Self-Limiting Beliefs

That Could Never Be Me

I sometimes look at successful magicians on stage, on TV or posting their latest jet-set corporate gig on social media and think, “That could never be me.”

But why not?

How are they really different to me? I know I can stand on stage, I know I can perform, I know I can learn routines. So what is getting in my way of being just like them? Well, first I need to work out if I really want to do that kind of work – Behind the glamour I know that it comes with a lot of travel, stress and hard work.

However, more likely is the fact that I don’t actually believe that I can or should do it.
This is the whole field of self-limiting beliefs.

Feeling Lucky?

The only things really between myself and the successful TV magician are training, contacts and hard work. I could do all of those. You might say there is a bit of luck as well. However, luck is preparation meeting opportunity. If you prepare enough and put yourself out there enough, at some point you will get “lucky”.

Origin Stories

Where do self-limiting beliefs come from? 

Maybe from your upbringing? “Oh, we’re not that kind of people,” might have been a spoken – or unspoken – family mantra.

Maybe from a religious background? A healthy sense of humility can go too far and turn into false humility so that you hide your light under a bushel. A determination to not make mammon your god can lead to a sense of guilt about making money.

Maybe from something in your educational past? I had a tall, thin university tutor, reminiscent of a hawk leaning over the desk towards me. He used to say things like, “That’s obvious, surely?” and, “But that’s just schoolboy stuff!” when I didn’t understand something. The result: I felt like I wasn’t clever enough for years, even though I had an Oxford University degree.

Don’t Jump, You Can’t Fly

It is worth remembering that some self-limiting beliefs are good and for our own protection. We correctly believe we can’t fly by flapping our wings so we shouldn’t jump off high things, we  correctly believe we are not flame-resistant so we shouldn’t put our hands in fires. 

But we should try to work out which are the false beliefs that are holding us back.

Defy Your Doubts by Doing 

Then we should take action to defy our false self-limiting beliefs so that they start to lose their power over us.

There are two songs on U2’s album Songs of Experience that have been inspirational for me recently: “Get Out of Your Own Way” and “Free Yourself to Be Yourself” (From “Lights of Home”)

Thanks Bono, great advice.

Knowing When to Try a Different Routine

Cosy Chaos

I was performing at a three year old birthday party last week. It was in a small cottage living room. There were toddlers, two babies, several older siblings and some parents. A cosy and slightly chaotic atmosphere in which to do a magic and circus show. Such parties are great fun, you need to have a plan and plenty of material, but you need to be able to change tack in an instant because you never quite know what is going to happen next.

In my younger days I would have thought to myself, “I have a fantastic show and I am going to plough on regardless of what happens and they will then see my brilliance and commitment to my material.”

Adapt and Shine

Now I am more experienced I have realised that it is much more effective to be ready to adapt and improvise in the spur of the moment. In fact it often heightens the audience appreciation if you can incorporate and involve the interruptions of wandering toddlers or heckling parents and make them seem like amusing superstars.

Knowing when to stick with the script and when to change tack is hugely valuable life skill.

Commitment Condundrum

I have recently realised that I have a trait that has been a double-edged sword. It is my sense of duty, loyalty and commitment. For the whole of my life I have felt that, once I had committed to something, I should stick with it to the bitter end, come hell or high water. This has applied to to university courses, clubs, societies and even friendships.

This is all well and good, commitment and duty can get you through rough and difficult periods meaning that you and others benefit. But there comes a point when these traits can hold you back.

I completed a four year engineering degree as an undergraduate. I found it really tough and didn’t really enjoy it. I have never worked as an engineer. I briefly thought about changing course in my first year but didn’t because of my innate sense of duty and feeling that I should finish what I had started. Talking to my younger self I would say, “Change course, do something that you will love.”

Chapters and Seasons

Whatever you have done in the past will always remain part of your life. Rather like previous chapters in a book. They are always there as foundations, but the story moves on. Enjoy the different seasons of life.

