Our interpretation of the world is based on the set of beliefs we have about ourselves and our relationship with the world.

If we believe we are lucky, we are much more likely to actually be lucky. 

This was borne out by an experiment carried out some years ago. People categorized themselves as either very lucky or unlucky.

They were invited to come for a 1:1 interview which was held at a house. Before each person arrived money was placed along the path to the front door. The same denomination of notes and location was used for every participant.

The results were extraordinary. Far more of who considered themselves to be lucky found the money and those who considered themselves to be unlucky did not.

What does that tell us? Are the golden ones born under a lucky star? Is it kismet, fate, all predetermined? Or are those who believe themselves to be lucky more open and observant. Have they learnt the behaviour and had it reinforced through success?

Beliefs about ourselves have a powerful influence over our behaviours and our attitudes.

In my time in the world of education it was extremely common for pupils to believe that they couldn’t do something, even though they had not actually attempted the task before. Their belief closed the door to the possibility of success. The brain was then so busy saying “You can’t do it – you’ll fail” that their performance was poor and a self fulfilling prophecy came to pass. 

The opposite is also true. When you believe it is possible it becomes so. I do not mean easy but I do mean possible. Once you changed pupil’s belief about their capability and they had a go with confidence progress was swift and sustained.

In my own life I have been confined to a wheelchair several times. Believing I could walk again was absolutely crucial as it had to sustain me when progress seemed non existent.

Consider top sports men and women. Any sense of doubt about their ability to be the best, would impact on their performance. Unless they keep faith when times get tough they will simply give up. It is why so many of them work with a coach.

Explorers have to believe that what they are doing is possible. Without that belief we would still believe that the Earth is flat and travel would be restricted to a narrow strip of coastal water. The reality is very different as evidenced by the exploration of the Earth and Space. It is also true for Entrepreneurs and inventors, many of whom fail and fail before they actually succeed.

Many people believe that they are not good enough, worthy enough, attractive enough, or that they don’t deserve happiness. Such beliefs colour every interaction they have with themselves and others. 

Consider these statements –

  • I feel good about myself – even the wobbly bits
  • I look ok but only when I’m dressed up
  • I hate my body – I feel ugly
  • I always get things right
  • I sometimes get things right
  • I never get things right
  • Good things always happen to me
  • I get a reasonable balance of good and bad things in my life
  • It always happens to me – the bad things
  • I always trust others until they prove I should do otherwise
  • I sometimes trust others, but not always
  • You can’t trust anyone
  • I am happy to show my strengths and my vulnerabilities
  • I am happy to show my strengths but I hide my vulnerabilities
  • I haven’t got any strengths
  • Most people are intrinsically good and fair
  • Some people are good and fair – you have to be careful
  • I never trust anyone
  • I’m happy to help others – but feel good about myself even when I don’t
  • I like doing things for other people – it makes me feel needed.
  • I get my sense of self worth only when I do things for others

As you read them through, think which of each set of three is closest to what you believe about yourself. 

What would be the potential impact of having each of the other beliefs on the way you feel? 

How do you think it would change your attitude and behaviour if you had a different belief?

If you learn to love yourself for who and what you are it will have a really positive impact on your own sense of wellbeing and on your interaction with others.

Patterns of Behaviour

Over the years my experience of working with clients has identified a number of patterns. 

A low sense of self worth can drive the person to succeed and prove to the world that they are not failing. Interestingly it often not enough to satisfy the individual’s high standards. 

For some people external recognition helps. When others recognize the value of what they are doing they feel good at the time but like a drug it wears off quickly so is needed constantly. It might manifest itself in asking for reassurance or chasing promotion. 

Patterns of behaviour may become entrenched – those who are always helping others often at personal cost are just one example, those who feel driven to work harder and longer to gain success, and those who constantly chase the next goal – always striving for success.

A negative belief about how attractive the person feels often impacts on their ability to make eye contact, their body language, posture, physiology, the way they dress and interact with others. This in turn impacts on how others respond. The cycle is reinforced. 

Those who trust no-one tend to put barriers up and send very strong messages to others putting barriers in the way. They will often set little tests for the other person but without letting the rules of the test be known.

During a session with a client this week this was beautifully illustrated.

We were exploring the difference between dependence and interdependence. She has always been fiercely independent but truly wants a loving passionate relationship.

We were looking at her beliefs and behaviours around boyfriends. When on a date she had always insisted in paying her way. She had been keen to show that she could be independent and that she was not impressed by wealth. She rejected offers of help because she felt it was important to appear strong and self sufficient. She recognized that she was giving a strong message to the boyfriend which was very different to the one she wanted him to hear.

As the conversation progressed she identified that she really wanted the boyfriend to see through her behaviours and recognize the “real her” underneath. Deep down she wanted to be treated as a princess and to feel feminine and protected but at the same time for her “man” to allow her the space to be herself when needed. Not surprisingly she was disappointed when they didn’t.

In her battle to appear independent it is likely the boyfriends felt they were not needed, they were left struggling to interpret very mixed messages and relationships generally ended.

Her previous interpretation had been that men couldn’t be trusted. She is now beginning to approach things differently and in doing so is likely to get very different responses and long term results.

What can we do about our beliefs?

In the first instance all that is needed is an acknowledgement that there is the possibility for things to be different. Once you can acknowledge that there can be a shift, a difference has already occurred.

