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 articulated it.

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 not clever enough"
- "I'm horrible at this"
- "I'm never fortunate"
- "I'm not good-looking enough"

The most well-known being “I could never do that." We all think that to ourselves every so often, the most successful individuals you can think of do it also.

The difference between "the successful people" 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 with some of the sharpest minds but they would still grab at the opportunity without a moments hesitation.
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?
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 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 good-looking".

3. Are there other possible explanations?
A self-limiting belief is your explanation of a statement, an opinion, of somebody that matters to you. So since it's your explanation of one opinion there are probably alternative explanations right? For each self-limiting belief identify as many alternative explanations 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 explanation 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 version is true?
Now that you have a couple of different explanations 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.

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.

Author's Bio: 

Fredrik Lyhagen is an Associate Certified Coach by ICF and the founder of Mindcore Academy - Self Leadership. 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 Mindcore Academy on Facebook. Follow Fredrik on Google+