Your mind is very powerful. Yet, if you’re like most people, you probably spend very little time reflecting on the way you think. After all, who thinks about thinking?
But, the way you think about yourself turns into your reality. If you draw inaccurate conclusions about who you are and what you’re capable of doing, you’ll limit your potential.
The Link Between Thoughts, Feelings, and Behavior
Your thoughts are a catalyst for self-perpetuating cycles. What you think directly influences how you feel and how you behave. So if you think you’re a failure, you’ll feel like a failure. Then, you’ll act like a failure, which reinforces your belief that you must be a failure.
I see this all the time in my therapy practice. Someone will come in saying, “I’m just not good enough to advance in my career.” That assumption leads her to feel discouraged and causes her to put in less effort. That lack of effort then prevents her from getting a promotion.
Or, someone will say, “I’m really socially awkward.” So when that individual goes to a social gathering, he stays in the corner by himself. When no one speaks to him, it reinforces his belief that he must be socially awkward.
Your Beliefs Get Reinforced
Once you draw a conclusion about yourself, you’re likely to do two things: Look for evidence that reinforces your belief, and discount anything that runs contrary to your belief.
Someone who develops the belief that he’s a failure, for example, will view each mistake as proof that he’s not good enough. When he does succeed at something, he’ll chalk it up to luck.
Consider for a minute that it might not be your lack of talent or lack of skills that is holding you back. Instead, it might be your beliefs that keep you from performing at your peak.
Creating a more positive outlook can lead to better outcomes. Positive thoughts do not have magical powers. But optimistic thoughts can lead to productive behavior, which increases your chances of a successful outcome.
Challenge Your Conclusions
Take a look at the labels you’ve placed on yourself. Maybe you’ve declared yourself incompetent. Or perhaps you’ve decided you’re a bad leader. Remind yourself that you don’t have to allow those beliefs to restrict your potential. Just because you think something, doesn’t make it true.
The good news is, you can change how you think, alter your perception, and change your life. Here are two ways to challenge your beliefs:
Take note of any times when your beliefs weren’t reinforced. Acknowledging exceptions to the rule will remind you that your belief isn’t always true.
Perform behavioral experiments that test how true your beliefs really are. If you think you’re not good enough, do something that helps you to feel worthy. If you’ve labeled yourself too wimpy to step outside of your comfort zone, force yourself to do something that feels a little uncomfortable.
With practice, you can train your brain to think differently. When you give up those self-limiting beliefs, you’ll be better equipped to reach your greatest potential.
Pick up a copy of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do.
Watch my TEDx talk The Secret to Becoming Mentally Strong.
Sign up for my online course Mental Strength: Mastering the 3 Core Factors.