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Unshackle Yourself from Limiting Beliefs

by Frances Coombes(more info)

listed in nlp, originally published in issue 231 - July 2016

A belief is a strategy that lets you know you can or cannot do something.  If you believe you can, or you believe you can’t you are probably right.

A belief is the strategy, the software that lets you decide you can, or you cannot, do somethingReframing is about separating ‘Intention’ from Behaviour. When you reframe someone’s thinking it gives people different options.  They are no longer stuck; they have options and can move on and achieve the things they want.

Many of our beliefs about our unworthiness, or inability to do things have been handed down to us in childhood.  So they are not even our own, but we may acquire them and move through life as if they are our own.  When challenging our own or other people’s limiting beliefs we begin to notice the things we say to ourselves that help us and the limiting assumptions we make that stop us from getting outcomes we want.

Frances Coombes 231 Unshackle Yourself

Don’t put Obstacles in your Own Way

Of all the things a person can say to themselves when faced with a difficult situation “I can’t” is potentially the most limiting of all.  When you hear someone utter the words “I can’t”, you know that person is boxed-in or stuck in a way that is currently cutting them of from finding a solution to their problem.

The meaning you attach to your belief will determine how you respond.  If I have a problem and I believe ‘this’ about it - what does it mean to me? 

  • Does it mean I am a failure? 
  • Does it mean I don’t deserve to succeed?
  • Does it mean I should give up?  Or try harder?  

because the faster I can accelerate the behaviour to meet the belief, then the more chance there is that expectations will be met, and the feedback loop continued

Often People will Describe what their Block Looks Like to Them

  • I can’t get over it;
  • I can’t see my way through it;
  • I can’t get around it.

If you believe you have a problem then you do have one - whether it’s real or not.  If you watch the actions of someone telling you they cannot do something, often they will stretch their hands in front of them in a gesture of helplessness.  They are in a state of confusion and are not thinking resourcefully.  When someone else offers them a solution to their problem and they are in an “I can’t” frame of mind, they are likely to dismiss sound ideas as being unworkable or turn them down simply because they don’t believe anything will work.

In a Calmer State we find Solutions

Once we’re in a calmer and more resourceful stand and we’ve found a solution, we inform people we’ve “got over it”, “found a way round it” or, best of all, have “sorted it out”. In this more positive state we sift through the available information and look for recognizable patterns. We ask ourselves:

“Has this problem occurred before?”, “How was it tackled?”, and “What was the outcome?”  We begin to come up with new strategies for solving the problems.

Deletion, Distortion and Generalization

When we speak, we delete, distort and generalize incoming information depending on how we see and feel about others and what we think is going on in the world.  If we feel bad about ourselves, we may treat ourselves harshly, so that when someone pays a compliment, instead of being pleased, we may be thinking:  “What do they want from me?”

If you questioned your habitual ways of thinking, how many of the everyday statements you make to yourself about situations would stand up to closer scrutiny:  Below are a few common statements you may hear from others or think yourself, with questions to asked yourself in order to generate more information.



  Questions to elicit more information

  • ‘I’m not happy with this’

  • Nobody listens to what I’m saying.’

  What are you not happy about?

  In what way are you not happy?

  No one?  Not one single person?

  Who, specifically, doesn’t listen




  Questions to elicit more information

  • ‘I’m not happy with this’

  • Nobody listens to what I’m saying.’

  What are you not happy about?

  In what way are you not happy?

  No one?  Not one single person?

  Who, specifically, doesn’t listen



  Cause and effect

  Questions to elicit more information

  • ‘She makes me very angry’



  How does she make you angry?

  Has there ever been a time when she didn’t make you angry?



  Questions to elicit more information

  • ’All he does is criticise’
  • ‘She doesn’t want me in her team’
  • ‘They think I’m useless.’

  Always?  Without exception?

  How do you know that?

  How do you know they think that?


  Questions to elicit more information

  • ‘I’m not happy with this’

  • Nobody listens to what I’m saying.’

  What are you not happy about?

  In what way are you not happy?

  No one?  Not one single person?

  Who, specifically, doesn’t listen



  Questions to elicit more information

  • ‘But Mum, everybody does it.’

  • ‘Seminars are a waste of time.’

  Who’s everybody? 

  What Every single person?

  All seminars?  Every single one?




  Questions to elicit more information

  • ‘You don’t buy me flowers – you don’t love me anymore.


  How does my not buying you flowers mean that I don’t love you?



If you find yourself thinking “I can’t do it!”, ask yourself the questions, “According to whom?”, “What is stopping you?”  Then wait for the answer to come.



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About Frances Coombes

Frances Coombes Advanced Dip CBT/REBT Dip CBT offers one-to-one therapeutic coaching in North West London and on Zoom.  She is a is a CBT/REBT psychotherapist in North West London, a NLP Master Practitioner and Rational Emotional Behaviour Therapist and runs life coaching groups in London and on Zoom.  She teaches NLP at The City Lit in Central London and tutors at the City Lit and Mary Ward Centre in central London on Using REBT for Managing Stress and NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming). She runs goal setting and REBT coaching groups for vulnerable people for inner London authorities and charities.  

Her most recent book is Motivate Yourself and Reach Your Goals, pub, November 2013, Hodder Headline. Available on and  For extract visit To inquire or book personal development courses contact Frances on Tel: 07818 896 795; 


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