Are Limiting Beliefs Playing Tricks on You?

Every so often, the topic of “assumptions” pops up in my mind. You know, the whole mindset thing. The limiting beliefs demon. And whenever it does, it reminds me how powerful yet subtle it is.

The sneaky thing is that you may not even be aware of the fact you’re holding limiting beliefs.

Why does this matter?

Because that’s what rules you.

Underlying your actions are your thoughts, and underneath those are your feelings.

Both your thoughts and your feelings are influenced by beliefs and assumptions. Both positive and limiting ones. The positive beliefs we don’t need to mess with – they’re great.

For example: Maybe you have this belief that you will succeed, no matter what. (I have this belief.) Or maybe you’re at the other end of the spectrum and you believe that you’ll never reach your goals and be successful. Neither can be called “rational” or “factual” as we all create our own reality, no?

Then there are assumptions on a more practical basis; things you hold for facts that aren’t. Example: “That company is so popular with job seekers – no way I’d get in the door, especially not in this economy/at my age/etc.”

If you are a fellow renaissance personality carving out your own off-the-beaten-path in life, often to the amazement/dismay/horror/disbelief/envy of others, both types of false beliefs may play a role in your ability to go after what you want.

I speak with a lot of renaissance men and women and it’s interesting to see how some of them just forged ahead in life and created their dream life, despite not having an understanding of how they are wired. They just knew they could never live the “standard” life, specialize in one area, and give up on their wildly diverse passions. Then there are those who struggle and try their hardest to fit in with the rest of society, their family, or their community. (I used to be one of them before learning about the existence of renaissance personalities.)

I think that the difference between those two groups of renaissance personalities can be found in their underlying beliefs – whether limiting or empowering. Personality probably plays a part too. But more often than not, I’ve found that those who created their own renaissance life against the odds are the ones who grew up in an environment that encouraged a “renaissance style life.” If this is you, chances are you had parents who were renaissance personalities themselves.

It could be that they actually lived renaissance lives or simply that they understood you and stimulated you in exploring many different interests and hobbies when you were young.

Beliefs are so ingrained that it can be tricky to identify them, leave alone neutralize them.

Here is a really mundane example of how we can hold incorrect assumptions – and hold on to them.

I used to have Cablevision as my provider in New York for a long time. I’d looked into it at some point, and gotten the best package with the most bang for my buck; TV, cable, Internet , and phone. For years, I held on to this version of the truth; I had researched it and it was the cheapest option that fit my needs. It included very few TV stations, but getting more would cost me about $40 a month more and that wasn’t worth it to me.

Then I’d see these ads from Verizon about bundling all these services, including loads of TV stations, all for a great price. Of course I realized markets were changing and offers reflected that, but I simply assumed it wouldn’t be comparable. Why, I don’t know. But I was certain of it. So one day I decided to look into it a bit more. I called Verizon and lo and behold…their packages were about $30/month cheaper than my existing one, AND had lots more TV stations.

Let’s kick it up a notch.

Dreaming Big

When we’re talking about your life from a grander perspective…

What do you believe to be true about yourself? Your  life? Your career? Your dreams?

Do you know what your dreams are? Do you even give them room to breathe and exist?

Can you pinpoint certain assumptions when it comes to what is possible for you?

Do you hear yourself think or say things such as “I know ‘they’ can do that, and in theory I should be able to as well, but in reality, I won’t really be able to pull that off” when you hear about someone else’s exciting career or life?

Do you often find yourself wishing you could change careers, follow your passion, do something completely different that doesn’t seem to “make sense?”

With the emphasis on “wishing?”

Or do you day dream about all the cool adventures that are in store for you, yet somehow never seem to materialize?

What’s that little voice saying in the background?

Befriend Your Enemies

Listening to that negative little voice once in a while is a good thing because you’ll get to know your worst enemy: you.

You may think that you have perfectly rational reasons why you wouldn’t be able to do what you would love to do in your heart of hearts. But do you REALLY know that “truth” to be true? Could this be part of your ingrained belief system?

