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On the journey towards greatness you must go fishing for elephants. The bigger the better. Knowing
where to fish and which bait to use takes experience and when an elephant bites it can be a long
fight to reel it in. And then, it's time to kill it.
Fishing for elephants can be a long-winded
and painful experience but it's one of those
things you must go through on your inner
journey towards greatness. The elephants are
the obvious self-limiting beliefs that no one
wants to discuss. They're sometimes obvious to
people around you but you are consciously or
unconsciously unaware. It's a self-limiting
belief that is such a big part of who you are
that you don't clearly see it and never
The expression "fishing for elephants" came to
me through my experience as a coach. In
coaching we often talk about "spotting the
elephant" based on the classic English idiom
"the elephant in the room". And in the
coaching relationship the coach and the coachee "go fishing" in the mental pond to identify the real
reasons for certain behaviors. The small fish circling close to the surface always bait but that's the
easy things to discuss, the topics to which you already have formulated thoughts and answers. But
it's the elephants that you're after - catch an elephant, take the time it takes to reel it in and kill it
and you can make leaps on your inner journey towards greatness.
"I'm not good enough."
Self-limiting beliefs are deeply rooted beliefs that you repeat to yourself as an excuse to not take
action. And in addition they disempower you, puts you in a negative mental state that sets you back
and may even put you on a downward spiral.
- "I could never do that"
- "I'm too young"
- "I'm too old"
- "I'm not smart enough"
- "I'm no good at this"
- "I'm never lucky"
- "I'm not attractive"
The most common being "I'm not good enough." We all think that to ourselves every now and then,
the most successful people you can imagine do it as well. I am sure Steve Jobs did it, I am sure
Richard Branson does it in certain situations, even the most famous coach of them all Anthony
Robbins has moments of self-doubt.
The difference between Steve, Richard and Tony on one side and most people on the other side is
that the former learned to deal with these thoughts in a way that it doesn't stop them from taking
action. They make think "I'm not good enough" before entering the stage to speak in front of a room
full of some of the brightest minds at Davos but they would still throw themselves at the opportunity.
Identifying a self-limiting belief
The first step in getting rid of a self-limiting belief is obviously to become aware of it. Depending on
your level of self-awareness that can be an exercise you can do on your own or something you'd
better do together with a coach. The fact that you're still reading this article tells me you've at least
started your inner journey and reached some level of self-awareness so maybe you're ready for the
following exercise. If the following exercise doesn't makes sense to you - don't think: "I'm not good
enough" but rather "I look forward to learn more on my inner journey".
1. Is it a self-limiting belief or a fact?
Firstly, is it a belief or a fact?
Let's say you've just turned fifty and think "I am too old to be skateboarding". That's a belief whereas
thinking "I am older that most skateboarders" is a fact.
Thinking "I'm not good enough to be playing tennis" is a belief whereas thinking "I'm not as good in
tennis as Roger Federer is" is a fact.
2. What's the root of the self-limiting belief?
Most self-limiting beliefs come from our childhood up until the age of around 20 or so and are
formed based on interactions with parents and friends. Year 2-6 are critical in forming personality
and all the way through the teens children are like sponges sucking up everything going on around
them trying to make sense of it. During these years we're the most sensitive as we try to figure out
our role in the interaction in the family, in school, with friends and with strangers. Self-limiting
beliefs often come from things our parents or closest social circle told us during the forming years
therefore it's important to go back in memory to identify the moments when these things were said.
Replay the situation in your head a few times, even better, write down the dialogue as you
remember minn kota rebate it.
Maybe you formed your self-limiting belief "I'm not good enough" when your father saw your grades
in 5th class and his first comment was: "Why is your grade in math so low?"
Maybe you where at a party with a friend in your teens and the most attractive kid there hardly
looked at you but went straight for your friend so from then on you walk around with the self-
limiting belief "I'm not attractive".
3. Are there alternative interpretations?
A self-limiting belief is your interpretation of statement, an opinion, of somebody that matters to you.
So since it's an interpretation of one opinion there are probably alternative interpretations right?
For each self-limiting belief identify as many alternative interpretations as you can - don't stop
before you have at least three.
In the example with the math grade above, is it possible that your father thought: "Wow, the average
grade is fantastic, I'm so proud but what can I do to help with maths?", or that he had a shitty day at
work and just throwing a quick glance at your grades, while thinking about his crazy boss, the math
is what stood out, or could there be a different interpretation of the statement?
Maybe the most attractive kid at the party really liked you but was too afraid to be turned down so
went for your friend as it wouldn't really matter to be turned down.
4. Which interpretation is true?
Now that you have a couple of different interpretations of the statements that triggered your self-
limiting belief let's look at each of them and determine which one is true? Hang on here, can we
determine which one is true? All you saw and heard back then was your father, or the attractive kid,
act out a series of events and you do not know the intent. So to be honest here, you gave that series
of events meaning. And that meaning was probably formed by your prior experiences.
Maybe your father had the same tone of voice when he made his statement about your math grades
as he had two weeks before when you had nicked money from his wallet. Back then he had the right
to be disappointed but now his tone of voice was only because his mind was preoccupied with work.
You don't know do you? You can't know what the true intent of the statement was. The only thing
you do know is that you gave the statement meaning, a meaning that made you feel bad.
5. Kill the elephant
So if you gave the statement one meaning back when the self-limiting belief was formed than you
can give it another meaning today right? Let's make that clear, the meaning of an event comes from
your mind so if it's a product of your mind then the feeling the event gave you is not connected to
the event itself but to the meaning YOU gave it. So if the event itself doesn't have meaning then it
doesn't matter right?
And since the event is meaningless you can kill that elephant - rid yourself of a self-limiting belief.
A word of wisdom for the road
This method works. You may kill your elephant on the first try or you may need to repeat this
exercise a few times when you catch yourself with a self-limiting belief. And it's not a new method, it
actually a long-winded way of saying what Buddha expressed so elegantly in the opening paragraph
of the Dhammapada some 500 years B.C.
We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world.
- Buddha translated by Byrom -
I keep a copy of the Dhammpada in translation by Byrom close and read a few paragraphs every now
and then to relax and regenerate. And I keep coming back the these lines: "We are what we think..."
Fredrik Lyhagen is one part of the tag team runningÂ Reintegrate - Live Better.Â Fredrik draws on
his experience from an international career in sales and management and combines it with his
passion for eating clean, moving freely and living consciously to inspire and assist people on their
inner journey. You can also follow Reintegrate onÂ FacebookÂ and Twitter. Follow Fredrik on
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