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5 Beliefs That Limit Your Happiness and Success

Reframe your beliefs for more freedom and fulfillment.

Key points

  • We make decisions to act or emotionally react to every situation we face based on our past experiences.
  • When you discover a belief that is directing your choices, explore the counter-beliefs that can reframe your perspective.
  • Letting go of an old belief and replacing it with something new is possible, but our overprotective brains often sabotage our attempts.
Source: HASLOO/Depositphotos

Barry A. Ellsworth, author of Living in Love With Yourself (Breakthrough Pub; 1989) wrote: “The outer, manifest reality you have created is nothing more or less than a reflection of your inner reality."

The beliefs that direct our actions are formed from past personal experiences and from observations that aroused an emotion. Then we relive these experiences as we go about our days. We make decisions to act or emotionally react to every situation we face. Mostly we act without consciousness, though sometimes we do things even when we sense we are not acting in our best interest.

Letting go of an old belief and replacing it with something new is a human ability, but our overprotective brains often sabotage our freedom of choice. Albert Einstein said, “Reality is an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” Because beliefs become embedded patterns of “seeing,” we often need someone outside of ourselves to awaken our consciousness. We can then look at the beliefs and see them as stories we are telling, not truths to live by.

Reading the beliefs below might help you reframe your stories. If you get stuck trying to shift your beliefs, a therapist or person trained in coaching skills can help bring these stories to light, acting as an external thought reflector.

Coaching focuses on discovering and clarifying the beliefs and experiences (our stories) directing choices so they can be examined, expanded, or changed. We listen for the beliefs that frame your view of a dilemma, the reality created through the lens of your past experiences.

We then reflect what we hear, and ask questions to clarify your beliefs and stories. We ask the meaning of the key words you use to describe a situation, especially when you declare what you want but you aren’t getting. We also ask what you think is getting in the way of achieving what you desire.

Then we can look at the strength of evidence keeping the beliefs in place. Many times a simple summary of what you said and adding, “So it sounds as if you believe…” can help you find the gaps in your logic or what you fear will happen if you let a belief go. Then you can go deeper into what you might see if you believed something different.

You might try this on your own first to see if you can master your mind without help. Read the common beliefs below and ask yourself, “How is this belief getting in the way of my happiness and sense of fulfillment now?” and “How is this belief getting in the way of moving toward a life that is aligned with what I most value for myself? Can I shift to framing my situations with the counter-beliefs? What steps can I take daily to embed these ideas?" This exploration can help you make stronger decisions for yourself in the future. Changing your beliefs gives you the freedom of choice.

  1. "I must work hard to deliver with perfection to be valued." Counter-belief — "People will admire my efforts, especially if I recognize and accept when I make mistakes, knowing we all do, and readily learn from my mistakes going forward. I may be embarrassed. I might get mad at myself, but I don’t live with the stress of having to be perfect. I strive for excellence, not perfection."
  2. "It is important to listen to family, friends, and colleagues when they tell me what I should do. I don’t want them to judge my choices as wrong or inconsiderate.” Counter-belief — "Getting the approval of everyone in my life is nearly impossible. How can I feel good about my choices in spite of the 'shoulds' I hear?"
  3. "Earning lots of money will make me happy." Counter-belief — I will have the freedom to choose what I want to do with my life when I have no debt. Financial freedom means I only have one or two loans (mortgage/car) and pay off everything else as soon as I can. I may have to delay owning material possessions, but they won’t make me happy with my life anyway. Most things I can buy may make me feel comfortable but not fulfilled.
  4. “I will never be good enough. Everything is changing so quickly, there is no way I can be great." Counter-belief — "I can fear failure and feel the excitement of learning and expanding my skills and knowledge with new experiences.If I remember my purpose, what I stand for, and what strengths I bring to creating a positive outcome, I will have the courage to act even when I am afraid."
  5. “I should never express my anger because it will hurt or push people away.” Counter-belief — "Anger, like all emotions, is just energy moving through the body. When I listen to my anger and try to determine what I didn’t get that I thought I should, I can determine if I need to let someone know what they did that triggered my reaction. I can then let them know what they said or did that left me feeling disrespected, devalued, or unsafe, and then request how I would like our conversations to continue.1 Or, if there is no evidence they intended to hurt or disregard me and telling them my experience would not add value to the relationship, I can choose to breathe and let it go. I choose to let it go not because I am avoiding the conversation; I am making a courageous and conscious choice."

Practice reframing your beliefs or get someone to help you think through your stories if you get stuck. You will be more successful, feel more fulfilled, and experience more freedom to create a better life for yourself and others.


1. Marcia Reynolds. How to Use Your Anger as a Personal Positive Force,, April 25, 2019.