certain limiting beliefs do carry consequences. If I hang onto this belief for as long as I live, what are the consequences? Just even asking that question, you know. And I think that, too, it's... I call it "diffuse my beliefs". When they come up, I’m looking at it. I exhaust myself by saying “What else could it mean? What else could this mean? What else could this mean?” until I run out of different meanings. And it removes the boundaries of a limiting belief as well by just finding different meanings to it.
Matt: So, would you say sort of asking against and again “What could this mean?”, is that a method for diffusing limiting beliefs or is that a method for kind of breaking them down?
Catherine: I think both. I think that unpacking it, so what else could this mean is you’re unpacking your limiting belief. You’re bringing light to it, and I think then you’ll actually break it down because then you’ll realize how a) it’s not yours. It may be a really silly one, and it could be something that happened a long time ago that you gave it a particular meaning that serves you no purpose any longer, won’t serve a purpose any longer.
Matt: I think that’s a really important distinction, is that it’s not yours, right? It’s something that came from the environment. It's something that came from maybe a parent or somebody that you looked up to, or even a time before you can even remember, and it was planted in there by potentially sort of a random occurrence in your life.
Catherine: Absolutely, and I call them “learned memories”. They pop up every now and then. Yes, when there’s little triggers or a stimulus in our environment that triggers us back to that memory, that’s when it comes up.
Matt: That’s a great phrase. And it’s funny, kind of circling back to the idea of, specifically, limiting beliefs around money. We had Vishen Lakhiani on the podcast previously--who’s sort of a teacher of meditation and an entrepreneur--and he tells a story about how he struggled for years to make money with his company, and found out he had this sort of core limiting belief about teaching people -- that you always had to struggle as a teacher, financially. And when he finally uncovered that, his company radically transformed within 18 months.
Catherine: It’s amazing, isn’t it? And that's the same with me, that realization that I had to work hard to make money. As soon as... And it was a matter of tweaking the word. It was just working smarter. And it just changed. Just the fact that I said, "I've got to work smarter to make my money, not harder," everything started changing. New ideas came into mind and I became more savvy with the things that I was doing and I pulled everything online. It just changed everything.
Matt: And so, when you’re talking about limiting beliefs, you mentioned kind of the idea of parental programming. What are some of the other sources of limiting beliefs or some of the other ways that limiting beliefs can kind of seep into your mind?
Catherine: Oh, God, it could be so many things. From some of your experiences. It could be as we were growing up. We all go through a development phase, and the first phase is the imprinting phase, right up to the age of seven. So, anything that happened in your environment then, whether it was something you saw on TV; a book you read; stuff that happened at school; stuff that friends said to you; whatever that may be, it could be...you’re just downloading that information into your mind. It’s like downloading software into the computer. And then when you move into another phase from the age of seven to 14, this is called your muddling phase. And this is where we try to identify "Who am I?" and we seek externally of ourselves as to who do we aspire to be? So, this is the time when we start. I know back in my days, Duran Duran was quite big, with the big funky hairdos and the frilly shirts. And, you know, it’s really about who do I want to be and who do I aspire to be? And then it’s those people around you that have an impact in some way, shape, or form. So, these beliefs not just come from your parents; they come from our environment. They come from people that you looked up to or you aspired to be. They come from... It could be a TV show or a superhero that you were in love with at the age of ten. These beliefs come from all over the place -- very much from environment.
Matt: So, to make this kind of concrete and to drill this home for people that are listening--and I think this is really important because it’s easy to talk about limiting beliefs in the abstract--but would you say that it’s a fair statement that every person listening to this episode right now has multiple limiting beliefs that they have yet to discover, that if they were to uncover them could have a radical impact on their lives?
Catherine: Absolutely. Absolutely. And from an energy perspective, I look at it this way: As soon as you get to the source of your limiting belief, it’s almost like... I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Gestalt Theory, but if you have a look at a pearl necklace, for example, and if you go back to that core or that root cause of that limiting belief, and you, with your adult eyes or with your understanding of and all the knowledge you have today, when you go back to that core belief and you actually give it a different meaning, it’s almost like pulling that bead away and you’re allowing all of these pearls to just fall apart. So, it’s like a domino effect. As soon as... It’s like you take that limiting, you pluck it out of your timeline of your memory--because we all have memories and they’re all in a timeline format--it just changes everything. It changes how you not just think, but how you behave and how you act.
