Stuck in the Same Rut? Part 3: Self-Limiting Beliefs and the Big “What If”

By Karen Carnahan & Marsia Gunter


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In our last two blogs, we discussed how asking questions from a “what if” state of mind can get you out of your thinking rut and start seeing things from a fresh mind perspective. We used the example of  “The Nine Dots” puzzle as a way to practice thinking differently.

It’s not always easy however. Sometimes in order to see how to do something differently, we have to look at how are already doing something presently. It can be difficult to see when you’re right in the middle of it.

When You Can’t Get Yourself Out of the Box

You may still be operating under some “right way” assumptions that are tangling you up and holding you back. These assumptions may never have been spoken out loud, but they exist nevertheless, and can create huge possibilities for getting stuck.

For example, you may be operating under the assumption that “it takes time to build up a profitable business”. Well that’s often true – but not always.

Are You Operating Under Self-Limiting Beliefs?

That assumption may be holding back the rate of growth your business is capable of. Or you may be operating under the assumption that it takes a fair amount of time to close a big sale. You may be letting that assumption blind you to the signs that would tell you the customer is ready to close the deal NOW. Or you may be operating under the assumption that you cannot bill the customer until delivery of the finished product, and then must wait at least thirty days for payment – even though this causes you cash flow problems. Again, sometimes that assumption holds true, but not always. You may be tying yourself up in financial knots unnecessarily.

Other Companies That Have Embraced the “What If?” as a Path to Innovation

The development of modern technology has allowed all kind of big thinkers to ask “what if?” on a grand scale—often to dramatic effect. Uber and Lyft comprise one of the biggest ride on demand services in the world. Their what if? What if we owned no cars, and all dispatches were automated? And what if we collected a percentage of every ride, with the lion’s share going to the driver?

Air BnB is swiftly becoming the largest service in the world to rent a room for accomodation. They asked: what if we owned no hotels, and allowed people with extra space to rent their own rooms? What if we had no housekeeping, no restaurants, no bars—and just made our business connecting travellers with people’s spare rooms?

These are a few of the biggest players in the hospitality and ride-on-demand industries, yet they own no hotels/motels, and own no cars. That’s an incredible result from a seemingly far-fetched “what if?”

Am You Following an Underlying “Right Way” Assumption?

So when you’re stuck, look to see whether there might be an underlying “right way” assumption there. Sometimes behind the assumption is an old habit you’re inclined to fall back into – it’s the “right way” because that’s the way it has been done. To break this circular argument, or closed box, step outside the nine dots and play “What If?”

The results may astound you.

Are you interested in challenging your self-limiting beliefs and taking a more active role in shaping the future for yourself, your company or your organization? Explore the future you want to create through ongoing coaching to develop business growth strategies, professional leadership development and business ownership, and transitioning your business for the next generation. We believe in the future you envision, and stand with you to help achieve it. 

Marsia Gunter