June 22


7 Signs Limiting Beliefs are Sabotaging Your Success

What is success? Success is not just having a lot of money. Studies have shown wealthy people in general aren’t any happier than the rest of the population.  Success is what we define it to be. One person’s view of success can be very different than the next person’s. In fact, we can probably say there are as many definitions of success as there are people on the planet.

Do you have success in every area of your life? If not, don’t feel bad as very few people do. On the other hand, most us have found some level of success in at least one area of life. So, what keeps us from having all the success we would like in life? The answer is limiting beliefs.

Our beliefs are stored in the subconscious mind and influence every thought, decision and action we take. In fact, our subconscious mind makes 95% of our decisions on a daily basis mostly without us ever being aware. When we try to use only our conscious thoughts to achieve success, we often fail. It’s because we haven’t aligned our subconscious beliefs with our conscious intentions.

Our limiting beliefs show up in subtle ways. When we consciously pursue success in an area that our subconscious mind is uncomfortable with, it tries to protect us. It remembers all the times we have failed. The subconscious mind uses several tactics to influence the conscious mind. These tactics may keep us from failing, but they also keep us from success.

Here are 7 signs that limiting beliefs are sabotaging your success:

#1:  No Passion

A lack of passion is a clear sign that limiting beliefs are at work. Every one of us had dreams when we were young. All of us were passionate about something whether it be our favorite movie star, musician or athlete.  We all dreamed of being something special when we grew up. So, what happened?

As we grew up, we started forming beliefs about what we could and could not do. Our beliefs came from our parents, those around us, and our own experiences. Somewhere along the way, we acquired beliefs about what we couldn’t do. And as we grew older, those beliefs became stronger. Eventually, our beliefs of what we couldn’t do overpowered our dreams, and so we quit dreaming.

Try this exercise. Pick any area of your life that you would like to improve. It could be money, career, health and fitness, or relationships. Picture what success looks like for you. Is it $100k in the bank? Would you like to be your own boss? How about having a body like one of those fitness models? Or maybe it’s having an amazing love life? Get a really good, detailed picture of what this looks like. Now, don’t just see it, feel it with all your senses.  What does it sound like, smell like, taste like, and physically feel like?

Now what if you were 100% certain this vision would come true? Would you get excited? Would it seem more real to you? Would you get passionate about pursuing it or willing to work for it? If you are like most people, you are already starting to feel more energized.

Your passion just needs a vision of success and a little belief. If you lack passion, it simply means that your subconscious mind has tricked your conscious mind into thinking you will never have success. Therefore, you stop dreaming about it.

Have you ever looked at someone else’s life and said, “I could never have that!” Well that’s a lie. It’s simply your subconscious mind trying to protect you from failure. But as Wayne Gretzky said, “You will miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”  So, take the first step towards success and start dreaming again.

#2:  No Plan

When you stop dreaming, you stop making plans. Why waste the time making plans, if you don’t believe you can succeed? You see, this is the second tactic that our subconscious mind uses to keep us from success. It tells our conscious mind, “Why bother?”

If you are in New York and want to get to Los Angeles, creating a vision of Los Angeles can build motivation. But all the motivation in world won’t get you there without a plan. A plan can be as simple as a series of steps written on a napkin, or as complex as a complete project plan with timelines, budgets and resource charts. We wouldn’t dare build a building without a set of architectural plans. The building would be a complete failure.  In fact, Ben Franklin said, “When you fail to plan, you have planned to fail.”

Start your plan by stating your intention. Your intention is not your full vision of success. It’s just your next step towards success. If you’re currently in New York and success is in Los Angeles, think of your intention as Pittsburgh. Getting to Pittsburgh is the first natural milestone in driving to Los Angeles. So, determine what your first logical milestone is on your road to success.

Once you have an intention, create a plan to achieve it. Break it down into 4 – 6 smaller milestones.  These smaller milestones are your goals.  Each goal should be something you can achieve in a reasonable period of time like a week or a month.  Then for the first goal, make a list of tasks that need to be done to achieve it. Schedule a time to work on each task and do it.

