If you’re reading anything in the self-help, motivation or even business genre, you’ve probably heard that your beliefs will limit your success. Hold on to negative beliefs and now you’re doomed.
I’ve always had trouble with that idea because some negative beliefs are accurate. Yes, Virginia, there IS discrimination based on age, sex, race, religion, gender orientation, weight, hair color and more.
So I get frustrated with chirpy coaches who advise us to ignore discrimination. I’ve even read advice like, “There is no such thing as age discrimination.” Well, I’ve heard people come right out and say, “In our company, if you’re not a director by 50, it’s all over.”
Recently I came across a post from Cathy Demers of the Business Success Cafe with some more helpful ways of looking at belief systems. (This post may be available only to members of the Cafe, but you’ll find some cool business ideas posted there.) The idea is to find something you believe honestly that will help you achieve your goals and reach your own definition of success. Then you find people who are aligned with those beliefs and hang out with them.
Begin by looking back at beliefs that got you through a crisis or problem. It might be, “Hard work leads to reward.” Or “What you focus on will appear in your life.”
It is important to remember two things.
First, your belief doesn’t have to be accurate, for this purpose. It just has to be helpful and motivating to you.
Many successful entrepreneurs believe in astrology, law of attraction, and various kinds of religion. Are those beliefs objectively true? What matters is those beliefs sustained these business owners and helped them reach success.
It won’t help you to try to force yourself into those beliefs. You can’t walk in ill-fitting shoes. You have to find your own.
Second, identify many of your beliefs, not just one or two. That’s because your beliefs can become outdated or irrelevant in a new environment.
Let’s say you believe, “If I work hard, I’ll be successful.” Basketball coach Pat Summitt was famous for saying things like, “We will out-work you.”
This belief is half-right. When you’re perfecting a skill, with well-established guidelines and perhaps a good coach, hard work will probably reward you. You might have been successful at winning ball games, solving math problems, or throwing a pot in the ceramics studio.
But if you’re starting a business, writing a book, or solving a complex management problem, you can work hard and get nowhere. It’s more about working smart. Sometimes you accomplish more by working less because you have time to think, reflect and assimilate.
You may also have done well with the belief, “If I do nothing and just focus on enjoying life, good things will happen.” This belief often works well in the social arena. Many people make friends and find soulmates while going about their happy, fulfilled lives. It doesn’t work as well, for most people, in the business field.
And some beliefs, of course, are toxic. I know someone who believes, “I’m stuck. There’s nothing I can do.”
Clearly this belief that won’t help her reach her own goals. But I can’t tell her to believe something else. She has to find her own way.