I always saw my future self as this strong, professional businesswoman who would travel the world in her sleek suit. That’s why I used to wear blazers and chinos to university instead of jeans and t-shirt.
That’s why I used to wear blazers and chinos to university instead of jeans and t-shirt.
After business school, I decided to join a fast-growing startup company. I figured it was the best way to learn the ins and outs of running a business.
And I did. As with most startup companies, when you join early, you have to/get to do everything. I was the head of marketing, operations manager, customer service agent and accountant all at once.
3 years in and my desire to do my own thing had grown immensely inside of me. It was no longer enough for me to have a challenging job, lots of responsibility, a great title and some shares in the company. I wanted more. I wanted it all. My goal was clear: I wanted to start my own company.
My goal was clear: I wanted to start my own company.
But then, something strange happened. Or I should rather say: nothing happened. 2 years later and I was still working for someone else. I had changed company and country, but I was still employed.
And it killed me inside. I hated the fact that I had a boss to report to and an office to be at.
Clearly, I was not happy. But I didn’t make a change either. I just made excuses to justify my situation like “My job is not that bad after all. I should be grateful I earn so much money!”.
Clearly, I was not happy. But I didn’t make a change either. Just excuses.
That’s when I started to get really interested in what really holds people back from doing what they actually want. Because shouldn’t it be so simple: You decide what you want and you go and get it.
But in reality, it is never that straight forward. Mostly due to ONE thing I came across in my research: self-limiting beliefs aka mental blocks that keep us from getting what we want.
Beliefs are views we have about ourselves and the world. The determine how we think things are and how we think they should be. In short, they determine our reality. These beliefs emerge in our early childhood when we learned from our experiences and what our parents said and did. Over time we accept these beliefs to be truths, even though they are not. And when we act according to a belief that is in fact limiting us, we hold ourselves back subconsciously. Thus, the problem is often in our mind!
At least, that’s what happened to me. After months and months of contemplating my wish to start a business but not taking a single action towards it, I finally did the necessary work with myself to identify and overcome the mental blocks that were keeping me from starting my own business.
I followed a process that I later published in my self-coaching workbook “Mental Blocks: Identify and Overcome the Gap Between Where You Are and Where You Want to Be”. Here is an overview of the steps I took:
1. I got crystal clear about my goals
The first step to achieving anything in life is to get extremely specific about WHAT it is you really want and WHY you want it. The WHAT is easy, the WHY, however, can be really tricky. But that’s why it is so important! Asking yourself WHY you really want something challenges your motivation and reveals your true desires.
Asking yourself WHY you really want something challenges your motivation and reveals your true desires.
Asking myself “WHY do I want to start my own business?” allowed me to unlock my real drive behind my goal: I wanted to be my own boss so I could work on whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted and from wherever I wanted. In short: Freedom was my ultimate aim.
Freedom was my ultimate aim.
TAKE-AWAY: Getting clear on WHY you really want something allows you to understand your true desire behind your goal. Usually, it is not about the goal itself but about a feeling you desire like being loved, being free or being happy.
2. I used journaling to reveal my subconscious thoughts
Once I was clear about my goal, I used a very powerful self-insight tool: journaling. Except for working with a coach, I’ve not come across any other technique that uncovers what you are really thinking (even if it’s subconsciously) so fast and effective.
And it’s really easy: all you need is some time, pen and paper and the willingness to be honest with yourself.
Journaling is a simple yet powerful technique to uncover what you are really thinking (even if it’s subconscious).
To reveal my deeply rooted self-limiting beliefs about starting my own business and gaining the freedom I craved for, I journaled with this simple question: “Why is it NOT possible for me to start my own business?”. Basically, I turned my goal into the opposite and phrased it as a question.
Then, I journaled freely for 10–15 min. It is really important to let all your thoughts flow on paper because you want them unfiltered! It’s kind of like brainstorming — nothing you write is “wrong” or “stupid” because the selection process comes later.
Here are some of the countless reasons I came up with:
- I can’t quit my job because my boss needs me.
- I won’t make enough money with my business to pay my bills.
- I don’t think I can find something that truly gives me the freedom I long for. Starting a business is just another prison.
It can also help to look at a list of common mental blocks and see if any of them apply to you. You can download my Free Ebook about the 6 Most Common Mental Blocks here.
TAKE-AWAY: Open journaling is a really powerful way to “download” all your thoughts and feelings about something in an unfiltered way — so you can then examine them more closely and understand what is really going on in your subconscious mind.
3. I questioned my excuses to the core
Now it was time to examine all my reasons and really question their validity. To do that, I picked one reason and asked myself these questions:
- “Is this really true?”
- “Would everyone believe this to be true? Would my mentors and people I look up to think this is true?”
By asking myself these questions, I was able to see my reasons from a different perspective and identify the ones that are just lame excuses vs. the ones that were real worries.
By asking myself “Is this really true?”, I was able to see my reasons for not starting a business from a different perspective.
For example “I can’t quit because my boss needs me” is just a lame excuse for not going after what I really wanted. When I switched perspective and saw the situation from the point of view of the people I admired I realized that they would say something like: “This is business. People can quit their job every day. It’s not your responsibility to fulfil your job duties until you die — it’s your boss’ responsibility to make sure the job is done, either by you or by someone else they hire! You ARE NOT your job. As long as you play fair and give your boss enough time to find someone to replace you and train the person, you are not letting anyone down by going after what you want!”
On the other hand: “I am worried that I won’t be able to sustain myself financially” was a valid worry that needed to be examined further so I could understand what was really behind it.
