I believe that an individual's beliefs about him/herself have profound influence on their success in learning and in their success in life. Our beliefs are the foundation upon which we build many of our thought patterns, our attitudes, and our actions. (I write more about this here). Unfortunately, these beliefs, particularly self-beliefs can be limiting in nature.
We can learn about this principle (surprisingly) from a jar full of fleas. As the video below demonstrates, if you fill a jar with fleas and place the lid on the jar, the fleas will jump and hit their heads on the lid. But leave them for a few days, and the fleas will adapt to their environment and, to avoid the pain of hitting their heads, eventually will not to jump as high as the lid.
So, what do we learn from these fleas? Just as the fleas began with the capacity to jump higher than the lid of the jar, we as human beings have the capacity to accomplish great things. However, through our experiences and our own reasoning, we sometimes come to believe that our ability to succeed is limited. For example, when I was in grade school, I excelled at mathematics, and I regularly won in-class math competitions. However, as I transitioned to Junior High School, I ended up having trouble with algebra and eventually dropped out of math. Ever since then, I have avoided math classes and held the firm belief that I am not good at math. In essence, my beliefs about myself limited my ability to succeed at math.
This applies in all areas of life. I have several friends that I know have the capacity to achieve great success. But I find them using phrases like "I guess I missed the boat on getting an education," or "I could never accomplish as much as (that person) has accomplished." These beliefs about themselves and their capacity to succeed limit them in their learning and in their lives. The beliefs may have begun based on some sort of experience, (like me struggling with algebra classes), but a temporary setback should never be interpreted as a life-long ultimatum.
Breaking the Pattern
So, how can we move beyond the limitations that we place on ourselves? I believe that the following suggestions will help an individual begin to shape positive, affirming self-beliefs and will help them begin to move forward in their learning and in their lives more effectively:
- Flood your life with new, empowering knowledge. Placing new beliefs into your mind can help empower you and give you a new perspective. I have found that motivators like Zig Ziglar, Norman Vincent Peale, Stephen Covey, and Anthony Robbins have helped me to see the world from a new, empowered perspective. I recommend reading their works and listening to their audio seminars. I also recommend reading sacred literature that teaches of your own worth - I have gained deep personal beliefs about my own worth, and these beliefs have given me a foundation of confidence in myself and in others.
- Remove dis-empowering relationships and messages from your life. As I mentioned in my post about toxic coworkers, some individuals are toxic in nature and actually tear down everyone around them. To achieve true success, it is vital that you eliminate these individuals from your life, wherever possible. In addition, the media we listen to, view, and interact with can heavily influence our perspective on ourselves and our lives, so be sure to control the flow of information so that true, positive, empowering knowledge is obtained.
- Set goals. Plan out what you would like to accomplish in your education and in your life and then identify exactly what must be accomplished to reach those goals. When I plan out exactly what I must do to succeed, I realize that the first few steps are actually doable, and I often begin to move toward my goals.
- Do something that is difficult. Accomplishing a difficult task can help build confidence in your abilities and give you the skills and tenacity required to do something that is even harder. Success breeds success, so set out to do something difficult and worthwhile.
- Recognize setbacks as temporary. My friend and coworker Tracy Austin once articulated the belief that, "There is no failure, only feedback. There are no mistakes, just lessons learned." Viewing your shortcomings in this manner enables you to learn from your experiences as you move toward personal success.
To show your true ability is always, in a sense, to surpass the limits of your ability, to go a little beyond them: to dare, to seek, to invent; it is at such a moment that new talents are revealed, discovered, and realized. - Simone de Beauvoir