Matt: That makes me think of two things. One, on the subject of memory, we’ve actually done a previous episode all about kind of digging into memory and what it means and what memories are. And one of the things we talked about is the idea that your memories can literally be false, and every single time you drag a memory back up, every single time you think about something, you’re reconstructing that memory and putting it back, and you’re changing it and tweaking it and modifying it to where literally what you remember... And we read from a study where a number of neuroscientists literally say, point blank, that what you remember could be completely false about something that’s happened in your life.
Catherine: So true! Very true. Because it’s... You know, you have all this knowledge now. So, you know, for me, if I was to go back to a time when I was seven, when I first came to Australia, I have fond memories of what that was like. But obviously every time I go back to that memory, I might add more color; I might add more story to it; I might add more feeling to it. It can change it completely. And you hear this, you know... And I hear this even amongst my friends and my partner and so forth, you know. You might hear a story over dinner with your friends, for example, and it just always changes slightly. Have you ever experienced that? Like, the story just...
Matt: Yeah, definitely.
Catherine: ...gets better and more funnier. That’s what a memory is. People just add to it all the time. So, when you’re trying to connect with the actual root cause of that memory, it’s altered so many times depending on how many times you’ve plucked it out and revisited that memory.
Matt: And touching back on one of the things you said a moment ago -- the idea of kind of the pearls falling off of the string. The analogy that I’ve always loved is--and I love analogies about water and how water flow and energy flow and all of that relates--but the idea of water flowing through a hose. Basically, if you imagine a limiting belief as basically a kink or a bend in the hose, and every time you...if you have multiple bends, every time you break one bend, the water flow gets stronger and stronger and stronger. So, if you take more and more of these kinks out, take more and more of these bends out of the hose, the energy flow gets more concentrated, more focused, and gets even stronger every time.
Catherine: Oh, I love your analogy. That's perfect. That's a perfect way of saying it. Because, you know, limiting beliefs are like little blocks and they sometimes stop us doing the very thing we want to do. So, it’s perfect what you’re saying because it’s exactly what you’re saying -- the kink in the hose or the block. And as soon as you remove those, everything just flows smoothly.
Matt: And it’s really funny, even kind of tangentially related. For example, if your environment is really messy and you just spend a little bit of time cleaning up your environment, those little, tiny things can snowball into more and more kind of a positive focus and positive energy throughout your day.
Catherine: Yeah, I agree. I’m like that with everything around me, whether it’s my wardrobe or my office. It has to... I know a little bit about Feng shui, but, just intuitively, it has to feel right for my work to flow through. And when it’s not, I just...I might stand up and tidy things up again, and just the fact that I’ve done that, I feel like I’ve cleaned my space and I’m ready to work with it.
Matt: So, shifting gears a little bit, I'd love to talk about the concept of visualization and how you can use visualization to achieve your goals and how you've used visualization in the past in some of the work that you’ve done.
Catherine: I’m big on visualization and I think if you look at how we speak and if we were to speak the language of the unconscious mind--which is 95% who we are--it speaks the language of pictures. So, visualization, it's very much tied in with the vision boards as well. When you’re creating goals, I always encourage the people I work with to actually create a vision board. And it might be just a simple vision board, but just so that they see it. But it’s not just about seeing it; you have to have emotion attached to it. So, visualization, you’ve actually got to be associated in your visualization because the mind cannot tell the difference between what is real and what is not real. And so if you can actually see yourself as if in that moment, then your mind will believe it. And if you keep practicing it over and over again, you will create it or manifest it. And there’s this great book--it’s called The Super Mental Training Book--and there's lots of stories. There are hundreds of stories in there about, you know, different people using the technique of visualization. So, it talks about there’s a gentleman who was in jail for many years and he visualized playing golf, and he got out of prison and was a professional. There’s another story in there where there’s these Russian athletes and it was during the winter Olympics in something like 1986, and they did an experiment with visualization and they separated the athletes into four groups. The first group had to train physically 100%; the second group had to train physically 80% and visualize 20%; the third group was 50% physical and 50% visualization; and the last group had to visualize 80%, but 20% physical. And who do you think did the best?