Awareness is Half the Battle

Sometimes, I’m made aware of my own limiting beliefs when I read about someone else’s story. Especially stories of magnificent dreams come true – really off-the-beaten-path stuff.

I have an example.

I always wanted to dance. Not many people know this about me. I started dancing as a toddler, had “lessons,” only to discover at age five that I had a minor spine issue. The doctor ordered no crazy moves, no jumping, and also no dancing – all until the age of 18. He thought I’d probably outgrow it by that time. He was right.

In the interim I had switched to music and was on my way to a professional career as a violinist. That didn’t go too well as my renaissance personality protested over this specialist life style! So when I was 18, I took dance lessons again. And I did dance. Jazz, hip hop. Some shows and competitions even. But nothing close to what I had envisioned when I was younger.

An Inspiring Story

Enter Dr. Susan Biali, M.D.

As I seem to be on a book referencing tour today, here goes…

She just released her first book called “Live the Life You Love – 7 Steps to a Healthier, Happier, More Passionate You.” (For more info: visit

Susan and I “met” when I was looking for renaissance personalities to interview for my book on the topic. This interview will still take place, so you’ll hear more about her from me!

Back to her book; I think I will have to add this book to my two “bibles” about renaissance personalities (the books by Barbara Sher and Margaret Lobenstine). Even though Susan doesn’t mention the concept of renaissance personalities, she is a renaissance woman and that’s a big part of what her story is about.

I only just started reading her book but I’m hooked already! Susan talks about her own story, from becoming a doctor and hating it, and how she found her path in life, which meant becoming a professional salsa and flamenco dancer – among other things, of course!
No surprise I identified with that. But I’ve never heard about someone who started dancing “later in life” (she was in her twenties) and still managed to go professional.

I am so inspired by her story! For the past few years, I’ve been wanting to get serious about ballroom dancing. I took salsa lessons in New York and was looking for a dance partner who was equally serious about it – in a fun way of course. And now, I’m at that point again where I know this will be one of the next steps in my life.

Much more about Susan and her book in future posts after I actually finish her book!

What Inspires You?

So, do you remember reading someone else’s story that inspired you and lifted you to a higher level of awareness with regard to what might be possible for you and for your life?

This blog post is meant as a starting point for thought. Limiting beliefs and assumptions are so important to a happy life that I am going to dive in and find out more. Of course, as a coach, I have some tools and tricks up my sleeve that I use when working with clients. However, I notice that these belief and assumption issues can run deep.

What Holds You Back?

Unless you challenge your assumptions on a very frequent basis, you fall back into living them and not realizing they’re just that – your beliefs. Then, they turn into your temporary reality, which only reinforces those underlying beliefs.

For me, it’s always a one-step-at-a-time process. One success leads to another. And the more we see around us of what *is* possible, the more we tend to believe it can happen to us as well. (Read: we can make it happen!)

What are your thoughts on this? And what has worked for you in overcoming limiting beliefs? I’m dying to hear your take on this!


You may absolutely share this article with people you think may enjoy it. When doing so, please include the following message:

Ilona (“rhymes with Fiona”) Vanderwoude’s passion is helping modern-day “Renaissance Personalities” fit a million passions into one lifetime. And make a great living. As a Career Designer and a Master Resume Writer (1 of 28 worldwide), she combines career and life design with the tactical support to actually make it happen. Please visit to claim your free gifts!


  1. I have been casually reading all these career coaching advice blogs for about a year now and the common theme seems to be about how to change your thinking. I like Ilona’s presentation style, so I am compelled to help people that follow her. Every blog has some technique to try, but they really do not articulate a system. I would like to help people out by telling them that all these tips people are giving out fall into some aspect of a system called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Now if you do an internet search for CBT do not be scared off by the context it is usually presented, which is for psychiatric illness, because the system can work for anybody. However, if you do fall into a category of psychiatric illness, please find a therapist that does practice CBT.

