Is limited thinking holding you back from the successful life you desire?
The saying goes, “If you can dream it, you can achieve it.”
But the opposite is also true. Your dreams can be thwarted by imagined obstacles.
Rigid views of our capabilities, defined ideas of potential, negative self-perception — these examples of limited thinking place a boundary on how far we can succeed.
I’m going to show you practical ways to release these 10 limiting thought patterns and, instead, open your mind and heart to limitless potential so you can create the life you want.
1. Polarized “all or nothing” thinking
All or nothing means “having no middle position or compromise available.” It involves thinking in extremes like:
- I’m either successful or worthless.
- I’m either smart or stupid.
- My performance is either amazing or terrible.
- Something is right or wrong.
“All or nothing means you have only two options: things have to be one way or another, and there is no gray area or in-between.”Ashley Thorn
If we wait for all and give nothing, we sit at zero.
Working to overcome perfectionism can help you discover a middle ground to move forward. Replace the zero-sum “All or Nothing” with “All or Something.” Maybe you don’t get a 10/10, but by making an effort, you still move past the point of doing nothing at all.
Polarized thinking can also be spin-off behavior from deeper emotional traumas. Addicts, abandoned children, and many others show a propensity to think in terms of All or Nothing. If that’s the case, consider speaking with a professional to heal from those traumas through therapy.
2. A fixed mindset
In her studies, Stanford University researcher, Dr. Carol Dweck, found that a fixed mindset limits your vision of success.
Instead, successful people typically have a growth mindset. Here’s the difference:
- Fixed Mindset: People with a fixed mindset have rigid beliefs that do not change. They focus on intelligence and talent over self-improvement.
- Growth Mindset: With a growth mindset, people believe that intelligence can grow with experience. By working hard, they become smarter.
Fixed mindsets are stuck on the idea that talent, as opposed to hard work, leads to success. Therefore, you can’t be successful unless you believe you are naturally talented — so there’s no point trying!
A growth mindset motivates people to develop daily routines and make a consistent effort towards achieving long-term goals.
3. Forgetting to rest and reset
Sometimes, we need to hit the reset button instead of pushing through.
Sometimes you have to step away for a while when nothing goes right, and you feel overwhelmed.
If you watch world-class Epee fencers, they will often pause when opponents start to make a run on them. Let’s say Ana Maria Popescu from Romania is ahead. Soon, an Estonian opponent starts to chip away at her four-point lead.
Here comes the reset: Popescu wisely alerts the director that her shoe needs lacing or her weapon needs straightening.
Similarly, I worked with the CEO of a global company recently. She began to banter back and forth about how tense she felt, and how she felt limited by continuous stress. Rather than push through, she decided to take a week off and do something creative.
Breaks are an opportunity for a mental reset. In sports, you can take a moment to slow things down. In business, you can reset with some time away.
When you return, you can set a new direction with renewed energy, ideas, and focus.
4. Getting stuck on how
Have you ever looked at a big goal and, feeling overwhelmed, said to yourself:
“HOW will I EVER get this done?”
Some people limit opportunities because they get stuck on how way too soon. You can get a lot more accomplished by focusing, instead, on what. That means getting super clear on what you want to do as well as why you want to do it.
The how trips us up and stops us if we let it… don’t let it! Figuring out how to live with purpose, or make a big change in your life is a process of discovery. You have to start moving before you know every step of the journey.
The how comes after, and you’ll have a better chance of success working with a team, mentor, coach, or friend for support. These outside cheerleaders can motivate you and steer you in the right direction to discovering how to accomplish those big goals.
5. Listening to naysayers
I can’t express enough the importance of surrounding yourself with supportive people who genuinely back you and lift you up. On the other hand, naysayers will only promote your limited thinking.
They say things like:
- Let me tell you why that won’t work.
- That sounds too difficult.
- If it’s such a good idea, someone else is probably doing it.
In his book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, Marshall Goldsmith writes:
“Let me tell you why that won’t work is pure unadulterated negativity under the guise of being helpful.”Marshall Goldsmith
Negativity limits our brain’s capacity by limiting our imagination. Meanwhile, surrounding yourself with the right people will help you succeed and break your negative, limited thinking.
Often our thoughts loop with self-criticism or self-judgment. Yet, imaging devices reveal that these thought processes take place in the primitive, emotional centers of the brain, which restrict our ability to make good decisions.
That means you have to release self-criticism to open yourself to experimental, innovative thought. These creative patterns take place in the prefrontal or executive brain, an area that enables better decision making and allows for flexibility and goal-directed action.
Become more aware of self-judgment so you can sit with it and release thoughts as they arise to focus more productive ways of thinking.
Try creative pursuits like brainstorming, art, or music. Experiment with new approaches to problems, rather than wallowing in self-doubt.
7. Telling stories
We shape our reality through stories — especially those we tell ourselves. To process the world around us, our brains tend to make things up.
Do you want to see this in action? The Heider-Simmel Illusion is a perfect example of just how much our brains rely on story. We fill in the gaps with our own reality, but the stories we make up often differ substantially from a shared reality.
For example, the self-doubt I mentioned before really only exists within our heads. What if we started telling a more positive story, one that opens to new ideas and surprising endings?
Speaking to friends, family, or a coach can help you get out of your head. You can learn to fill those gaps with a more well-rounded perspective, not limited to your own stories.
8. Binary thinking: Right or wrong
We often get stuck in binary thinking. This is similar to “all or nothing,” but it’s a limited way of thinking in relation to others. It’s especially limiting if you are trying to build trust in a team.
With binary thinking, one person being right means the other must be wrong.
Instead, open yourself to other perspectives. We can find mutual success by seeing both sides as having valid, useful insight. You can both have some good ideas and some bad ideas.
Replacing “right or wrong” with “right and wrong” helps us become less judgmental and more open-minded toward ourselves and others.
9. Blaming others (and being a victim)
Blaming others and playing victim link up often with manipulating people and trying to fix them.
Instead of focussing on how to get past a difficult situation, this limited thought pattern keeps you stuck on what’s wrong — who’s at fault and how you’ve been wronged.
Problem-solving, according to Emotional Unavailability by Bryn Collins, provides a superior mindset:
The Solver stays focused on the problem, not the person, and looks for solutions, not gratification.Bryn Collins
Solvers are solution focused, emotionally available, respectful, limit-setting, one-thing-at-a-time people who want to find answers or resolution.
The reality is, you can’t fix another person, nor can you control their actions. The more you try, the less energy you have for working on your own happiness and success.
10. Everything I need to know, I’ve already learned
Talk about a fast track to limiting your success, sense of self, and satisfaction. Assuming you know it all will inherently prevent yourself from learning new things.
We never learn it all, and we become wisest when we remain generative and continue evolving.
Many times our way of thinking limits our capacity to thrive. We become our own worst enemies when we restrict success through negative or rigid thought patterns. It’s possible to completely reinvent yourself and your life when you let go of these patterns.
Learning to reverse these 10 habits of limited thinking, you can step out of a restricted mindset and into your badass life. I want to help you welcome the flexibility and freedom to actualize your highest potential — and live your true identity.
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