I existed in a world that never is – the prison of the mind.– Gene Tierney
Have you ever been inside a prison? Have you ever felt the anxiety of doors clanging shut behind you? Even as a regular visitor into prisons I often feel the anxiety and claustrophobia. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be an inmate…
Johannesburg Correctional Services, fondly known as Sun City by inmates and warders alike, is one of the prisons where I am involved in a rehabilitation program. (For my overseas readers, Sun City is a popular holiday and conference resort boasting a game reserve, a man-made beach, two golf-courses and much more)
The Prison Warder
I arrived at Sun City (the prison) the other day to run a goal-setting workshop for the Heart-Work program. We start the morning off with a sermon. This week the sermon was given by a prison warder. He is a tall thin man with a smiling face and a sense of humor. The prisoners hung onto his every word. He had them in stitches by comparing himself with some of the prisoners. He is a fantastic presenter. Short, sweet, to the point, humble and humorous.
His message resonated with me in terms of the difficulties I have experienced when working with prisoners.
Don’t wait until you are released to strengthen someone else.
The biggest problem I experience when working with prisoners is that they limit themselves. HUGELY. They believe that there is NOTHING they can do about ANYTHING while they are inside.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I do understand that you are limited in many ways when you are a prisoner BUT I don’t accept the NOTHINGs and the ANYTHINGs…
Nelson Mandela continued to lead his political party from his prison cell. He also obtained a degree, Batchelor of Laws, through the University of London whilst in prison. He did not limit himself when he was in prison, he did the best that he could and the most that he could.
There is always something you can do.
Don’t wait until you are released to strengthen someone else.
The prison warder explained to the prisoners, that even though they are inside, they can still strengthen others around them – help others, encourage others, teach others.
We all felt uplifted by this man’s presentation.
The Limitations We Create
It also got me thinking: how often do we limit ourselves by our thinking. And we’re not in prison. We are free.
The only prison shutting us in is the prison created by our own thoughts.
If you want to break free – try some of these:
How to Break Free of Limiting Beliefs
1. Stop saying “I can’t do xyz because…” Start asking “How can I do xzy?”
2. If you are waiting for something (a promotion, to get married, to be thinner, to be fitter, to be divorced, etc) before you take action on something you desire, understand this: you are putting your life on hold until some event in the future. Don’t limit yourself this way. Find a way to take action now. Don’t wait.
3. Use your imagination. Take it out every day and practice using it.
4. Imagine getting what you want – visualize it in great detail so that you experience the emotion of having what you want. Then take a small step today that’ll lead you (even vaguely) in the direction of what you want. Do this again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next ….
5. Before you solve a problem using the most obvious solution, write down 10 more ways that you could solve the problem. Now choose a solution.
6. Whenever you make a decision check this: will taking this action limit you or will it expand your well-being? If it’s going to limit you, change your decision.
7. Remember: beliefs are thoughts NOT facts. When you believe you can’t do something, write down all your thoughts about it, and then go through the list crossing out opinions/ assumptions and leaving only the facts. Study the facts and ask what is possible.
8. Pay close attention to your thoughts. Awareness is the first step in destroying limiting beliefs. Once you can acknowledge that you have a limiting thought, you can work on letting it go.
9. You can uncover limiting beliefs by writing down 50 reasons why you can’t do something.
10. Once you have discovered a limiting belief, find all the evidence you can that disproves the belief. Keep an evidence file – add to it every day until you have so much proof of the opposite that you simply cannot believe the original thought anymore.
If you are feeling frustrated because you can’t get something you want, put yourself in prison for a moment. Imagine what it must be like to be locked away. That’s way more limiting than where you are now.
You are free.
Free to choose, free to take action, free to create possibilities.
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12 thoughts on “10 Ways to Break Free of Limiting Beliefs”
I agree that you need to change your mind to live positively.
Those who are in prison are in a lack of understanding what they can get if they switch their mindset to thinking positive. As we all know keeping self positive is not easy task. It implies being compasionate to people, helping others without asking something in return.
Thanks for your comment. You are so correct and this is one of the roles that the Heart-Work rehabilitation program has – to change the mind-set of prisoners.
I feel the most desperate people are those without hope, and people living without hope are unable to be positive.
Part of our program involves using graduates from the Heart-Work program as facilitators on future programs. I am always amazed that men who are out on parole, return after only a few days of freedom to help us work with inmates. That gives me hope!
Take care and thanks for contributing.
Living without hope, not being able to find it makes this people break the law and end up in prison. Helping them is great mission!
If at least 5% of them manage to change their mindset, you may consider it a success. If more, even better.
I think you are right that living without hope lands people in prison. Thanks for the support. I always think of the story of throwing starfish in the sea – it keeps me going!
Great post. I was the child victim of a cult: a fate as bad or worse than prison. Although it took me years, I’ve learned to use my experience to reach out to others through story and song. You can learn more about my work at http://www.danerickson.net
It sounds like you have had an amazing journey – well done for finding a way to get the most out of a dreadful situation.
A fantastic post. Thank you!
One of the biggest regrets in life is the regret of getting to the end of your life and wondering ‘what if?’ What if I had taken that risk, what if I had married that person, what if I had accepted that job offer…
‘Don’t wait’ is a key principle of life change. My strategy to break free, when making key decisions is to ask myself ‘which of these options will I regret more’ – answering this question truthfully and honestly has taken me on an incredible journey!
Thanks Mark – it’s true that people regret most what they did NOT DO when they lie of their deathbeds. I love the question you ask when faced with big decisions – it gets you to focus on the big picture for your life. Another one I ask is –
“What choice can I make right now that will add value to my life and the lives around me?”.
Thanks for the comment.
Thanks Kristen, that’s another good question to ask at key moments in life. When I really struggle with knowing what to do, especially if it’s a decision that contains an emotional pull either way I ask myself, ‘What would the me that I am working hard to become’ do right now – that’s an awesome question to ask yourself too.
Some great knowledge and resources in this post and comments. Good work Kristen!
Rehabilitation program for inmates- thats very intresting. THinking ‘positive’ is definitely the key. I know people who always think negative, I keep on telling think positive. SOme have changed and some still stay in the darkness, I don’t know if they don’t want to see the light or they like it that way.
Don’t wait – Even I procastinate and I know I have to limit it. DOn’t wait is something which I have to implement in my life. But one question, what about certain things where in you have put your maximum efforts but still failed to get what you want.
One things I tell the prisoners is Never Give UP! One group of prisoners made up a song for me with those works: Never, ever, EVER, give up – it was a special moment for me.
If something didn’t work out ask yourself what you learn from the experience. and what you must do differently next time. Then try again…..
Of course – if you don’t learn from the experience, and you do it again in the same way – nothing will change!
I,the abovementioned ex inmate,one of the happiest people due to what Heartwork programmes,has made me realise and understand myself more than anyone.It made me realise that the weight of good me,is the most important more the bad that I was arrested for!Heartwork made me to cry,or laugh when I felt like,by digging down my family background and mine.I’m very good within my heart today because I have forgiven myself and those who had an impact in my arrest.I’m walking freely now,as I’m no longer associated with crime and I’ve set boundaries within my life as to avoid harm and involvement in any bad activities!Thanks Heartwork whatever smallish I’m doing to survive,satisfies me because I’ve learnt to appreciate whatever I have,nomatter how small it might be,because the problem starts when you have bigger dreams,whenever they are unfulfilled,you might find yourself in trouble.