Matt: The group that visualized the most?
Catherine: That’s correct, yep. The group that visualized the most. So it just explains to us that A. We’re tapping into that deeper part of our mind. And if we practice visualization, and it can be as simple as working on a goal, you know and I do this a lot with people with public speaking. Visualize yourself standing there on the public stage. Visualize the people in front of you. Have a really - get involved in your emotion, how your feeling, all of that stuff really build it. It’s almost like visualization is like starting with a blank canvas and then you’re painting it - adding color to it, adding sound to it, adding feelings to it. To make it come to life.
Matt: And I think a really key point that you made is that you have to anchor the emotion to what you’re visualization.
Catherine: Absolutely. The feeling is that they always say the feeling or emotion is the field to your thought. So if you want to create a strong visualization and you need to give it that drive so that to make it - to manifest, you need to have as much emotion as possible.
Matt: So, for somebody who’s listening now, how could they sort of as a simple first step start practicing some form of visualization?
Catherine: I think the best way is to understand first what you want to visualize. So plan first. What is it that I want to visualize? And it could be as simple as you might aspire to be a certain way. It could be public speaking is another one. It could be that you want to achieve a great relationship for example. As long as you know what it is you want to visualize to manifest. That’s the first thing - plan it. Then I would ask you to do is obviously - what kind of picture do you - what kind of emotions do you want to bring out in this visualization? So for example, if it was public speaking, it’d obviously be confidence. And if it was something to do with bringing or manifesting a relationship, it would be love. So, really, one strong emotion and focus on that. And you can suck on other emotions. And then what I would do is then start your visualization. You’re very clear about what you want to do, and you know why you want to do it, and then the how is you’re painting a picture. So, I would then spend my time almost visualizing my picture. So I would visualize, for example, public speaking, I would visualize the room, I would visualize the audience, I would visualize what the stage would look like. I would visualize myself walking onto the stage. I would stand there and listen to what’s going on around me, what do I see, what do I feel, really connect with it. And then what I would do is I would associated - I would be as if I was looking through my own eyes. And I would stack those emotions on you know, I’m feeling confident, I’m feeling proud, I’m feeling happy. I feel inspired. Just keep feeling those. Then once you’re done with your visualization, move away, dissociate it from yourself. And you know, I even like to you know if I like to add a bit of specific time to when I want to achieve my visualization. So, for example, if I want to say I want to be in a relationship in six month time. I would have a date. So what I would do is once I’ve created this massive visualization, when I stand away, I actually have it - you can visualize whatever you like, but I like to visualize it as in sitting, my visualization, in that balloon, going forward in time to that date, and a balloon pops and drops into that time. And so what I do is every time I keep doing that, I’m reinforcing my visualization but also I’m giving it a specific time to when I want it to manifest.
Matt: And so for somebody that maybe, and I mean I’ve done a lot of work on positive visualization, and sometimes I feel like I struggle with making images feel real, or being able to tap into them or kind of feel them fully. What’s a way to kind of breakthrough that or if you’re struggling with visualizing the image, what would you recommend doing?
Catherine: I have had some people say “well I can’t visualize.” I believe, this is my belief, that everyone can visualize. And I think that if you say you can’t, you’re just not allowing that to flow through. Then I say, find some pictures on the internet that are inspiring for you to manifest, whatever that might be. So, if it’s public speaking, find someone that you really look up to. What is it that you want to create? So create like a mini-vision board, so that when you are actually physically manifesting your visualization, and then what I would do is have it - you’re sitting in front of it, then I would look at it, stare into it, and you can connect with it that way once again. You can - What am I hearing? - Close your eyes as if now. What am I seeing? What am I feeling? All of that stuff. So you can do it that way as well if you feel you can’t paint that visualization in that mind.