TAKE-AWAY: Seeing your beliefs and excuses from someone else’s perspective often creates an instant shift in your thinking. This works best when you pick someone that you admire or someone that has already reached the goals you set for yourself.
4. I identified the underlying limiting belief
After examining all my reasons for why I couldn’t start my own business, I was able to classify most of them as lame excuses that I could easily let go of with a simple shift in perspective.
However, there was one reason left that I couldn’t let go that easily: “If I start my own business I will have trouble paying my bills and might end up broke.” I knew I wasn’t alone with this worry — this is probably the number 1 reason people are afraid to start their own business. Because if they fail, their entire life could be at stake (house, family, reputation etc.).
But even though I knew it was a “valid” fear, I also knew that it was the ONE thing holding me back from moving forward with my goals. So I needed to understand what was really going on!
Even though some fears are “valid” (like not being able to pay your bills), they still stem from a deeply rooted self-limiting belief which is the real problem.
To do that, I returned to my journal and followed a simple questioning process that allowed me to get to the root of my fear and uncover my real self-limiting beliefs.
Here are my results:
I am afraid to start my own business because I won’t be able to sustain myself financially with it.
> WHY? Because I won’t make much money when working for myself.
> WHY? Because I don’t think I will have enough clients.
> WHY? Because I am not good at acquiring clients.
→ Underlying Self-Limiting Belief: I am not good enough.
Again, it can help to look at a list of common mental blocks and see if any of them apply to you. You can download my Free Ebook about the 6 Most Common Mental Blocks here.
TAKE-AWAY: Questioning yourself by repeatedly asking “But WHY?” is a great way to uncover the real issue behind something. Even though a fear is “rational” to an extent, it is always highly personal. And what is really holding you back is not the fear itself but the self-limiting belief behind your fear. If you believe that you are not good enough, you will always be afraid to put yourself out there and go after what you want. Because deep down you believe you will fail!
5. I reprogrammed my brain with affirmations
Okay, so I knew that what was really holding me back was the self-limiting belief that I was not good enough to start my own business and acquire enough clients. And if I would continue believing this to be true, I would probably never take the leap to start my own business. Or even worse, it would become a self-fulfilling prophecy and I would fail miserably at acquiring clients and making money.
Thus, I had to rewire my brain for success: I needed to change my programming from “I am not good enough” to “I have everything I need to make this happen!”. This sounds pretty simple but actually, it’s not: my limiting belief was so deeply rooted in my subconscious mind that I was thinking, acting and feeling according to it without even knowing.
I had to rewire my brain if I wanted to start my own business and make it a success.
The only way to make my brain accept a new belief was to repeat it over and over and over again so at some point, my programming would change and I would think differently by default.
To do that, I created empowering affirmations that I repeated every morning when I woke up and every morning before I went to bed.
Repeating empowering affirmations every day is a powerful way to ingrain a new belief into your subconscious mind.
At first, I felt it was completely stupid because I was saying things that I actually didn’t believe. It was like lying to myself. But after a week or so, I suddenly started to feel good about my affirmations. The more I practiced my affirmations, the more they became true to me and the more I felt uplifted after saying them.
The more I practiced my affirmations, the more they became true to me and the more I felt uplifted after saying them.
TAKE-AWAY: If you want to overcome your self-limiting beliefs, you need to rewire your brain by replacing them with empowering beliefs. Doing daily affirmations is a powerful way to use repetition to reprogram your subconscious mind.
6. I started acting according to my new belief
Even though I know that thoughts are extremely powerful, there is a limit to “thinking yourself out of something”. If you really want to overcome your limiting beliefs, affirmations won’t cut it, you need to take action!
If you really want to overcome your limiting beliefs, affirmations won’t cut it, you need to take action!
Luckily, I found an extremely effective way to take the right actions that will help you achieve your goals and overcome your limiting beliefs.
It works like this: Ask yourself: “What would I do if I believed _______________ (insert your empowering belief)?”
Trust me, this sounds ridiculously simple but it’s extremely effective! When I asked myself “What would I do if I believed that I have everything I need to start my own business and make enough money with it?” I arrived at a simple yet powerful conclusion: “I would stop spending all my time worrying and doubting myself and would start executing!”.
If I believed that I had everything I needed to start a successful business, I would stop doubting myself and finally start executing!
Before this breakthrough, I spent most of my evenings talking to my boyfriend about starting a business or thinking about it but not actually doing ANYTHING. After I decided to act according to my new empowering belief, I finally took the first steps and started my business on the side while still working full-time in my job.
TAKE-AWAY: Even though thoughts are powerful, you need to take real action to change your reality. A simple way to start going after your dreams is to ask yourself “What would I do if I believed _______________ (insert your empowering belief)?”. This question often leads to breakthroughs because it reveals what has been hidden in plain sight!
After starting my business on the side (I wrote about it here), I quit my job and finally realized my dream of working on whatever, whenever and wherever I want to. If I hadn’t sat down with myself to understand what was really going on in my subconscious mind, I would never have identified and overcome the mental blocks that kept me from going after my dreams!
But crushing my limiting beliefs was not a one time thing — it is an on-going process of learning and growing. Every time I set a new goal that is out of my comfort zone, I go through this process (which I also wrote about in detail in my book “Mental Blocks”) so I can overcome my mental obstacles and move forward with confidence.
Tell Me in the Comments
What is something you are not doing because your mind is holding you back? How do you plan on overcoming these mental blocks?