Self Limiting Beliefs

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”


Not to get too woo-woo, but the simple fact of the matter is that the above quote from Gandhi resonates in everything in life. This becomes very evident in the realm of athletic endeavors and health outcomes. Apparent at both the macro and micro levels, limiting beliefs can prevent a lot of progress before it even happens.

The parable of how to train an elephant goes something like this (I am ignoring the obvious animal cruelty issues that are very apparent with this story and the whole using animals for entertainment issue); when a baby elephant is first born the trainers attach a chain around its leg and tie it to a metal post buried in the ground. At the first, the baby elephant will try and try to break free of the chain, however the post and chain are too strong for the little animal to break free. So it never breaks free from captivity and remains stuck. Fast forward to years of this treatment and now the fully grown elephant has the strength to break free of the chain and post and destroy its owners and run away. Yet, because of the years of this treatment, the elephant believes the chains to be unbreakable and the owners all-mighty, so never gains its freedom.

The first person to break the four minute mile was Roger Bannister, and he completed this feat on on May 6, 1954, with a time of three minutes, fifty-nine and four-tenths of a second. The story goes that runners had been trying to break this milestone since at least 1886. What’s interesting is that Bannister was considered an “outlier and iconoclast — a full-time student who had little use for coaches and devised his own system for preparing to race. The British press “constantly ran stories criticizing his ‘lone wolf’ approach,”. ” Apart from the hard training and consistent effort that Bannister put forth and executed, I’m sure that the fact that Bannister didn’t train with the conventional teams and coaches played a part in helping him break the four minute mark. Why? Because he hadn’t been conditioned that that was a real limit. The part of the story that I find even more interesting is that his record was broken only 46 days later by John Landy, with a time of three minutes & 58 seconds. Nowadays, thousands of runners, that aren’t even professional, easily beat the four minute mile, the Boston Marathon qualifying times are well under the four minute mark. Some can argue that we have better training, nutrition and science that underpin the science of running. I would agree with this sentiment with the addition that if everyone believes something is impossible, then it will be a lot harder to achieve.

Not only are self limiting beliefs derived internally, but there are a whole lot of external forces that are affecting how we think about ourselves. What beliefs have you been telling yourself for your whole life that have stunted your growth? Either personally, spiritually, professionally, physically? This is an internal search and dialogue we all have to have with ourselves in order to break free from our self limiting beliefs.

Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.”  Obviously, there is a lot more to the story than this, but if we tie it to the opening sentiment from Gandhi, we will see how our beliefs are kindling for the fire of success. If we begin with the thought that we will fail, how can we possibly succeed?

This isn’t about being overconfident and cocky, rather it’s about simple beginning with the belief that we can achieve anything we set our minds to.

This belief alters our thoughts into how we can achieve anything.

This alters our how we talk to ourselves and others.

This creates the habits of actions we need to take to achieve anything.

This repeated course of action become our values and who we identify as.

This all cumulates to achieving your destiny.

I know this all sounds very intangible, so I want to illustrate a real life example from my own training. For years I had struggled to squat and deadlift 405 pounds. I even rationalized my weakness by telling myself that I didn’t need to get that strong, and didn’t want to lift 405. I would be fine if I could simply rep out 365lbs. I rationalized out the possibility of even attempting to get that strong. So for a couple of years my training didn’t follow a structure that was conducive to strength gaining and I was simply exercising and moving. Until the day I discovered powerlifting and saw all these amazing athletes moving incredible weights that weren’t ‘professional’. I think that’s where it clicked that I could achieve a 405 squat & deadlift. After a couple of months of proper training and hard work I finally achieved a 405 squat and deadlift. Currently I have been able to work up to a training single of 455 squat and a 485 deadlift.

I attribute it all to that little shift in my beliefs. I updated my though pattern to realize I could get that strong and now I am stronger than ever. The simple change in beliefs altered my self talk, now it’s a question of when and how I will reach another milestone. My actions are now consistent with strength development, my nutrition is coming together to support my training. My sleep is improving to help with recovery. All of these factors are because I now believe deep down that I can achieve great strength.

Don’t let your thoughts stop you from becoming great.



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