Can you believe a shark and other small fish swimming together in the same large tank?
“Won’t the shark eat them all?”, you may ask. Damn right, the shark would devour the other fish under normal circumstances. But researchers managed to prevent the shark from gobbling the other fish using a smart technique.
A researcher brought a tank large enough to allow a shark to swim comfortably. He set up a room for the enclosure, filled it with water and lowered the shark who was already pouncing with anger.
As the first step of the experiment, he released a few small fish into the same tank. The shark did what it was expected to. The swimming monster spared none of the fish in the tank.
- The limiting belief of the shark
- The damage of limiting belief
- How to overcome limiting beliefs in your head
The limiting belief of the shark
Without wanting to sacrifice more baits, the experiment moved on to the next step. The researcher placed a clear pane of glass in the tank separating it into two equal parts. Since the partition was right in the middle, the shark could no longer swim through the whole tank.
The biologist dropped new baitfish into the other half of the tank where the shark could not reach. The angry predator rushed to attack the helpless fish only to bump off against the glass pane that it could not see. Frustrated with the obstruction, the shark tried harder but to no avail. After many futile attempts, the beast gave up an hour later. The researcher removed the other fish from the tank.
After a few hours, the researcher released the baitfish again. The shark came in all guns blazing a second time only to slam its face against the glass pane.
He repeated the experiment multiple times over the next few weeks. Each time the shark did make an attempt, but the intensity of the effort reduced with time. After a couple of weeks, the predator also gave up on the attack far sooner within a few minutes.
Eventually, it reached a point where the shark stopped taking a stab at the other fish because it was fed up with hitting the glass. The researcher went on to remove the glass and add fish but the shark did not bother.
Even when there the barrier did not exist, the shark did not bother to attack. The other fish swam around freely while the shark assumed there was an invisible barrier preventing it from attacking the fish.
You might have heard another story with a similar moral. An elephant tied to a weak chain does not attempt to break free even if the chain is as weak as a wafer. This is because as a baby, the old chain was good enough to contain the elephant. In its early days, it did try to break free but failed to succeed. Over time, though the baby elephant grew into a huge mammal, the limiting belief in its head stopped any possible attempt.
The mind of the shark created the limit and not the situation. The failure of the elephant to break free was due to its belief and not its ability.
An animal may not be able to overcome limiting beliefs in its thoughts but you can.
The damage of limiting belief
Humans are no different from sharks. Most people do not achieve success as per their potential because they underestimate their own abilities.
Limitation belief comes in two shapes, destination beliefs, and directive beliefs.
Destination belief is a conclusion you have made in your mind. For example, you might believe that you can never become the CEO of the company you work for.
A directive belief is your thought which validates your prior conclusion during a real-life situation. For example, when you see a coworker promoted instead of you, the thought of “I am not good enough” kicks in. These two thoughts group up together and inhibit your mind from thinking big.
Here are a few examples of how limiting beliefs impact your daily actions and their consequences. You will realize why you must overcome limiting beliefs.
I will remain in the middle class
Most people who live in the middle class remain there because they believe the upper class is beyond their caliber.
If you do not believe this, try telling your friends that you plan to become a billionaire. A bunch of them will laugh, another few will ask how drunk are you and the rest won’t bother. They do not intend to demean you. They react in such a fashion because they believe such a goal is unrealistic.
If the goal of a person stops at owning a reasonable house, driving a decent car and having a job that pays a fair enough salary, such a person will only achieve that much.
Only a few win a jackpot due to a random occurrence. The rest of the successful people reached their level of accomplishment because they believed they could do more.
Fitness is too tough
A lot of obese people believe they do not have the stamina to work out for an hour. To avoid feeling embarrassed, they do not even step into the gym.
Most people at the gym started with no stamina but they tried to improve. And sure they did.
I am not capable of being an entrepreneur
Walk into any street of the world, stop a random person and ask if he has an idea for a business. In almost every case, yes, he would. But why do only a handful attempt? Because the rest limit themselves. They fear they will fail due to their lack of knowledge and expertise.
Sure, being an entrepreneur is hard. Being a successful one is even harder because over 90% of the businesses fail. But you never know if you will be a part of the other 10% if you do not try. But you strongly believe you belong to the 90%.
