Self-limiting beliefs have been top of mind for me this week. As a co-founding partner of a start-up, there is little room for self-limiting beliefs and talk. In order for a new business to get up and GO, we need to bring ample energy to the table around possibility and abundance. Personally, I have little tolerance for talk of what we can’t be, what we can’t do, and what can’t happen. The moment those words roll off our tongues, our destiny is determined. As I have been reflecting on the power of self-limiting beliefs this week, I am reminded of a story that I have told before, and one I think is worth reviving. So, here it is, with updates from its original version I wrote back in 2018. (And yes, 2018 feels like 15 years ago.)
I have a client who we’ll refer to as Susan. Susan is an extraordinarily successful woman. She is focused, hard-working, coachable, and determined. She is the type of person who knows no bounds, for she has been blowing everyone’s expectations of her out of the water for her entire, albeit relatively short, 13-year career. As a young accountant at a high profile accounting firm, she was fast tracked through promotions at a head-spinning speed, putting herself on course to become Partner by the age of 34.
Now, regardless of Susan’s incredible success at the firm, she was never 100% convinced that she wanted to be a Partner. There was always a piece of her that doubted that the Partner track was HER track. What she really wanted was to be a CFO of a company. It’s worth repeating, what Susan really wanted was to be a CFO.
AND there’s a BUT…
At some point during her career at the firm, a Partner <whom she trusted and admired> said something to her that STUCK-
“No one becomes a CFO before the age of 40.”
And so that story became Susan’s script.
“I may want to be a CFO, but no one becomes a CFO before the age of 40.”
Then, when she was 33, something incredible happened. Susan was recruited by not one, but TWO companies to be their CFO. At first, she resisted. Of course she did. What was happening didn’t fit her script. The solicitations didn’t make sense to her. She was on track to becoming Partner at her firm, an extraordinary accomplishment in and of itself at her age. But to become a CFO at the age of 33? NOT POSSIBLE. Or…….was it?
The stories that we tell ourselves matter. In fact, they matter a lot.
The Sub 4-Minute Mile
Roger Bannister was the first person to run a sub 4-minute mile on May 6, 1954 with a time of 3:59.4, a feat that had previously been considered an impossibility. Remarkably, his record was broken within 46 days. In fact, within one year of Bannister’s record-setting performance, 37 other runners did the same thing. In the following year, over 300 runners ran a sub four-minute mile. Bannister redefined what was “possible.” Runners changed the stories in their own heads, and then set out to replicate Bannister’s achievement.
Choose Your Words Well
There are some very predictable ways in which we get in our own way. By far the most common way that I see is a form of self-sabotage. We tell ourselves stories in which we CHOOSE to believe. We spend so much energy creating and believing in our own negative predictions.
If you tell yourself….
“I could never run a marathon.” Then, you won’t.
Or… “I am not a morning person.” That is right, you won’t be.
Or, how about… “I will never understand how those <Liberals/Conservatives/Cat Lovers/etc> can live with themselves.” Truth.
One of my favorite reasons for spinning on my old Peloton bike was listening to instructor Christine D’Ercole‘s wisdom about the power of words. Off the bike, Christine’s work is all about the words we choose to use to craft our stories. And our stories become our scripts. Christine, an elite cyclist, inspirational coach, and World Champion, has a mantra that I believe we should all use…
I challenge you to try it out right now. Remember, the words you choose to use are your own. YOU have the power to rewrite your script.
Who ARE you? I AM…
What CAN you do? I CAN…
What WILL you do? I WILL…
What DO you do? I DO…
What is the story that you are telling yourself? How are you holding yourself back? And when are you going to rewrite your script? I wholeheartedly believe that there’s no better time than right now.
A Happy Ending
So what happened to Susan? Since this piece’s original writing in 2018, Susan has played an instrumental role as CFO at one of the companies that courted her. Her track record of extraordinary success continues.
She is not yet 40. Script rewritten.