“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, in the book “The Brothers Karamazov”
1. Lies you tell others.
No matter how good of a liar you might be and no matter how big or small your lies are, the truth almost always has a way of coming out. Your lies WILL be uncovered at some point. And they WILL damage your relationships … because it can take years to build a trusting relationship but a mere five-second lie to destroy it.
I remember that lesson so very well when working my way through college selling shoes in a women’s fashion store. I remember being shocked that a few of my co-workers would go around and mark UP the prices on our shoes the night before we had a sale … and then put up a sign that shoes were now on sale at the new low price of such and such … which, of course, was the old regular price.
That was bad enough because it was just plain wrong. It was a lie. But it really hurt when one of our very best customers with a lot of influence in the community discovered what was happening in our store. She told everybody and our business took a dramatic nosedive. That was years ago. I can only imagine how widespread and how long lasting the damage would be if that happened today. She could have told the whole world on Facebook and Twitter in a matter of moments.
With very few exceptions, lying to someone else is a bad idea. A very bad idea. I liked the way Presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson put it in a 1952 campaign speech. He said, “I offer my opponents a bargain: if they will stop telling lies about us, I will stop telling the truth about them.”
2. Lies you tell yourself.
You might not even realize you’re doing it. So let me ask you a few questions. Do you feel as though you are NOT maximizing your full potential? Or is there something holding you back but you just can’t put your finger on it? If you answered “yes” to either question, then chances are you’ve been telling yourself some lies … or as my colleague Mark Baker says, “You may well have developed a limiting belief in your life or more realistically several!”
So what is a limiting belief? A limiting belief is something you have accepted to be true about your capabilities in one or several areas of your life, and that limiting belief acts as a regulator, only allowing you to achieve a limited amount of success in those areas of your life.
The problem is … your limiting beliefs could be so deeply ingrained that you’re not even aware of them. All you know is that you won’t even try to achieve certain things because you’re convinced you’re “just no good at those things.”
Are you being held back by the lies you tell yourself?
Look at what happens when you are free of those self-limiting beliefs. For example, Cliff Young was a 61-year old farmer who lived and worked in the Australian outback. He had always wanted to be a runner and whilst reading the paper, he read about the Sydney to Melbourne marathon, a world famous endurance race that attracts the best long-distance athletes in the world and takes five days to complete.
So Cliff turns up to race and joins the line to sign in, when the crowd erupted into laughter, “What are you doing here old man?” someone shouted. “I’ve come to run the marathon” he said. And at that point there were large crowds of people laughing uncontrollably at Cliff.
And they weren’t laughing just because Cliff was considered too old to be taking part in such a high profile race. They were also laughing at Cliff for showing up to race in Wellington boots, overalls and a cowboy hat!
When the television crews heard about what was happening, there was a frenzy to interview the old man who thought he could run a long-distance marathon in such inappropriate attire. One reporter asked, “Sir, what makes you think that you can compete in a race that attracts some of the greatest runners in the world?”
Cliff responded, “Well I work on a cattle station and on our station we don’t have any horses, so I spend most of my time running about rounding up the animals, so I guess I’m quite fit”
When the race started the next morning, as expected the “professional runners” disappeared off into the distance while Cliff shuffled along in his Wellington boots and overalls. HOWEVER, Cliff won the race. But he didn’t just win the race, he beat them by a day and a half! You see Cliff didn’t realize that you are supposed to run for 18 hours and sleep 6, so he just kept on running and knocked a day and a half off the record.
What a great story … because it clearly demonstrates that we are capable of achieving so much more than we can imagine in the absence of limiting beliefs we might hold about ourselves. You see Cliff didn’t have a television and he didn’t live in the city. If he had, he would have become conditioned by the media and his peers that 61-year old men don’t enter long-distance races, that you have to have the best equipment, that you have to have sponsors, and that you’re not supposed to keep on running without sleep.
As my colleague Mark Baker went on to say, “I remember watching the same thing happen when I was a young salesman working for an insurance company. A new person started on December 1st and started racking up sales at an unbelievable rate, when a seasoned sales veteran pulled the person aside and said, ‘What are you doing? No one buys insurance at Christmas. Their minds are on other things and they don’t have any money.’ Well that person never had a good December ever again!!!”
The lesson should be obvious. Nothing will defeat you faster than the lies you tell yourself or the lies you incorporate.
But there is good news.
3. Lies and limiting beliefs can be overcome.
Because limiting beliefs are learned, that also means they can be unlearned. Oh, it may be difficult because many of the lies took root during your childhood … a time when you accepted most of the things adults told you as fact. It may have been your mother who said “She’ll never be a dancer as fat as she is.” Or it may have been a well-meaning teacher who told you to stop dreaming and plant your feet back on the ground because you will never make any money playing a musical instrument.
Again there is good news. You can eliminate those old lies that are holding you back. Take out a paper and pen; put aside some time to think, and write out your answers to these questions.
- What lies do I tell myself? What self-limiting beliefs do I have? List every one that comes to mind today and in the future.
- Why do I have a particular self-limiting belief? Where did it come from? Was it something someone said or something I told myself?
- For each lie you identify, ask yourself how valid is it? Who says it’s the truth about me? Where’s the evidence? What are their credentials for knowing so much about me?
- Is the belief relevant and useful today? If it doesn’t serve you well to go on thinking about yourself in that way, then start affirming the truth about yourself. If, for example, you keep telling yourself you’re disorganized, start telling yourself you can learn to become more organized. If you keep telling yourself you always attract losers, start telling yourself that you are worthy of friendships with good, positive, and healthy people.
Follow that regimen on a daily basis for at least a month, and you will start to liberate yourself and all your future potential.
ACTION: What are two lies you’ve told yourself that have held you back? What could you tell yourself the next time you catch yourself repeating those lies?