Dating a gorgeous lady
Try going to a bar and look at how the men approach women. The most gorgeous lady in the vicinity will have barely a few men reaching out to her. The rest believe that attempting to woo such a woman is futile. People assume such the hottest women are out of their league.
As per a study, the more beautiful a woman is, the more lonely she is. Men, take a hint.
Quitting bad habits
Ask a smoker why doesn’t he quit smoking. He will tell you, “I cannot. I have a lot of stress to deal with. If you were in my situation you would understand.”
The addiction to smoking begins in the mind. The trigger and the urge to smoke starts in the mind first and the body only reacts by drawing the pack out of the pocket and lighting one up. A cigarette is lit in the mind before a lighter or a circumstance does it.
I don’t have the luck
The best excuse of a person who did not try enough is “I was not lucky.” Blaming it on luck is a way of convincing yourself that you did your best when you didn’t.
The people who win and succeed make their own luck. Agreed, sometimes unforeseen circumstances assist in the success of a few people. But more often than not, results arise due to efforts than due to luck.
Assuming a lack of luck is a way of limiting yourself from doing your best by failing to look at your flaws and areas to improve. Stop blaming the absence of luck and focus instead on how to overcome limiting beliefs that linger in your head.
Fitting into the beliefs of society
Many of the limiting beliefs imbibed in your head are due to society. The world around you sets a very low benchmark.
Your neighbor believes that earning enough to make a decent living is a good goal. Your coworker believes a stable job provides peace of mind. Your friend believes he cannot save enough to travel the world.
Surrounded by such dreams, you subconsciously believe that you are only capable of that much yourself. Even if you aim higher, you aim a little above the benchmark of the people around you. Had you been around Warren Buffet, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, you would have set a goal at their level and maybe even achieved it by now.
How to overcome limiting beliefs in your head
A little tweak in your mindset and your dreams can soar as high as an eagle flying in the sky. To overcome limiting beliefs, you have to change the way you think.
Start with an attempt
You can attempt some challenges by simply trying. For example, if you believe fitness is not for you, try for a month and decide for yourself. You will realize that exercise is not as hard as assumed.
Some other challenges, like taking a plunge as an entrepreneur needs careful evaluation before an attempt. Testing the idea as a Minimum Viable Product, starting a small scale or working on the idea parttime can help.
Have a different approach to each challenge, exercise caution and use your best judgment.
Use the Cookie jar method
David Goggins, the man who ran a 100-mile ultra-marathon without running a 25-mile marathon ever before, devised the cookie jar method. His technique involves recalling a past victory or a situation where you overcame an obstacle.
For example, if you are on a trek and cannot muster the energy to proceed, you have to recall a past challenge you successfully completed. Such a thought will motivate you to push your body to the limits.
Challenge and replace the belief
Anthony Robbins suggests replacing the limiting belief with another belief. For example, you can replace the belief that you cannot quit smoking due to stress, by telling yourself that quitting lies well within your control.
The technique sounds ironic but when you consciously apply it, you will see the effects.
Visualize overcoming it already
When you feel you cannot become a billionaire, imagine yourself living the life of a billionaire already. When you struggle to finish the last 10 minutes of your workout, see yourself completing 15 additional minutes in your mind.
You might consider that daydreaming, but it isn’t.
When you visualize overcoming a challenge, your body believes it. You then put a step forward, then another and move closer to your destination.
Everybody daydreams about achieving greatness. The successful people believe they can get there while the mediocre enjoy the fantasy and forget about it.
To achieve your potential, let your imagination run wild and dream as big as possible.
You will achieve close to what you aim for. Parkinson’s Law states that the time you take to complete a task expands when more time is available. Likewise, your actions will only equal the dreams you want to achieve. The smaller your dream, the lesser your effort will be.
To overcome limiting beliefs, aim for the stars and you will at least reach the moon. Aim only to reach the next city and your vehicle might even be punctured on the way.
If you settle for less than you deserve, you get even less than you settled for.
Maxim Dsouza has spent over a decade experimenting and finding various time management techniques to improve his productivity. He strongly understands the fact that time is a limited commodity and tries to make every second count. He has extensive experience in leadership in startups, small businesses, and large corporations.
He has helped people of different professions and age groups gain clarity on their goals, improve focus, revise their time management skills and develop an awareness of their psychological cognitive biases.