Matt: Got it. So, another concept I wanted to talk about is the notion of the outer-world versus the inner-world. That’s something I’ve heard you talk about before. Can you share that idea?
Catherine: Yeah. I always talk about it. I always say that our outer-world is a reflection of our inner-world. And it’s the way that we perceive things for example. So if I hear people saying they’re not happy with their work environment, they’re not happy with their relationship, they’re not happy with blah blah blah, whatever that may be. Then that gives me a hint that there’s something going on inside of them. So, you know, our outer-world is a reflection of what’s going on inside. So if we want to change our environment, then we need to change inside. And inside meaning our inner-world. How we’re thinking. How we’re seeing things. What are our perceptions? What are we projecting with our perceptions? What are interpretations of the environment? So, it’s, to me, we are everything around us we reflect because of what’s going on in our inner-world.
Matt: That’s fascinating. Can you give me maybe an example from some of the people you’ve worked with or some things you’ve experience and how you’ve kind of seen that take place?
Catherine: You might say—and I actually have had this actually happen—I was boarding as a mediator for two women, two executives, they were at heads with one another and neither of them were going to leave because both of them had a really good job, cushy job, great money, and they loved their job. Just couldn’t stand one another. So, really, the thing that was going on was one particular lady that I worked with. I said to her, “You know, all I’m asking you to do is find one positive thing towards this person.” And she’s like “No. There’s no way I could find anything positive about this person.” And this took us about three weeks. So I said “Okay. Let’s nip this in the bud. And let’s really chunk this all the way. Let’s have a look. You’re both women. Yes. You’re both mothers. Yes. Now let’s have a look at that. When you’re at home with your children, how do you behave? Are you the same person as you are at work?” She goes “Oh no, of course not! When I’m at home I’m on the ground with my children, I’m playing with their toys, spend some quality time with them before they have dinner and go to bed.” And I said - “Do you think there’s a possibility that this lady does the same thing in her own environment?” She went “Oh, yes.” I said “Okay, just focus on that. That one thing, just focus on that one thing that she is a mother.” So, for her, unconsciously, she was seeing this woman as being whatever that label she wants to call it. And therefore she was behaving that way, and was getting those results. The moment she changed the way she was seeing that women, started seeing this woman as a mother, nine days later, I got a phone call. She said, “You know what? She’s actually really good with numbers.” So basically what was starting to happen, and this is why I say shifts do happen, it’s a shift of mindset. She started seeing this woman in a positive light, and therefore what was happening is she was behaving differently because she was seeing her in a different light, and getting those results. They are now really good friends. So that’s an example of what the whole outer-world, inner-world stuff. So, she changed her inner-world the way she was seeing or thinking about this person, and therefore changed her outer-world.
Matt: So, in many ways, our thoughts and our beliefs are self-fulfilling prophecies in the sense that the way we feel or react to someone actually may be creating the exact kind of belief or feeling that we have about them.
Catherine: Absolutely. We are the creator of our inner-environment. We are the creator of our domain. And I know sometimes it’s really hard for people to accept that, because it’s like, “No way! I haven’t created this bad relationship! No way! I haven’t created this horrible boss!” It’s - if you want to believe that, it’s fine. Anyone can believe anything they want to believe. But I believe that I do create these things. And you know when things happen in my environment, it’s so much more empowering for me to go “How did I create this? And how did I manifest this?” Rather than blame. That way I know I can work with it.
Matt: I think that’s so important, to take responsibility for our environment in the world around you, as opposed to just being a victim.
Catherine: Absolutely. Accountability is key. Absolutely.