The great thing about making a plan is that your subconscious mind quits trying to tell you that you can’t do it. When you are making a plan, you assume it can be done. Therefore, you focus your energy on creating the plan instead of avoiding a plan. When your plan starts to come together, it’s exciting. It gives you confidence because you can see yourself achieving your goal.

Some people love to set and achieve goals, and for others it’s painful. Some amount of goal setting is required to achieve success. However, the path to success doesn’t have to be filled with spreadsheets, timelines, and project management tools. It can be a simple written list of things to accomplish with timeframes.

Here are two final tips on goals setting. Remember to stay flexible. And secondly, go easy on yourself. If you get stuck or fail to reach a goal, don’t beat yourself up. Simply re-evaluate, and set a new goal.  Remember, the path to reaching your intention isn’t important. Detours are ok and are even to be expected. And as Winston Churchill said, “Never, never, never give up!”

worried woman#3:  No Confidence

Loving yourself and believing in yourself are similar but different. Both require healthy self-esteem. Believing in yourself goes beyond love to confidence. To accomplish big things, we need confidence in our skills and abilities.

Self-confidence comes from many sources. Here are 5 tips to help you develop more self-confidence:

  • Develop a clear plan.  Having a plan and seeing a path to success provides confidence.  If you can’t see how to get there or the goal seems overwhelming, it’s difficult to have confidence. Set your sights clearly on your goal, and map out the steps to get there.
  • Reflect on past success. A track record of success is an easy way to build confidence. Quite simply, the more you succeed, the more confident you become. In other terms, success begets success. Reflect on your past success to build self-confidence.
  • Leverage success in other areas.  If you don’t have a record of success in a particular area, you can develop confidence by leveraging success from another area of your life. If you are successful in your career, you can apply the same determination and persistence to another area of your life such as health and fitness.
  • Learn new skills.  Determine what skills you need for success.  If you need to learn new skills, then find out how to get them. Online training programs have exploded in the past 5 years.  Many are free or nominally priced. You often get what you pay for, so do your research.
  • Get small wins.  If you don’t feel you have success in other areas to draw from, then start small and focus on small wins. Set a goal to accomplish one task that day. Make that task the most important task of the day and allocate enough time to get it done. Then do the same thing tomorrow. With each success, you will gain confidence and momentum towards your big goal.

Remember what Henry Ford said, “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.”  Your success is determined by your belief. Believe in yourself, and you will succeed.

unhappy man#4:  Negative Self-talk

The roots of negative self-talk are limiting beliefs. These beliefs generally revolve around feeling unable or unworthy to succeed. Limiting beliefs were imprinted deep in our minds from our parents or through previous life experiences. Negative self-talk is just another tactic our subconscious mind uses to keep us from failing or getting hurt which also sabotages success.

It is estimated that our mind generates 300 to 1000 words per minute in self-talk. Self-talk influences every decision we make every day. Our self-talk can either be a tremendous asset or our own worst enemy. What is that voice in our head saying? Is it routing us on to success or heckling us like fans from the opposing team? Becoming aware and learning to manage our self-talk can be the difference between success and failure.

Here’s a powerful concept that allows us to change our self-talk. We are not our thoughts; We only have thoughts. There is an inner self, a core being, a soul or spirit. It is separate from our thoughts. The key is that we can detach from our thoughts. We can listen, observe and even evaluate our thoughts. We may not be able to suppress thoughts, but we do have the power to control our thoughts. We can command our thoughts to stay or leave.

The first step to changing self-talk is to become aware what you are saying to yourself. Try to detach from the thoughts. Pay attention to the types of words you are saying. Are they positive or negative? Do they make you feel confident and powerful, or small and ineffective?

As you become aware of your self-talk, ask yourself why is your mind saying negative things? Listen to the answer. Keep asking why until you get to the root belief. It will usually be a belief that your parents had or something unpleasant you experienced. Then politely tell your self-talk that you disagree. You want and deserve a different outcome. Then start a new internal conversation with positive, empowering self-talk.

