Known your Limiting Beliefs...

A young woman stands, hair and scarf billowing in the wind, leaning precariously over a sheer cliff face.

“I don’t think I can do this”, she says quietly, wiping a tear from the corner of her eye.

Her Sales Manager shrugs, and replies; “That’s your problem; Limiting Beliefs.”

He pushes her over the edge.

Metaphorically speaking.

If you google ‘Limiting Beliefs’, you’ll find myriad articles on the most common limiting beliefs (I can’t do it!), where they came from (your parents), and how to get rid of them (therapy).

But can a Limiting Belief be a positive thing?

It’s a Limiting Belief that stops me from jumping down flights of stairs in one leap (I learned this one the hard way). I have a whole bunch that stop me from attempting the impossible on a golf course. And they also prevent me from wasting time recruiting for roles that cannot be filled.

The problem isn’t with the concept of the Limiting Belief- rather, the issue is that lazy managers use them as a stick to beat people with. It’s a lot easier to tell your staff that they have limiting beliefs, rather than learn about their markets/challenges, and offer them appropriate training, coaching or direction.

If you have a manager like that, I would suggest it’s time to find someone else to work for. You’re not going to learn anything from that person, and they aren’t trying to learn anything from you.

So, are Limiting Beliefs in recruitment bad? The answer is paradoxical. They can be both vital and toxic.

In recruitment terms, it’s a Limiting Belief that stops you from looking for a candidate that your experience tells you doesn’t exist. If you’re an expert in your market, then this is using that expertise to become more efficient with your time. Balancing your opportunity cost.

It’s also a Limiting Belief that stops you from suggesting your client interviews a candidate without seeing the CV. This ‘learned’ experience is preventing you from unlocking better performance, and from giving a better service to both your clients and candidates.

I realise that this article has, thus far, not been that useful. About the only take away is that any manager who constantly cites Limiting Beliefs is probably a moron.


I’m going to try to make it more real for you.

A Limiting Belief, by definition, is the belief that something is impossible. Here is a short process that you can work through to see if it’s holding you back, or saving you;

Has the belief been tested? You don’t have to jump off a cliff to know that you can’t fly, but you could try jumping off a wall to check. Believing something can’t be done, because it hasn’t been done before, makes no sense.
Does it cost you anything to try again? If the answer to this is ‘no’, then you really should keep trying! If there is zero cost, even if the chances of success are small, it’s still a good thing to keep doing. Like asking a client if they really need to interview that contractor before they make an offer.
Conversely, is the cost too great? Don’t waste time challenging a limiting belief if the outcome doesn’t justify the effort. For example- someone offers you £5 to eat your own shoes…
Are you drawing conclusions? Sometimes innovation can look a lot like previous failure. This can hold us back. Just because something looks similar, doesn’t make it the same. Don’t confuse a G-Wiz with a Tesla because they both have batteries.
Most importantly of all- is this something you’ve been taught, or something you’ve learned? Unfortunately, we’re all taught limitations based on other people’s beliefs. You can’t play basketball unless you’re tall. Women don’t make good racing drivers. Ginger people can’t get a good sun tan. Some of these things are real, and some aren’t. But try to base your beliefs on evidence that’s tangible, not just what you’ve been told.
That brings us to the crux of this article- how are your beliefs formed?

If you distinguish between the possible and impossible based on evidence that you’re sure of, then you’re making a lot of good decisions.

But if you’re putting limitations on yourself based on what you’ve been told, or if you stop trying new things because they look a bit like something you tried before… well, you’re probably not reading this anyway, because you already know what you know.

Keep trying new things, and don’t be afraid to learn from your experiences. That might give you Limiting Beliefs, but it will also make you smart and successful.