What is a Self Limiting Belief?

Salespeople limit their performance every day by what they are not willing to do.  Are you one of them?

Recently, I was involved in a conversation with people who were discussing “self-limiting beliefs.” Without going into the specifics of that conversation, the interesting part to me was that it seems that there are many different opinions on what constitutes a “self limiting belief.” I gave this some thought, and came up with a definition: A “Self Limiting Belief” is an opinion that prevents you from doing something based on a perception of a behavior that is in fact, changeable. Pretty wordy, huh? If you read this often, that probably doesn’t surprise you.
Let’s look at it a different way. Most self-limiting beliefs are really excuses for a lack of willingness to change a behavior that inhibits your success. For instance, here’s one that I heard recently: “I can’t lose weight because I eat out all the time and the portions are so big.” Well, there are two potential changeable behaviors in that statement. First, the person could eat out less. Second, the person could simply eat less of the large portions (I know, it’s hard to put down a good cheeseburger with 1/3 remaining). Now, let’s look at how this applies to selling.
Salespeople will rail against capped commissions until the cows come home; yet many (most?) salespeople put caps on their own commissions every day through reinforcement of behaviors that cap their achievement. When you have a self-limiting belief, that’s really what you are doing – capping your achievement because you acknowledge that a change in the behavior might produce an additional positive result. Does this sound smart to you?
If it doesn’t, that’s because it’s not; yet I hear self-limiting beliefs in every training session, seminar, and workshop that I perform. Here’s an example: In a recent program, I advocated writing handwritten thank you notes as a way to communicate appreciation to clients. Someone said (as they always do), “Troy, that won’t work for me, because I have bad handwriting.”
For them, that shut off the conversation. “Bad handwriting” means that they shouldn’t write letters to customers. I agree that a badly handwritten letter might be a negative, rather than a positive. But let’s look deeper – was the person born with bad handwriting? Of course not. It was a learned habit. I’d be willing to bet that their handwriting was pretty decent all the way through high school, because it had to be and because they practiced every day. As the years went on, the person did less and less handwriting until it became a habit to be nearly illegible.
So, given that their bad handwriting is a habit, is it changeable? Of course it is. And it usually doesn’t require a re-teaching of how to write. Usually, all that is required is to slow down a bit (most bad handwriting is caused by hurrying), and to focus on the letters being written down. But that, of course, is a lot of work, and it’s easier to just say that “I have bad handwriting,” which gets them out of the work to change the habit and the work to write the letters. It also locks them out of any potential benefit that could be gotten from sending these letters, thus putting a small and subtle cap on their achievement.
Let’s take a look at another common one. “Troy, I can’t cold call owners or Presidents of companies; my product doesn’t justify their attention.” This one is driven less by laziness and habit than by fear. The fear, in this case, is the fear of rejection by company owners. Again, this can be overcome. First, the person should recognize that one appointment with a company owner is worth at least two appointments with subordinates. Second, the salesperson should go through the exercise of learning just how, precisely, his product or service DOES benefit the bottom line (they all do). Then, the further exercise of coming up with a strong benefit statement to get the owner’s attention. Of course, again, this is a lot of work, so they prefer to settle for middle management that has to ask the owner before buying.
What caps do you put on your achievement? How do you limit yourself by avoiding activity that is uncomfortable, requires habit change, overcoming fear, or just plain hard work? Odds are that you have self-limiting beliefs and that changing those beliefs could result in higher achievement. 
The truly successful people are not characterized by a lack of obstacles; rather, they are characterized by a willingness and determination to do the hard work to overcome those obstacles.