I recently watched the National Geographic original series Limitless with Chris Hemsworth. It is an interesting and entertaining documentary on how the latest scientific research is changing conventional wisdom about the limits of the human body. In a nutshell, it highlights current insights into living both better and longer.
Watching that series got me thinking about how all kinds of limits affect the quality of our lives. Specifically, how sometimes we are our own worst enemy because of limiting beliefs and labels we attach to ourselves. Whether conscious, subconscious, true, or false, these beliefs can affect our happiness and keep us from achieving our dreams, desires, and goals.
Luckily, aging may reduce some of our limiting beliefs, such as caring what others think of us, which is rooted in our primal survival instincts. In modern times, caring what others think is mostly socially based. As we age, we realize others focus more on themselves than they ever focused on us. We also know life is short, and we’re just over caring about it anymore!
Beliefs may subconsciously develop in early childhood based on our interaction with primary caregivers. Subsequently, culture, society, and significant life events further shape them. Because of the vast amount of information that feeds into the brain, it creates shortcuts to help organize and interpret that information.
I’m oversimplifying, but these shortcuts become ‘superhighways’ or automatic programs to which our brains default. The stories we tell ourselves and our resulting reactions, responses, and behavior may be based on these historical shortcuts rather than current reality.
The video How We Learn – Synapses and Neural Pathways may be helpful in explaining how our brain learns and creates the shortcuts that may support our limiting beliefs. It also makes it easier to understand why changing them requires time and effort on our part.
If you’d like to change your limiting beliefs, the following steps may be helpful in reprogramming your brain.
Make a list of any limiting belief negatively affecting your life.
Ex. “I’m too old and set in my ways to establish a healthy diet and start an exercise program.”
Be specific. Describe how this belief limits your life and affects your happiness.
Ex. “This belief and my lack of action is partially responsible for why I’m tired all the time and I suffer from many minor aches and pains. I’m unhappy with my health and the shape my body is in. I don’t have the energy to socialize, enjoy activities with my grandkids, and do other fun things I’d like to do. I feel sad, stuck, and sometimes depressed about this.”
Describe how your life could be better if you eliminate the limiting belief. Then make a written commitment to change it.
Ex. “If I improve my diet and get some exercise, it is likely I will have more energy and a better mental outlook. This will create a better chance for me to do the things I want to do. Today, I’m making a commitment to improve my health with a healthy diet and exercise.”
Replace the limiting belief with a statement of positive belief. Look for evidence that supports your positive belief.
Ex. “I’m not too old and set in my ways to start a new routine to improve my health. In fact, people do it every day. My friend Susan did it just last month, and she is doing well. I know it won’t be easy, but I also know scientific evidence supports that if I stick with it long enough, I can create new beliefs and new habits to support those beliefs.”
List the actions or behaviors that will help you establish your positive belief and associated goals.
Ex. “First, I’ll make a healthy menu for each week and do my best to stick to it. On Saturdays, I’ll shop for healthy foods and other ingredients to support my weekly menu. One day of the week will be my free day to eat what I want. I will commit to walking every other day of the week, building up to a minimum goal of 30 minutes per walk.”
The moment you become aware your brain is running an old limiting script or story, STOP and congratulate yourself for recognizing it! Then reimplement step 4 above.
Remember the video explaining how we learn? Each time you reimplement step 4, you will strengthen the new connection you are creating in your brain. It is said to take about 45 days to create a new habit, so exercise patience and be kind to yourself in the process.
Ex. “I didn’t walk today, and I also didn’t follow my menu. I knew I was too old and set in my ways to change. But wait, in all honesty, it’s true that I didn’t meet my goals and I’m disappointed in myself, but that doesn’t mean I’m not capable. In fact, I am capable, and I can choose to get back on track tomorrow.”
Did you know your brain releases chemicals to help you learn? Dopamine is a “feel good” neurotransmitter that plays an important role in many processes, including punishment and reward, memory, learning and cognition. Associating your new belief with a reward that causes your brain to release dopamine may help establish your new positive belief.
Ex. “Each day I meet my goals, I will treat myself to a warm relaxing bath at day’s end. I’ll use bath salts or essential oils to help me relax and celebrate my achievement. If I meet my goals for the entire week, I’ll celebrate with a fun outing of some sort.”
In the third trimester of life, many of us are better equipped than ever to bring about meaningful change in our lives. We have more patience, life experience, and courage than the younger versions of ourselves. We’ve also become much more resilient. Armed with these qualities and the knowledge of how we can create new beliefs and habits, we can eliminate our limiting beliefs and live our best lives yet!
And if you haven’t yet watched the aforementioned documentary, here’s the link: Limitless with Chris Hemsworth.
Is your happiness currently affected by limiting beliefs, labels, or scripts? If yes, how are they holding you back and affecting your level of happiness? If you’ve been successful in overcoming limiting beliefs in the past, how did you do it?
Made me think that there is hope 😥
Hope and baby steps can help pave the path Anita! Thanks for commenting and much love to you!
By the way, my favorite poem about hope is by Emily Dickinson, you can look it up yourself or find it at this link https://poets.org/poem/hope-thing-feathers-254. I hope you like it as much as I do.
Until my early 60s, I usually decided that a new endeavor was worth undertaking, if the effort necessary to expend on it would most probably achieve the desired result. Nowadays, I haven’t been able to generate the same belief, or the same amount of worth.
Thank you for sharing Pamela, and I do hope you are able to dig deeper and figure out what’s at the root of how you’re feeling. For some reason the word “worth” in your comment stood out to me. Any chance your self-worth might need a little TLC boost?
I love that line “I didn’t follow my menu today.” I am on a super healthy diet and I have called it “my regime” but that can have negative overtones, so calling it a “menu” is a good solution.
And my healthy menu keeps me healthy and fit and energetic, if you were wondering. No processed foods, bad Omega 6 oils, soy, dairy, or wheat.
founder of Twifties, the fun people born in the biggest birth years of American History
That’s great Lauren, sounds like you are killing it! We all have to accept that we are imperfect creatures and we do the best we can. It’s ok if we don’t always hit our mark. What’s important is that we get back on track as soon as we can!
Thanks for commenting!
Loved this! Hopefully I will try to follow it and read it over and over!
Thanks Carlotta! I hope it helps. I always think of something else I want to say after I finish a post. For this one, it is that once you’ve made a commitment to replace a limiting belief with a beneficial belief, the steps you take to support that and any related goal can be implemented in small steps. The main thing is to take action to support your belief and goal, and consistently practice it to help build those new neural pathways and habits!. So, if you were to set a goal to walk 30 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week, then you could start with 5 minutes a day and build upon that rather than jumping in the deep end and starting with 30 minutes.
Take care, and have a great day!
The awareness piece is so huge as is the reward piece. Thank you for a wonderful article!
Thank you Leslie, and I agree those two pieces are key!