    Comment by Brad — March 24, 2010 @ 11:14 am

  2. Hi. I too am a Renaissance Woman (and the daughter of one). Among other things, I am a coach for lawyers and have recently started working with a biz coach. I could never figure out how I could have such great ideas, work so hard to put them in place and then…they just kinda fizzled. Believe me, I have tried many things. Then, last week, I figured it out. My coach asked me to tell her what my parent’s money habits were. WOW! I am following my mother’s dead-end path. Though I had never thought about it, I think that she believed that women were supposed to work hard but not actually “succeed” financially-maybe because that is what men were supposed to do…anyway! eye-opener for me…this is one woman who wants and intends to make lots of money! so that belief will have to be dragged into the sunshine regularly!

    Comment by Regina — March 24, 2010 @ 1:58 pm

  3. Ilona, amen. I am teaching a class tomorrow at my alma mater, Hanover College. It is a class of sophomores and junior who major in other things, but have a chance to be exposed to business (not the finance and accounting part). I’m taking your blog.

    For myself, I am a late 50’s guy who has been exploring social media for my business/life as a way to “challenge my beliefs.” This act of challenging my beliefs has a by-product of opening up my thinking to more possibilities, not less. As a result, my life is far more interesting. I’m not a renaissance person (possibly because I have trouble spelling it) as the off-spring of an engineer and teacher, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is the challenging and understanding my beliefs in terms of limiting or empowering.

    Thanks for the post.

    Comment by Jim Struck — March 25, 2010 @ 4:05 pm

  4. What I know to be true … trumps how I FEEL!

    As a man (or woman) thinks in their heart, so shall it become.

    The reality is we absolutely have a choice on what we think and believe about ourselves. The worst thing anyone can do is let someone else’s opinion define who they are.

    Comment by Mary Aucoin Kaarto — March 25, 2010 @ 4:41 pm

  5. I used to get disappointed knowing there were so many things I was interested in doing/learning about/persuing and not having the time to do so. Then that limiting belief was broken by Barbara Sher. In one of her books she suggests, given you will live into your eighties and how old you are now, you probably have a number of years left. Take the things you are interested in and list one item for each year. That year focus on doing that particular thing (not exclusively, but as your main focus). You probably can get then all in with years to spare. You really have more time than you think.

    Comment by Bob Maksimchuk — March 26, 2010 @ 8:31 am

  6. Hi Brad!

    Interesting…I’d heard of the concept but indeed assumed it was meant for use in therapy only.

    Not sure everything needs a “system,” but I think I get where you’re coming from.

    So do you practice CBT? What’s your relation to it? Can you recommend a site that’s helpful for non-therapy people but job seekers and the like who want to pursue their dreams?


    Comment by careerbranches — March 26, 2010 @ 8:47 am

  7. Regina – wow! It’s unreal how ingrained these things become, right?

    Did your coach offer suggestions or techniques to deal with this? Just curious. Let us know if you find a way of handling it that works for you, ok? Would love to hear.

    Thanks for posting!

    Comment by careerbranches — March 26, 2010 @ 8:50 am

  8. Jim, thanks for posting and for your kind words! I hope my article was helpful for the students.

    I believe you re the enrichment of your life by challenging your beliefs. And indeed – doesn’t matter if you’re a renaissance man or not…we all hold limiting beliefs and assumptions.

    Do you care to say which belief specifically you were challenging by getting involved in social media?

    Comment by careerbranches — March 26, 2010 @ 8:52 am

  9. Yes!!! I think this is true for so many people, and especially renaissance personalities. Which is why Barbara Sher wrote about it, of course. (All bow to Barbara..!! We owe a ton of insight to her.)

    That little exercise is so powerful – I suggest everyone give it a try.

    Bob, thanks for commenting and mentioning such a great tip!

    Comment by careerbranches — March 26, 2010 @ 9:05 am

  10. Hi Mary!

    Thank you for commenting.

    I’m curious: were you always able to neutralize feelings with your thoughts or is this an acquired skill for you?

    I think a lot of people have some topics that are hard for them to *feel* good about, despite their intellectual awareness of the situation or specifics.

    Would love to hear how you do it!

    And yes… letting others define who we are…the worst! A big no-no in my world!

    : )

    Comment by careerbranches — March 26, 2010 @ 9:09 am

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