I Would Do It, But…


istock_000005414141smal-posterlYou would do it, but… But what?

I’m not sure I know anyone who hasn’t started a statement this way more than once. I certainly have. I hear some form of it from virtually every coaching client, every mentoring client, every consulting client that I work with. I hear it from family, and from friends.

I would do it, but…

Sometimes the “but” has true legitimacy.

  • I would go to medical school, but I’m 58 now and really want to retire at 65.
  • I would move to Argentina, but I have found out that my credentials (on which I depend for my living) are not recognized there.
  • I would buy my apartment in a heartbeat, but it is in a rental building and not for sale.


More often than not, however, the “but” is legitimate in the mind of the speaker…and it has no factual basis.

  • I would apply for the job, but why waste my time when I’m not good enough to get it?
  • I would move in with Pete, but what happens if it doesn’t work out?
  • I would start my own business, but I’ve never run a business before. What if I fail?

It’s true. You might not get the job; things might not work out with Pete; your business might fail. And, if you apply with the belief that you are not good enough, if you move in with Pete believing the relationship might not work out, if you start your own business with your eye on failure…chances are good that failure is on the horizon.

Almost all of us develop limiting beliefs along the way. They define our world, and how we relate to it. They are taught to us, intentionally or not, but our parents, our teachers, our religious institutions. They grow from our own experiences; we learn them from our peers and our colleagues. They define what we do, and don’t, pursue in life. They define our level of happiness and our degree of success.

  • I’m not good enough.
  • I’m not worthy.
  • It won’t happen because I am (fill in your “other” status here, e.g. woman, gay, person of color).
  • I don’t deserve happiness.
  • I deserve to be abused.
  • I’m too old.
  • I’m too young.
  • I’m too skilled.
  • I’m too stupid.
  • I’m too (fill in the blank).
  • Others are better than me.
  • Others are more deserving than me.
  • Others get breaks; I don’t.
  • We live in a world of scarcity; I’m always going to be living on the edge, trying not to fall off.

Most people think that reality shapes our beliefs. In fact, it is the other way around. Our beliefs shape our reality; we interpret our experiences through them. No one dared sail too far from the shores of Europe; they didn’t want to risk falling off the edge of the world. And then someone did, and proved the belief that the world was flat was, in fact, wrong. Those who believe that global warming is real behave in one way relative to our environment; those who believe global warming is a hoax often behave very differently. Our beliefs shape our reality.

Letting go of our limiting beliefs can be scary. It calls on us to be more courageous as we face the opportunities that open up for us in our lives.

  • I will apply for the job. I am more than qualified.
  • I will move in with Peter. We will work together to make this relationship work.
  • I am launching my own business. I have a lot to learn, and I can be–will be–successful!

Letting go of our limiting beliefs can also allow profound shifts in our lives, and in the lives of those around us. I see it again and again and again with my clients. Impossible futures become possible and then become real. Lives are transformed. Organizations are transformed. Realities are transformed.

What would it be like if you were to let go of just one of your limiting beliefs? Comment below.

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