Knowing when to stay or when to go is always tough always a judgement call. But hanging in there too long can hold you back from what really should be your next step.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

I would suggest that we can all have a more fulfilling and productive journey through life and work if we:

  • Work out when to commit to something
  • Reflect regularly on whether to continue or to do something different
  • Have the courage to move on to the next thing when the time is right

Remember, when life heckles you, it might be suggesting a new routine…

Plussing the Show

Learn from the Mouse

We went to Disneyland Paris earlier this summer. It is an inspirational and challenging place for an entertainer. I wasn’t performing, I was there as a punter, but I was struck by the sheer excellence of everything Disney do and the attention to detail. 

Plus, Plus, Plus

One of my fellow Magic Circle magicians, Jez Rose, used to work in production for Disney. He told me about their concept of  “plussing the show”. They are always asking, “How can we make this better?” When you go to a Disney park, you can see the extraordinary effect that this approach has.

It means that they are always improving, always striving to be the best they can be. 

Black Boxes

It reminds me of Matthew Syed’s book “Black Box Thinking”, in which he references the airline industry, always seeking to learn from past mistakes (via black boxes) in order to improve the safety of the industry as a whole. 

Done is Better than Perfect

I would suggest that we can all enjoy better work and life by adopting this approach ourselves. We must be careful to avoid perfectionism, that way leads to frustration and inaction. But we can aim to be always improving. Done is better than perfect, but aim to do it better each time.

Tweak Every Week

Can you improve in your work? If you perform, write or produce anything regularly, how can you tweak it to make it better? Always self-evaluate, praise yourself for what went well and honestly analyse what you could do better next time. 

You can also apply this to your life. Can you make you daily routine more effective? Can you change you exercise patterns to give you more energy? Can you make adjustments to your diet? Could you alter the way you travel around to make you more productive? Could you make subtle changes to the way you interact with family and friends to improve the quality of you relationships?

Get Better, Live Better

As we seek to constantly improve we will inevitably come across new ideas and new people. This will make life more interesting and more exciting.

What can you do to plus your show?

Nap Store

What did Winston Churchill, Lyndon B. Johnson and Leonard Da Vinci have in common? 

They were all committed nappers.

Seems Right in the Afternoon

I have become a big fan of napping. I now take a nap once or twice during most days. Not long naps, just 10-19 minutes. 

You might think that 19 minutes is an odd choice, but I learned from Dr Hilary Jones  on Steve Wright in the Afternoon  that 19 minutes is an optimal time for a refreshing nap.

It means that you wake up just before you start to go into deep sleep, meaning that you don’t wake up feeling drowsy. 

Dr Hilary recommended having a cup of coffee, setting a timer for 19 minutes and then taking a nap. That way you wake up just as the caffeine is kicking in.

Magic Hanky and Noises Off

I have trained myself to fall asleep almost at will, which is very useful for short naps. 

I set my timer, lie down, cover my eyes with a folded handkerchief.

Then a deep breath in and hold for a count of five then release. Repeat. Then to normal breathing. I focus on my breathing and also concentrate on background noises. I discovered this trick about a year ago. If I concentrate on the background noises, trying to pick them all out however faint, it means that I can’t concentrate on any work or other matters that might be playing on my mind. I have found that this enables me to fall asleep in a few minutes. 

Don’t Worry, Chill

It also doesn’t matter if you don’t actually fall asleep. Just lying down for a few minutes in deep relaxation will give you almost the same amount of benefit, so release yourself from the pressure to actually fall asleep every time.

Showbiz Secrets

I now nap before every gig. I will drive to the gig and arrive at least an hour before my start time. I park round the corner, get out my neck cushion, lay the seat back, handkerchief over my eyes and then ask Siri to set me a timer for however long I have. After my nap I put on my bowtie and waistcoat, change my shoes and arrive at the venue 30 minutes early to greet the client feeling refreshed, relaxed and ready to go. 

I commend this approach to you, it really works.

Get nap happy 🙂