Matt: Another thing that I’ve heard you talk about that I really enjoyed was the idea of - and this ties into what we’ve been talking about - the idea of reverse engineering that behavior. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Catherine: Yes, absolutely. So, we are not our behavior. And I love this one because quite often, especially in working with lots of corporates, the talk about - they get you to come in and they say “this person has bad behavior, we need to change this behavior.” If we’re looking at the whole mindset and our behaviors it’s 95% of our behaviors is actually not who are, they’re learned behaviors. We are a byproduct of our past experience, parenting programming, environment, other people’s fees, limiting beliefs, decisions - you name it. And quite often, these behaviors have no purpose and actually sabotage the things that we want. So, as long as we understand the behavior is not the person, we can work with that. The behavior is the meaning they have given a situation. So, for example, if I have a look at the difference between attitude and behavior, the attitude is the way that we think, and the behavior - so once we think a certain way or go through the whole process to maybe help understand it, if we have an event happen in our environment, we think of it a certain way, we might see it a certain way, and what happens is we create what we call an internal representation. A picture of that event. And in that, what happens then, we create a state. Which is our emotions or feelings. This plays out in our physiology, which is our behavior. So, a lot of the times if we want to reverse engineer our behavior, it’s about going back and understanding what is this person thinking about this environment, or this event, or this person? To change the thinking and therefore change the way they see it, change the way they feel about it, and the behaviors will be completely different. So, the behavior is the meaning of the communication or situation at hand. And we can change that by being more conscious - and it takes 21 days - now there’s neuroscience that says it takes 21 days to create neural pathways and we can actually, and neuroplasticity is change our brain. So, if we say, just for the next 21 days, I’m going to be conscious of my thoughts. We can change our behavior.
Matt: And for listeners who are curious about digging in more to the science of neuroplasticity, we’ve previously had Dr. Rick Hanson, the author of a number of books about that, but specifically kind of digs in to sort of happiness and productivity and everything else, so that’s a great episode to check out if you want to dig in more to that science. But, Catherine, for the people who are listening here, is there one piece of homework or something simple you would ask them to do?
Catherine: I think that - I always say that we can reinvent ourselves. That’s the exciting part. It’s like - what do you want to create for yourself? Life isn’t about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself. So, I think that piece of a big piece. Just, I think it - it doesn’t mean like, it doesn’t have to be reinvent the whole self, it could be tweaking. But I think to be more conscious is the thing. Because if we’re looking at - and you hear about it all the time, that we only use 10% of our brains. Well neuroscience says it’s actually 5% of our conscious brain. Which means that 95% are learned behaviors, past, parenting program - all of those things that some way, shape, or form, stop us from doing those very things that we want. So when we talk about even unconscious bias - the things we really want and desire, are they the things we need? Are they things really are going to line up with where we want to go? When we’re talking about that 5%, that conscious mind, when we want to manifest and create new things. We need to start - really - stop to think what we’re thinking about. Think about it, how often do we do it? Never. Well. I’m not saying never. But it’s a practice, you have to practice it. Even 5 minutes a day, just sit there with your thoughts. “What was I thinking today? What was I feeling like today?
Matt: I think cultivating that awareness is such an important step.
Catherine: Absolutely. I believe that too.
Matt: So, for somebody who wants to kind of dig in, do some more research about some of the things we’ve talked about today, what would you recommend as other books or resources for them to check out?
Catherine: Ugh, geez, so many books. I love, The Biology of Belief with Dr. Bruce Lipton. I love also Dr. Joe DeSpencer, he talks about how you can change your brain. There’s so many great authors, but those are the two that come to mind.
Matt: Awesome, we’ll put links to both of those notes in the show notes. Catherine, where can people find you online?
Catherine: Sure. They can find me under CatherinePlano.com And you can have a look at that, or I Am Woman project is the project that I work on and we’ve also just launched Rise and Thrive which is all online. So basically as I was saying, I’ve become more savvy - working smarter is putting things online. So, I have this mission of helping as many people as I can to empower themselves and the planet, and so I’ve put all my work online, which is a 12-week online course for 19.95 a week. Which, when you think about it, I don’t know what it’s like in your side of the world. But in Australia, they charge anything from 300-500 dollars an hour for coaching. And not everyone’s got that kind of money. So I’ve put these programs online for teenagers and leaders as well to work through some of the stuff we’ve been talking about.
Matt: Great, well, Catherine, thank you so much for being a guest on the show. I know the listeners are going to get a lot out of this interview.
Catherine: Thank you so much, Matt, for having me. It’s been an amazing time, thank you.