Have you ever been stuck, but couldn’t figure out why? Most people go along fine in life until life challenges them in some way. It may be a school subject, a new relationship, a new job, a life-altering accident, or starting your own business. You hear messages like, “You’re not good enough!”; or “It didn’t work before, it’s not going to work this time.” or “Women are just not good at that.” With all of these messages swimming around in our head, you will eventually get stuck. You talk yourself into not moving forward with the things that are really important to you in life… and then start living live unconsciously.
I want to introduce you to four common blocks that are false messages we tell ourselves. Often times, we don’t even realize we are saying these messages to ourselves and wonder why we are stuck. These blocks are: 1) Gremlins; 2) Assumptions; 3) Interpretations; and 4) Limiting beliefs…. or G.A.I.L.’s.
A Gremlin is the most insidious block of all of these blocks because it is a direct attack on WHO you are. The core of a Gremlin is the message that “You are not good enough.” You will often hear this message when you want to reach for a rung on the ladder of life that you feel is just out of reach. You convince yourself that you are inherently flawed to the point that you can never reach that rung of the ladder no matter how hard you try.
In some cases, Gremlins can actually fuel temporary bouts of success. People will get so angry at the message in their head, “You’re not good enough.”, they will work tirelessly to prove their message wrong. These people become driven but extremely tired and burned out.
An Assumption is your past failures showing up in your current situation. We’ve all heard and probably experienced yoyo dieting. You lose 20-lbs on some fad diet and feel like you’ve found the solution to your weight problem. Then, one week later, you add 5-lbs back and realize that you have failed once again. A friend comes to you and says, “Hey, I’ve found this new diet. Do you want to give it a try?” Your response is, “Those diets never last. I always gain the weight back.” You have created an assumption of future success based on a past failure.
An Interpretation is a sense of a situation that you hold based purely on your perspective. As we embark upon another tenuous presidential election here in the U.S., we are faced with several strong opinions about how our country should move forward. One side will say that we should have a minimum wage while the other is adamantly opposed to a minimum wage. Either side will not listen to the reasoning of the other and so they become polarized. We do this kind of thing in our own mind. Except we usually only argue one side of the argument.
It goes something like this, “My employees are deadbeats and don’t care about my company because they can always find another job.” You have made an Interpretation about the way things are and the motivation behind the way things are which makes you feel hopeless about ever changing your situation as the leader of your company.
A Limiting Belief is a view of the world that is often a stereotype of some sort that limits our behavior in some way. Let’s say that you are a woman and you’d like to become an engineer. You then realize that most engineers are men. Even when you visit an engineering firm, you see that women are doing administrative work and all of the engineers in the firm you are visiting are men. You then tell yourself, “Women must not be good at engineering.” This belief then prevents you from pursuing your dream to become an engineer.
Limiting beliefs work the other way as well. Let’s say that you are a male engineering manager. You have been an engineer for several years and have not seen women in the engineering career field. You then decide that women must not make good engineers. This then prevents you from taking any woman applicant to your firm seriously because you think they must not be a good engineer, because engineering is a male profession.
You didn’t think I would leave you hanging with all of this negative energy, did you? Yes, there are ways to overcome the G.A.I.L.’s I described above. Here are some things you can do.
Most people will hear a Gremlin message and then dismiss it. They will pretend that the message is false, but then live their lives as if it is true. So, here’s the first step in getting rid of a Gremlin… Name it. Let’s say you want to become manager of your department, but you look at your current department manger and feel like you just don’t measure up. You tell yourself, “I’m not good enough to be department manager.” Let’s give this message an identity… let’s call him Sam. Instead of a true idea, treat Sam as an annoying pest. Each time Sam comes around, tell Sam to take a hike. I know this sounds infantile, but it is a way to illustrate how ridiculous this message is and to genuinely get rid of it.
As I previously stated, Gremlins can fuel temporary success and so they are difficult to detect. For those of you who feel like you may be a workaholic, ask yourself, “WHY do you do what you do?” If the answer comes back, “I have to”; or “I am supposed to”; or “I need to prove X”… you will eventually burn out and need to think further about what you WANT to do.
It is important to fully understand the source of past failure before you believe that it will predict future success. Ask yourself, “Just because it happened in the past, why must it happen again?” Let’s say that you failed to win the mile run in an important high school track meet last year when you were competing against a faster runner. That same runner is in the race this time around and so you assume the same result will occur. Now ask yourself, “Why did you come in second?” “What can you do this time to change the result?”
Let’s take the previous example, “My employees are deadbeats and don’t care about my company because they can always find another job.” Here are some questions you can ask yourself, “What would my employees say about why they are demotivated?”; “What would my employees say about me?” “How can I look at this situation differently?” It is key to empathize with other viewpoints and genuinely see things from their perspective. Could you imagine if we did this in our political debates and conversations? Rather than demonizing and polarizing, we may actually be able to move forward with political discourse.
Overcoming Limiting Beliefs
Most developed countries have actually passed laws making most unreasonable Limiting Beliefs illegal. These laws say that you cannot discriminate against people based on age, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc. However, it is common to perpetuate a prejudice, regardless of laws. And many such views are not legislated. The key here is that a limiting belief is preventing you from achieving what you want to achieve.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself, “How true is that belief, really?” “How is that belief affecting your actions?” “What’s a new belief that can replace your old belief?”
Let’s take the woman engineer example. What if the engineering manager thought, “You know, a female engineer would probably be quite unique in our firm.” “I’ll bet we would get more female clients, if we hired a female engineer.” “I’m guessing that a woman may think differently than a man in engineering solutions and would give us an advantage in the marketplace.”
As you have read through this post, you have maybe told yourself, “I am stuck, but I don’t have any of these G.A.I.L,’s” The problem with G.A.I.L.’s is that they are hard to detect. People will use these messages so often and they are so fleeting they don’t even know they are thinking and saying these things to themselves constantly. These people know they are stuck, but can’t figure out why. Even after reading this blog post, they may or may not identify these messages or understand how to overcome these messages on their own. Professional coaches use techniques to expose and deal with all of these G.A.I.L.’s in ways that will create lasting positive change in their client’s lives.
Whether you are stuck at work, as a business owner, in a relationship, or in any of life’s obstacles, a professional coach can help you get unstuck and moving forward.
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Note from the Author
My name is Jeff Schuster. I am a certified Life and Business Coach serving small business owners, corporate executives and others who want to transition from “expert” to “entrepreneur”. I have been a small business owner for most of my 30-years in the workplace. I grew an energy efficiency and renewable energy engineering and construction company from nothing to over $10-million/year and sold it in 2013. I now help other business owners make amazing progress toward their own dreams of business ownership independence and success.