Someone has rightly observed, “Sooner or later you act out what you really believe.” This is especially true of limiting thoughts. Limiting thoughts are insidious parasites that leech your courage and diminish what you’re capable of.

Limiting thoughts may express themselves as:

  • Self-deprecating language
  • Moping
  • Complaining
  • Negative self-talk
  • Damaging exaggerations

Examples of limiting or negative thoughts (and talk) include things like:

  • “I’m such a loser!”
  • “I’ll never be able to do this!”
  • “I’ve failed yet again!”
  • “I’m such an idiot!”
  • “I guess I’m not cut out for this.”
  • “I hate this job!”
  • “I hate living here!”
  • “I hate my life!”
  • “I can’t do this anymore.”

Notice that without exception, limiting thoughts are gross exaggerations. And the word “exaggeration” is a euphemism for a “lie.” That’s right, limiting thoughts are a pack of lies! And when we believe a lie, it makes us do things we wouldn’t normally do and prevents us from doing things we should do.

The Dangers of Limiting Thoughts

Limiting thoughts are so dangerous because they restrict our abilities and potential. They’re like a kill-switch that shuts down our growth and motivation. Limiting thoughts are weeds that, left unchecked, take over a garden destroying its fruit. Limiting thoughts demoralize, discourage, and distract us from our mission and goals. When we believe limiting thoughts, we’re believing and living a lie.

And limiting thoughts not only affect the one thinking and acting them out, but they are off-putting to others. No one wants to be around a nay-sayer. No one trusts a negative, self-deprecating individual. Limiting thoughts and language scare away customers and demoralize your team.

David Schwartz, in the Magic of Thinking Big, pointed out, “Strong belief triggers the mind to figuring ways and means and how-to. And believing you can succeed makes others place confidence in you.” But negative, limiting thoughts undo all that, crippling the mind and destroying confidence of self and others.

Where Limiting Thoughts Come From

Dark, limiting thoughts come from:

  • Naysayers and negative talkers around us
  • Our own wrong conclusions resulting from a blunder or failure
  • Just generally feeling poorly about ourselves
  • Having established bad habits and patterns of self-deprecating talk
  • A misunderstanding of humility (true humility and negativity have nothing in common)
  • Spending time in the bad company of others who think and talk in a limiting or negative way

If you find yourself entertaining limiting thoughts, it’s important to pinpoint where those thoughts are coming from so you can avoid those triggers.

How to Overcome Limiting Thoughts

Limiting thoughts result from establishing a bad habit that we must consciously break. Here are some ways we can break those bad habits and avoid limiting thoughts in the future:

  1. Discipline yourself to cultivate a can-do attitude. Just like coaches who give their team a pep-talk before a game, we need to think and talk in a winning way. “I can do this!”
  2. Speak positive things into the lives of others. By speaking positively into the lives of others, we not only encourage them, but we realign our own thinking to the positive as well.
  3. Resist the temptation to counter limiting thoughts with proud and arrogant ones. Prideful, arrogant thoughts and language are also exaggerations (lies). Pride and arrogance are off-putting to others. In this sense, prideful thoughts and limiting thoughts are alike. Both are damaging. Instead, think and speak the truth humbly.
  4. Keep getting back up. In the movie, Chariots of Fire, there’s an amazing scene where Eric Liddell, an Olympic runner is knocked to the ground during the race. In an incredible show of fortitude, he not only gets back up to finish the race but goes on to win it! When something goes terribly wrong, train yourself to say, “OK, that didn’t work, so what will?”
  5. Learn to laugh at yourself. Often negative thoughts come from taking ourselves too seriously. Instead, learn to laugh at yourself. Share your mirth with others and give them a good laugh. In this way you’re being honest about what happened, but you’re giving yourself permission to move on. “No harm done!”
  6. Take time to rest and reflect. Rest and reflection are vital habits for maintaining a healthy mental outlook. When we’re all stressed out with deadlines we’re more liable to make mistakes and think poorly of ourselves.
  7. Read positive, upbeat books and materials. Both from a business standpoint and for pure enjoyment, read books and materials that feed your mind with the positive. This goes for watching TV and movies as well. We unconsciously adopt many of the attitudes portrayed in what we read, watch and listen to.

Establish positive habits and routines in your life like those above to avoid limiting thoughts and replace them with positive, action-oriented ones. As Zig Ziglar said, “It’s your attitude and not your aptitude that determines your altitude.”