Ladder reaching for the sky

When we fail at something or we don’t achieve a certain goal, we often blame the circumstances. We say things like “the reason my business idea failed is because the economy is so bad” or “If I only I had more money to invest, then my business would be much more successful”.

But often, the real reason behind our success or failure is not how much money we have, or how good the economy is. And fortunately, it’s not sheer luck either. The reason why most businesses fail is the same reason why many of us don’t follow through on our New Year’s resolutions.

More precisely, the best determinant of our success is our internal system of beliefs. It’s the stories we tell ourselves day after day, and whether we choose to write our own story of success or not.

So if you’re having a hard time with careers, relationships, fitness or any other area of your life, look closely at your inner voice and identify the thought patterns that are holding you back.

One tool I like to use for uncovering negative self-talk and converting it into positive trains of thought is what I call the ladder of disbelief. This ladder shows you your odds of success depending on what you think about yourself and your goals.

Ladder of disbelief

The lower you are on this ladder, the lower your chance of success.

Why?

Because mind moves matter – and your thoughts have a very real impact on what you can accomplish.

Climbing up the ladder of disbelief

Maybe you’ve noticed that you’re on the lower rungs of the ladder when it comes to your beliefs surrounding health, relationships or business.

So what can you do to reach the higher rungs? How do you change your life for the better?

Well, the most important thing you can do is to change the way you think about yourself. No more negative self-talk, no more doubts, no more worries.

And I’m not going to lie – it’s a difficult process. A process that can take you years to master. But fortunately, visualising your goals come true and constantly challenging negative thoughts to help you along the way.

Step 1: Visualise yourself working towards a particular goal

Suppose you’ve always wanted to find the love of your life. To help you find your dream partner faster, you can visualise how you are happily engaged. Or imagine what the day of your honeymoon could look like:

You are celebrating on a romantic yacht in the Mediterranean, sipping juicy cocktails with your partner. Together you admire the beautiful glow of sun, as gently descends behind the snow-topped peaks along the horizon.

You think back to how everything started – that Sunday night when you walked home from the bus stop and the cute guy came up to you, asking if he could drive you home, so you didn’t have be out alone, in the darkness. You looked into his beautiful, blue eyes and stammered how kind it was of him to offer you a ride home. You were so nervous, and you felt you were making a total fool of yourself, but he was so gentle and kind. When you arrived at your house, you asked him for his number. And then one day led to the next … all the way up to your gorgeous honeymoon today.

As you can see, your visualisation becomes more and more powerful if you focus both on the desired outcome (in this case: finding the love of your life) and possible ways in which you can reach your goal.  Additionally, imagining what success could look like, and what it takes to succeed can mentally prepare you for the steps you need to take to make your dreams come true.

The more depth you can add to these images, the better.

Try incorporating all five sensory dimensions: 

  • Touch: what you can feel on your skin and any other bodily sensations, e.g. the gentle breeze of the wind tickling your bare skin
  • Sight: what you can perceive with your eyes, e.g. an odyssey of colours
  • Hearing: what you can hear, e.g. the thundering waves hit down hard on the jagged cliffs
  • Taste: what you can taste: e.g. crushing a slice or ripe, juicy lemon between your teeth
  • Smell: what you smell e.g. the repugnant smell of mouldy bread

Keep in mind that for the most positive outcome, all 5 senses will usually add positive impressions to your visualisation. So whenever you imagine something you perceive to be negative, try and substitute this impression with a more encouraging image.

Step 2: Challenge negative thoughts

The second way you climb the ladder of disbelief is by simply challenging the negative beliefs you hold about yourself.

For example, when you catch yourself saying: “I will never be able to afford a house”, you can acknowledge that you don’t think you can afford to buy a house.

To move up the ladder of disbelief, critically try to uncover the root of your negative thoughts. Maybe you think a lack of money is holding you back, in which you case your limiting beliefs would be best described by the phrase “I can’t afford to buy a house because I don’t have enough money”.

However, you can then acknowledge that a lack of money can be a temporary state. For example, if you won the lottery, inherited a large sum of money, or got promoted in your job, you would probably be able to afford a house.

You can always hope for one of these things to happen. And as such, you could also say: “I hope to buy a nice house for myself one day”.

Knowing that you can also take certain actions to increase your savings, such as taking on an additional job or spending less of your monthly salary, you are bound to realise something along the lines of “I can afford to buy my own house if I work hard enough to make it happen”.

Then, once you have made a conscious decision that owning a home is key priority for you, you can choose to set the home-buying process in motion, by further changing your thought patterns. Now, you can say “I will buy my own home” and to make your dream house come faster, you can develop a new narrative. For example, you might say to yourself: “I am putting aside 500 euros each month to save up for my future house, and I’m also scouring the job market for better paid positions, so I will have enough saving to buy a house in the next 3-5 years.”

Can you see how far we’ve come by simply challenging our assumptions?

From your initial belief “I will never be able to afford a house”, we’ve moved on to looking for ways to make your dreams come true.

Now, it’s your turn. Take one area of your life that you are unhappy with and find a limiting belief that is holding you back from making the changes you want. Then, see if you can change this belief using visualisation and by challenging negative thoughts.

Did you manage to overcome the ladder of disbelief? And how do you feel about your new reality?

Let me know in the comments.




If you don’t know what negative thought to work with, pick one from my list of 100 limiting beliefs in Fitness, Health and Business.

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