Understanding where those beliefs have come from can be extremely helpful. When you listen to that voice in your head saying something negative – whose voice is it? Is it truly yours or is it a voice from the past? A parent or teacher telling you can’t or you are not good enough?

Understand that the negative belief has been created as a result of a remark made 10. 20, 30, 40, 50 60 or 70 years ago and ask yourself is that true of me now? Was it true of me ever? Put the remark in perspective and all too often comes the realization that the remark says more about the speaker than you. Realizing this can help you to re-evaluate the belief bin it and replace it with a much more productive one.

So what belief is holding you back from fulfilling your true potential?

Identify your limiting belief and write it down.

Create a positive belief around the first one but frame it differently. Let’s work an example through:

Belief - I am not good enough. – If it is framed as a question “How can I be good enough” it presupposes that you are not good enough already.

Reframe it to “How can I love and appreciate who I am even more and in doing so love and appreciate others?” presupposes that you love yourself in the first instance. Repeating the question regularly begins to change the way the brain perceives things and build a much more positive sense of self. 

I have seen incredible changes in clients who have undertaken this exercise. A much increased sense of self worth and a positive change of attitude, posture and body language have been the tangible results.

Organizational BELIEFS - Long Hours mean better productivity and being busy is the same as being productive

Limiting beliefs are just as much an issue for organizations and departments as they are for individuals. Any belief which limits potential should be challenged. 

In this article I’d like to consider the belief which is held by so many organizations that working longer hours means those who work are being more productive and that being busy is the same as being productive.

Beliefs underpin organizational culture. Long hours are often held up to be the ideal. Bosses model this behaviour and young recruits assume that to be seen as leadership potential they must arrive before the boss and only leave once the boss has packed up and gone home. The hours worked are boasted of and become a badge of honour.

Of course there are times when a specific project deadline must be met and everyone needs to pull out all of the stops. It is the systemic belief that long necessarily means productive which I am challenging.

When the culture of long hours is matched with the belief that being busy is the same as being productive the problem is compounded.

You may be wondering what the difference is between busy and productive. I am offering my description of the difference. What sort of department or organization do you work for?

Lots of people are incredibly busy. They rush from meeting to meeting many of which have little relevance to those who attend. People make endless lists of things which still need to be done; they drown under paperwork which has been generated by the organization and as a result are stressed and far less productive than they might be. People are constantly solving problems. Decisions are likely to be overturned because they are being made on the hoof. Staff are into fire fighting mode, have no time to think and plan strategically so miss the opportunity to anticipate and prevent problems in the first place. They may enjoy the buzz in the short term but in the longer term people are likely to become stressed or burnt out.

Being productive for me is having a really focused approach to what is needed. Strategic planning is central to being productive. Such planning enables everyone to be clear about the end result, what is needed to achieve it and the milestones on the way. Everyone is encouraged to see themselves as part of the team. The team is well trained and have all learned to plan and anticipate. Effective delegation takes place with the necessary levels of authority and everyone is held accountable for their part. The best use is made of time, there is an organizational strategy for making sure this is so. Success is celebrated and everyone learns from previous experience. Decisions are made in a timely way leading to a planned. People work hard but are encouraged to have a life outside and to recharge their batteries. Working hard and playing hard is the norm. 

Recommended Reading

"The Tipping Point" by Malcolm Gladwell

This is a book about change. It presents a new way of understanding why change so often happens as quickly and as unexpectedly as it does. He makes the parallel between the way ideas, behavior and messages and products and the way outbreaks of infectious disease work. The Tipping Point is an examination of the social epidemics that surround us.


"How YOU Can Manage Your Staff More Effectively (And Pave The Way To Your Next Promotion)" by Gina Gardiner

Offers lots of practical strategies for managers to help get the very best of their staff as individuals and as a team.

Everything in the book has been tried and tested in a variety of organizations; it is a distillation of over 30 years experience of developing leadership at every level.

The book does not attempt to teach grandmothers or grandfathers to suck eggs, but offers tried and tested principles, strategies and ideas which have been proven to work.

Time, energy and money are all very precious resources and all three seem to be in short supply for most busy managers.

How YOU Can Manage Your Staff More Effectively (And Pave The Way To Your Next Promotion) Can help! Dip into it if you are facing specific issues or use the comprehensive approach to underpin ongoing and sustained individual and team development.

It has relevance for experienced managers who want to share good practice and for aspiring leaders who want to develop and deepen their leadership skills.

The book covers a wide range of issues including:

  • Developing strategic vision
  • Creating your dream team
  • Creating a ‘Can Do’ culture
  • Effective delegation
  • Holding people to account
  • Developing a solutions approach
  • The power of anticipation
  • Giving positive feedback
  • Having those “hard conversations”
  • Managing stress for you and your team
  • Creating a good work life balance

How YOU Can Manage Your Staff More Effectively (And Pave The Way To Your Next Promotion) will stand alone but you will find it useful to use it in conjunction with the companion book Kick Start Your Career.


"Kick Start Your Career" by Gina Gardiner

This book is designed for new initiates into the business world and graduates who are ambitious and want to create a successful career for themselves. It is a no nonsense, jargon free manual, full of practical ideas and strategies to support the development of leadership from day one.


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