Coaches talk about unconscious assumptions and limiting beliefs all the time but before I was a coach, was I aware of what they were? No!

So please allow me to explain because these assumptions and beliefs are at the root of most of the emotional pain we experience* and are usually the single biggest block when it comes to achieving the things we wish for in our businesses and lives.

Sometimes used interchangeably, I describe unconscious assumptions and limiting beliefs as follows:

Unconscious Assumptions

An unconscious assumption is an assumption that we make about a situation or context, or people (ourself or others), that is not true, and yet we operate as if it were true/were a fact. It is unconscious because it is not something that we are actively or consciously thinking about or aware of.

In coaching examples of unconscious assumptions could include things like:

  • I must always be available for my customers otherwise they will go somewhere else.
  • The harder/longer I work, the more successful I will become.
  • If I don’t do this thing, I will let someone down.

Limiting beliefs

A limiting belief is essentially a negative belief that we have about ourselves or the world which is detrimental to our sense of self-worth or happiness.  Sometimes, we are not aware of these beliefs, but sometimes, they are beliefs that we actively refer to as being true, even though they may not be.  Aware or not, these belief governs the way we operate.  The key point is that because these are beliefs, they may not be true, and their limiting nature is therefore causing a negative outcome where a more positive outcome is possible.

Examples of a limiting belief include things like:

No one likes me, I’m not good enough, everyone else can get the job they/have the success they want, but I can’t.

Why do we have them?

These assumptions and beliefs are often made as a result of some programming that we received during our younger years when our brains were still developing and where the critical thinking part of our brains was not fully developed.

The assumptions or beliefs can also be made during times of heightened stress when our brains are processing many different types of stimuli and the assumption or belief is a way of helping us to respond.

Often this unconscious programming serves us for a period of time but as we mature or evolve past the stressful trigger, these assumptions and beliefs become unhelpful to us causing us to operate in negative ways.

Why does it mater that we have unconscious assumptions and limiting beliefs?

Assumptions are not bad in and of themselves.  For example, in business and especially in financial modelling, operating assumptions are useful, they help a business to set out aspects of their operating context or market that they believe are true, but which they cannot prove. The reason for using assumptions is that they help the business to take decisions, including identifying and mitigating risk.  For each operating assumption, a degree of likelihood of occurring and extent of impact if occurred can help to qualify and qualify unknown variables.

These kinds of assumptions are therefore helpful. But they are helpful because they are known and because they are quantifiable and qualifiable, and therefore manageable.

Unconscious assumptions are unhelpful because where they exist, they influence our thoughts, feelings (our mood), actions, behaviours and our decision making process without us being aware of their impact.

It’s a bit like a hacker taking over your operating system and running the show without you being aware!

So what?  What does coaching have to do with it?

Coaches often talk about “blind spots”.  This is what we mean.  We all, coaches included, have these blind spots and therefore a core aspect of pretty much all coaching is to help our clients to notice and acknowledge theirs, in order that we can uncover the most helpful strategies to overcome.

Essentially, coaching is about taking back control so that we are increasingly operating from our conscious brain, and less from our unconscious programming.  The point being that with more awareness, more consciousness, we make better choices for ourselves, and of course, our businesses.

My coaching is about getting to the root so that the solutions we identify from your conscious brain, are effective and sustainable.

I’ve said this before.  This is why I love coaching and its such a privilege to coach.  To have the opportunity and the privilege to work with my clients who place their trust in me to to help them to notice, acknowledge and re-programme their unconscious assumptions and limiting beliefs, is the greatest honour.

If this article resonated with you and you would like to explore your unconscious assumptions and limiting beliefs, you’re welcome to book a free discovery call with me here:

*An important caveat here. I’m not for a moment diminishing genuine trauma or emotional or physical pain as a result of trauma. I’m writing in the context of our overall mood and the actions we take, or crucially don’t take, as a result of how we are feeling, or how we think we will feel as a result of an action.

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