Here’s a quick tip for learning to manage your self-talk. A study conducted in 2014 showed that participants who changed first person pronouns (I and me) to non-first person pronouns (he/she or their own name John/Mary) in their self-talk drastically reduced the impact of negative self-talk. By merely changing the pronoun from “I” to something else, they could detach from their thoughts. The conclusion is that when we detach from our self-talk, we begin to see it for what it really is.

procrastinating#5:  Procrastination

Procrastination is the avoidance of doing what we know we should do when we should be doing it. The big question is why do we procrastinate. Procrastination is another tactic that our subconscious mind uses to sabotage success. Our subconscious mind believes that the task or situation will be painful or unpleasant in some way. So, we naturally put it off or avoid it.

Most people occasionally procrastinate little things like organizing a closet or going to the dentist. And while procrastination is never good, the little things usually don’t change the course of our lives. However, when we procrastinate important things that effect our career, finances, relationships and health, it can be the difference between success and failure.

There can be a number of reasons why we procrastinate doing something.

  • We don’t believe we deserve success. (Unworthy)
  • We don’t believe we have the ability to succeed. (Helpless)
  • We don’t believe the circumstances will allow us to succeed. (Hopeless)

For example, we would like to be promoted to a manager position at our company. If we believe we are unworthy, then we might think we don’t deserve the job. If we believe we are helpless, then we might think we don’t have the skills to do the job. If we believe the situation is hopeless, then we think that company would never consider us for the promotion.  And so, we procrastinate telling our boss we are interested in the position. We procrastinate taking on extra assignments to show we are ready for the position. And we procrastinate taking management classes online or at the local college.

While feeling unworthy, helpless or hopeless are usually root causes, in the end it comes down to one thing.  We haven’t visualized success.  When we visualize success and all its rewards, we move what is impossible to possible. Even though self-doubt and circumstances haven’t changed, visualizing success plants the seed of hope. This seed of hope can be the spark to change our thinking and ultimately our underlying beliefs. With nurturing, the hope can turn into confidence which ultimately leads to success.

A tip to avoid procrastination is to break goals and projects down into smaller bite-sized tasks. This is the concept of using mini-goals or micro-goals. The biggest problem with procrastination is feeling stuck. The most important way to avoid getting stuck or to get unstuck, is to complete a small task. So, look at that project you have been avoiding, choose the smallest task that can be done right away, and DO IT NOW. Then plan your next task and the time you will do it.

girl using social media#6:  Distraction

In today’s world, distraction is probably the single biggest external obstacle to success. (We’ll discuss the single biggest internal obstacle for success later.) The typical human being today is exposed to more information in a single day than our ancestors were in a lifetime. While some of this information is important, the vast majority of information is nothing more than a distraction.

Distractions are by definition unimportant tasks. They are tasks that do not move us toward success. Distractions hurt us in two ways. The first is they waste valuable time that should be devoted to important things. Secondly, they steal our energy from working on important tasks.

The idea that the human brain can multi-task is a lie. When we try to multi-task, we are simply switching our attention between tasks. While some tasks don’t require full attention, others do. For example, it is possible to walk and chew gum at the same time. Yet, in a study that asked people to count backwards from 100 by 7’s (100, 93, 86, 79…) while walking, every single person stopped walking when they had to think. This shows that important tasks require full brain power and a distraction free environment.

For most of us, it is impossible to remove all distractions from our life. Instead, we must learn to manage our distractions. Here are some thoughts:

  • Focus on your goals. At the end of your week, would you rather be completely caught up with email, Facebook, Twitter and your latest TV shows OR made significant progress towards goals?
  • Use distractions as a reward. If you really love Facebook or your favorite TV show, then use it as an incentive to get your important tasks done. Watch that TV show only after you complete your important tasks. (Hint:  that’s what DVR’s and Netflix are for!)
  • Create distraction-free time blocks. Set aside time each day where you turn off all distractions. Use that time to really focus your energy on accomplishing an important step toward your goals. 90-minute blocks of time have been shown to be the most effective.  After 90 minutes, our mental performance drops.
  • Limit Distraction Time. Set aside time every day to do whatever you want. You can schedule 1, 2 or even 3 blocks of time a day. The key is to set a time limit.

