Discovering and Overcoming Limiting Beliefs

I love it when I find myself doing just what I try and help others to break out of and that is allowing limiting beliefs to restrict performance.

For those similar to me who like to think of themselves as committed to life long learning, to continuous improvement, to trying to be the best they can be then it can come as a bit of a bolt from the blue when we realize that the way we think about ourselves is dramatically restricting our potential.

I recently met with Annie my coach for a swim session. Swimming is the weakest of the triathlon disciplines for me and everyday is a challenge. I’ve moved on a huge amount in the last year as I’m now happy to describe myself as a swimmer, rather than a rubbish swimmer which I realised was a defeatest mindset. It doesn’t come easily to me but I’m determined to improve and dream of coming out of the water in contention. So meeting with Annie was a great opportunity to get some feedback and identify some of the technical aspects of my stroke that have scope for improvement.

Head position was the first thing to adjust. Get it lower in the water to allow the bum and legs to come up higher. Brilliant, an instant improvement and I simply need to keep reminding myself to keep the head low. Conscious competence here I come.

Timing between arms and legs was also out and this adjustment will take much more work and will no doubt be consuming much of my brainpower over the coming months. Conscious incompetence on the path to conscious comepetence me thinks!

The biggest revelation however was what happened next.
“I want you to start breathing bi-laterally “ said Annie.
“Ah, sorry” says I, “I’ve tried that and cant do it”.
“What do you mean, you can’t ?”
“I just can’t. I don’t know why, I just can’t”

What was interesting, is that Annie didn’t challenge this, she simply said “Watch what I do and copy”. There was no room for discussion or negotiation. This was a clear instruction. I was thinking ( or rather my Chimp was thinking) she is not listening to me, but I only had two choices. Either do as instructed or don’t.

So I did as instructed and whilst it felt extremely awkward, it immediately had a positive impact on performance. I started hitting 50 secs for 50 metres, even though it felt like I was going slowly and operating well within myself. 50 seconds for 50 metres is indisputable. My Chimp, who wanted to believe that I couldn’t do it or if I could that it wouldn’t make any discernable difference, could not argue with this factual evidence. Swimming even in the very wooden early stages of bilateral breathing was enabling me to swim faster than before…and instantly.

Bingo, what could be better ? In addition to buzzing about this performance breakthrough I was also buzzing about the fact that I’d uncovered a new limiting belief and have transformed it into a new positive affirmation “ I can breathe bilaterally and I will master it”

For the last year or so as I’ve been improving as a swimmer I’ve totally ignored this key area and have unwittingly stopped myself from taking advantage of the benefits that breathing bilaterally can bring.

Annie’s refusal to even consider my “I can’t” was exactly what I needed. I trusted her enough to give it a go and was so encouraged by the facts she used to provide feedback rather than more subjective approach of “that looks much better” that she could have said. I’m not sure I would have accepted this as it certainly didn’t feel instantly better.

So, Its exciting to identify these performance barriers that are totally self imposed and completely within our control to overcome. As I get older its going to be more of a challenge to make pure physical step changes that will make me quicker, so to discover that there are these mental shifts I can still make that will unlock not just marginal gains but significant gains, well that is really something.

So what are your negative beliefs? What are the things that lead you to say “I can’t”? What would happen if you could? Who do you need to engage to help you reframe your negative beliefs? What is required to get your Chimp onside…remember, its your chimp that puts your negative beliefs into your head and its often evidence like facts of an improved 50 metre swim split that help to turn them into positive affirmations

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