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Blog: Blog2

#58 How our labels keep us stuck

Before you read on, take a minute to think about these questions and write down your answers:

  • What do you believe — or what have you heard people say — you are good or bad at?

  • What is something you did, saw or experienced this week that made you think: "This is wrong/right"?

  • What things do you believe about yourself or your circumstances that are true or false?

Limiting and justifying beliefs

Binary labels like good/bad, wrong/right, true/false fuel our limiting and justifying beliefs.

These beliefs keep us stuck in our old mindsets, even when these mindsets no longer help us to become who we want to be.

Limiting beliefs tell you why it is impossible for you to change. Justifying beliefs tell you why you should stay the same.

Binary ideas (good/bad, right/wrong) limit the actions that you are willing to take because they do not offer any invitation to move toward an upgraded version of yourself. In fact, they put a giant fullstop in your road to personal growth.

These labels also become a powerful way to justify certain behaviours and emotions, even if it is no longer the way you want to act and feel. Let me use an example from my own life.

Here are two statements I used to believe:

"I am good at working with and helping people." "I am bad with marketing and sales."

Can you see how that creates limiting beliefs? It justifies thoughts like, “Great, I only have to focus on working with people and can ignore marketing and sales because I'm bad at it.”

(If you've ever owned or run a business you probably know that without sales, your business isn't going to last very long.) What would be a better way to frame these statements so that they empower me to become who I want to be and reach my goals?

Empowering beliefs

A good start is to rather say, “I am not good with marketing and sales yet.” That is an empowering belief, because it immediately opens up an opportunity for growth and learning — a growth mindset.

(For more on developing a growth mindset read Carol Dweck's excellent book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success or watch her Ted talk, The Power of Yet.)

Even if I consider the invitation and decide I don't want to learn marketing myself, it still invites me to find someone who is good at it and who can help me do it, or help me get better at it. Instead of the overwhelm that comes with, "I know I need to market my business for it to grow but I'm bad at it", it invites me into action.

Another example may be something like: “I don’t want to work so hard anymore but it is wrong to be selfish; and doing more than what is expected from me is the right thing to do.”

Even if you find that you want to live a more balanced life, these statements keep you stuck in a space where there is no room to move towards the life you want.

The labels “wrong” and “right” justify you working overtime and living on the edge of burnout. So how can you reframe these statements to open a space where you can take action toward what you want and becoming who you want to be?

Using better language

Instead of “right” and “wrong”, use the labels “healthy” and “unhealthy”.

When you do that to the above example, it becomes: “It is healthy to be selfish; and it is unhealthy to constantly do more than what is expected of me at work.”

(Just a side note on my definitions of those words: Healthy is something that helps me to become who I want to be. Unhealthy is something that prevents me from becoming who I want to be.)

When you use better — fine, healthier — language, you are no longer a victim of your work situation. You are invited to take action towards creating the life that you want and becoming the person you want to be.


Look at your answers from the first three questions again and begin to notice areas in your life where these binary labels are keeping you stuck in old belief systems.

Then, rewrite those statements in a way that creates new beliefs which empower you to take action.

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