Distractions are a necessary evil in life. While they can be fun, they sabotage our success. They suck away our brain power, and steal our precious time. Learn to manage your distractions or they will manage you.

businessman with sticky notes on him#7:  Never Finish

Are you a person who starts many projects and never finishes them? Is there one area of life that you have tried many things but nothing seems to stick? The problem may be that your subconscious mind is using the tactic of never finishing to sabotage your success.

Never finishing is similar to distraction. Instead of getting distracted before we start or while we are working, never finishing is the ultimate distraction that keeps us from completing something important. We start with great intention and enthusiasm on our goal. We plan, we prepare, and we start. Then something doesn’t go exactly as we planned. Maybe it was harder than we thought. Whatever the reason, we lose steam and switch to something else.

Our conscious mind thought we could finish and be successful. We used our enthusiasm and will power to start. However, it’s our subconscious mind that has to carry us through when things get tough or don’t go as planned. If the subconscious mind doesn’t believe we can or should succeed, it will eventually keep us from finishing. After all, it doesn’t want us to fail or be disappointed.

There is an interesting thing about the habit of never finishing. It is a self-reinforcing behavior. When our self-esteem tells us we can’t or don’t deserve to succeed, we quit. The more times we quit, the more we believe we are a quitter. The more projects that we never finish, the more ingrained the belief.

Here are a couple of tips to overcome the never finishing. Pick an area of life where your feel confident or have some success. Think about all the things you have completed. You are capable of finishing. You are capable of success. Then look at the area of life where you want more success. Why haven’t you succeeded in the past? Do you lack knowledge or skill? Can you acquire them? What negative beliefs are holding you back?

Start with a small task or project. Take the time to research and plan it well. Then schedule ample time to work on it. Make a commitment to yourself that you will finish no matter what. If it takes more time than what you scheduled, it doesn’t matter. Simply schedule another time to work on it. Usually, with a fresh start we can go further than before. Make sure you finish. Don’t aim for perfection; aim for completion.

And as Winston Churchill said, “Never, never, never give up!”


Einstein said, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” You have two choices. You can continue doing what you are doing and continue getting the same results.  Or, you can decide to change.

Changing self-sabotaging behaviors is not easy because they are deeply rooted in our subconscious mind. This is where changing our beliefs comes into play. Converting our limiting beliefs to empowering, success-driven beliefs is the key.

Our subconscious mind controls 95% of our decisions each day, and our core beliefs reside deep in our subconscious mind.  Changing our beliefs is the single greatest internal obstacle to success. All sabotaging behavior stems from self-limiting beliefs.

When we read a book, or participate in a training program, we acquire new information. Why doesn’t the information change our behavior? The answer is that the information did not change our beliefs. Only changing beliefs will change our thoughts and behavior on a permanent basis.



If you are ready to learn how to overcome limiting beliefs, check out my newest book, The Elephant and the Boy – A Tale of Overcoming Limiting Beliefs to Achieve Success. It’s an easy-to-read fable about a boy and his elephant friend. The boy represents our conscious mind, and the elephant represents our subconscious mind. Our subconscious mind is designed to protect us. In doing so, it often sabotages our success.

In addition to the fable, the book contains information on the sources of limiting beliefs and how to overcome them.  Included are exercises to take you step-by-step through the process of overcoming any limiting belief. This process can be used in any area of life including career, money, health and fitness, relationships, character, emotional health and spirituality.

Find out how you can “train your elephant” to overcome limiting beliefs to achieve success in any area of life.  Click here to purchase the book on Amazon, or visit my website at www.TrainUrElephant.com.

Bruce Fleck, PhD

About the Bruce Fleck, PhD

I help professionals overcome a health, career, or relationship crisis and make it a turning point for building a better life.

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