Every struggling business owner isn’t stopped by lack of knowledge. She is kept in place by limiting beliefs.
“My family knows nothing about business and marketing. We aren’t business people,” a client told me recently. A talented graphic artist, she craved financial freedom. She also realized that working a 9-to-5 job would never get her there.
Her first obstacle on the way to entrepreneurship was living in the past. For years she told herself that entrepreneurship is a gene, an outlook you inherit from your parents. Since her parents were quintessential employees, she reasoned, successful business was beyond her. This limiting belief was the main reason she stayed in a low-paying job instead of building her own business.
And then the light went on. As we discussed marketing strategy, she realized that marketing is not rocket science. It’s not something you absorb with your mother’s milk. People are not born marketers. Marketing is a learnable skill that requires an understanding of relationships, an investment of time, and discipline. And then she got it! Marketing strategy started to make sense.
The Torah teaches us this insight about limiting beliefs in recapping the construction of the Aron Hakodesh (Tabernacle). The fledging nation’s most ambitious project to-date was led by two men: Betzalel ben Chur and Ohaliav ben Akhisamakh (Exodus 35:30-34). Rashi points out that while Betzalel came from the royal tribe of Yehuda and was Moshe’s nephew, Ohaliav was of much simpler stock. Still, Ohaliav’s origins in Dan, the least distinguished of the tribes, did not prevent him from becoming a leader, filled with divine wisdom.
The commentary offers a profound lesson. Your family background is not an obstacle to success. God’s search for hearts to be filled with wisdom is not limited by class, parental achievement, or geography. You are your own person, not the extension of your parents. If you believe in your dream, if your embrace your divine mission with courage, the tools and teachers will come. So will the opportunities.
Instead of letting childhood views of the world shape your adult outlook, consider your limiting beliefs and preconceived notions. Do they stand up to the test of reality? Do all successful people come from accomplished families? The Torah teaches that the opposite is true. “Be careful about the children of the poor,” advices the Talmud, “because the Torah will come forth from them.”
Identifying and breaking limiting beliefs
Limiting beliefs can be deconstructed with simple tools. However, it’s hard to do this on your own. Find a trustworthy, emotionally-intelligent friend, who can give you feedback as you work through your beliefs.
- Write down all the negative thoughts and feelings you have about starting, growing, or running a business.
- Consider which stories or pictures from your past come up when you think about these thoughts and feelings.
- Analyze the thoughts and feelings based on what you know about the world. Are they always true? Do you know of cases that prove the opposite? We usually seek out experiences that illustrate what we think we know about the world. However, if you are able to come up with stories that show the opposite, you can begin to realize that your beliefs are not correct 100% of the time.
- What real benefits do your limiting beliefs offer? For example, if you think that business ownership is too risky, the belief protects you from making reckless decisions.
- Can you incorporate these benefits into your goal? To continue the same example, you can figure out a way to grow your business without risking more than you can afford.
- Think of three incremental actions to challenge your limiting beliefs. For example: what tiny, very affordable risks can you take to advance your business?
I’d love to help you get rid of your limiting beliefs. What is holding you back?