Limiting beliefs are very interesting. Most of us have inherited them from our parents or other influential people in our lives, or even from the media. These can be beliefs that stop us from excelling in life.

I saw an extreme (and sad) example of a limiting belief on a trip to Sri Lanka. In an elephant orphanage, the elephants seemed to be held in their pens by a length of string tied around one back leg. Clearly the elephants could have broken away in a second but apparently they never did. The reason for this was explained by one of the handlers.

When the elephant babies are brought in to the center a chain is attached to one leg to hold them in their pens. Of course they struggle and fight, but eventually they give up, accepting that whenever they are chained it is pointless to resist. Over time the chain is replaced by a thick rope, then a thinner rope until it is virtually little more than a piece of string.

By now, however, the slightest pressure on the elephant's leg makes it think it cannot move from that particular spot. Without going into the ethics of this treatment, it is clear to see how a limiting belief is used to control the elephants.

People are not a lot different. We all have our own limiting beliefs. Many books have been written about this concept, and various ways developed to overcome our negative core beliefs.

In business I see the following seven major limiting beliefs every day. I believe they really do stop people from succeeding, and make life so much harder for business owners than it has to be:

  1. Small business is meant to be hard.
  2. You have to work really long hours to be successful in your own business.
  3. You can never make huge amounts of money in a small business.
  4. You have to sacrifice a lot to have your own business.
  5. Most small businesses fail in a short amount of time.
  6. Your customers are totally price driven.
  7. You can't win big contracts when you are a small business.

Now then--if you hold these core beliefs, why on earth are you in business? I have to admit, that I held them myself for many years, and saw it almost as a personal challenge to prove them wrong.

  • Over time, and with the beneficial advice of too many people to list here, I came to realize these beliefs are not right.
  • There is no reason at all why owning a small business should be tougher than any other way of making a living.
  • Working really long hours is not a prerequisite to building a successful business.
  • I know many, many people who have made and are making millions of dollars per year from their small business.
  • I don't consider anything I do in business to be a sacri­fice--it is more a matter of determining my priorities.
  • Most small businesses fail for very predictable reasons. If you are aware of these pitfalls your chances of success are very high.
  • Customers are not so much price driven, as they are quality driven. If your customers are all about price - get new customers. Become a business that only deals in quality and charging a fair price.
  • The size of your business doesn't limit. More small businesses are doing business with large companies today than ever before. Large business has realized the value that small business has in terms of agility, innovative thinking and creativity.

Search deep within and see what nerves are touched when you explore some of the above thoughts. Once you have identified your limiting beliefs, replace each one with a positive belief. It takes time to change negative beliefs, but with perseverance you will and then you can actually start to break long term patterns that don't serve you in any way.