In the last issue of AIM, I discussed the importance of boundaries. In this article, I’d like to go to the other end of an entirely different spectrum and discuss the type of boundaries we place on ourselves that are dangerous. These self-created boundaries often hold us back from reaching our highest potential and experiencing all that life has to offer.
Come with me as I share some real-life stories, offer some strategies for going beyond limiting beliefs (which we all have), and tell you why I believe it’s even more important that we, as healthcare professionals, learn how to effectively master this.
Years ago, my best friend was inspired when she attended a Leukemia Society charity event. She went home with a strong desire to run a marathon. She called me the next day and asked if I would run a marathon with her since I had already completed a few.
I was a bit skeptical, to say the least, because at the time of this conversation she was living in New York, smoking almost a pack of cigarettes a day, didn’t really exercise, and hadn’t ever really run for distance.
Fast forward three years from that conversation and through a series of unlikely events, my best friend found herself living four doors down from me in San Diego. She quit smoking, started exercising and we began running three to five days per week.
We started off slowly by running/walking a couple of miles, and gradually increased over time. I still remember when we crossed the finish line at the Rock n Roll Marathon in San Diego. As she cried tears of joy and amazement at what she had just accomplished I remember feeling honored to be witness to her transformation and dedication to getting out of her comfort zone and pushing beyond any self-limiting beliefs that came up. Consequently, my best friend has run over five marathons to date and has since experienced a physical body and health potential she didn’t know existed.
There’s a bit of back story that makes this story even more potent. Her father was a cancer survivor and when she was inspired to run a marathon by attending the Leukemia society charity event her “why” for running the marathon was very strong. While she wanted to become healthier, not ever get cancer and feel better about herself, she also wanted to run the marathon to raise money for cancer. She had extremely strong “what” and “why’s”. By focusing on those and not the details like how this will happen and when the Universe conspired to manifest it for her by giving her even more than she asked. Originally, she just wanted me to meet her at a marathon and run it with her. Instead, the Universe presented her with a job opportunity on the West Coast, she moved out, met the love of her life, got married, and had me and several other running partners.
Remember, the how will always get in the way of a good what.
Therefore, it’s your job to stay focused on the what and the why’s while allowing the Universe to take care of the how and when. And if your what and/or why’s are tied to service to others, I believe it amplifies your ability to manifest your dreams and desires.
While my best friend may have had doubts, she never once said “I can’t do this.” Sadly, this wasn’t the mindset of another friend of ours.
She repeatedly told us she couldn’t run because “I have bad ankles.” “In fact,” she would say “I’ve always had bad ankles. I’ve tried everything to fix them, and nothing will work.” So, we ran without her.
After some time, this friend with the “bad ankles” had so much FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) that she came to me privately and asked if I could do acupuncture on her ankles. After one 30-minute treatment, her ankles were miraculously cured. In fact, she has gone on to complete three marathons and three half Ironman races! By the way, my acupuncture was not a miracle. Rather, removing her limiting beliefs and negative self-talk is where the miracle, ability to run distances and achieve such things was hidden all along.
“Argue for your limitations and they are yours.” ~ Richard Bach from the book Illusions.
I’d like to share one more story before offering you steps you can take to bust through any lingering limiting beliefs and deliver you to a life beyond your wildest imagination. This story is more aligned with the limitations we place on ourselves around our careers and private practice.
A practitioner came to me saying that she wanted more patients. Quickly into our coaching session, we realized she didn’t want more patients (she was already seeing 50 patients per week) she wanted more money. As we explored further, she admitted that she secretly wanted to leave the field of Chinese medicine altogether – that she was burned out after nearly 20 years of private practice and seeing an average of 50 patients per week for over 10 years.
When I asked her what she loved to do in her spare time she shared with me that she enjoyed doing interior design for a friend of hers who rents out Airbnbs. She also shared with me that she and her husband had a nest egg of money and that a far-fetched dream of hers was to open her very own Airbnb and decorate it Zen style with a healing atmosphere. I asked why she didn’t do just that – buy a property that she could turn into a Zen-like healing sanctuary Airbnb and advertise it as such.
“I can’t leave private practice,” she said.
“Why not?” I asked.
“Well, um, I don’t know. Who will take care of my patients? They will never let me leave.”
That’s when I invited her to write her own permission slip to follow her dreams and open her own Airbnb. I explained that we often wait for someone else to give us permission. However, in reality, that awaited permission will never come from our patients, our partners, our parents, or our (fill in the blank). We must give ourselves permission.
So, how does the story end? She emailed me about a year later telling me that she referred her patients to a local practitioner, closed her practice, and is now working on her third Zen healing retreat-style Airbnb.
“I love my life! I am so over the top excited every day. Why didn’t I do this early?” She asked.
“It’s never too late and I’m thrilled to hear you so excited about your life again,” I said.
Maybe what you really want to do is slightly or completely outside of private practice. Please know that you can take the knowledge and experience you gained from schooling and practice with you to a new endeavor. There are so many opportunities for us, and they don’t all include private practice.
Teaching, product development, authoring, speaking, sharing your gifts on podcasts, becoming a wellness or well-being influencer, creating peaceful atmospheres, art, physical movement, creating wellness programs, starting a business that caters to healthcare professionals since you know their needs so well, and seriously, the list goes on and on.
What excuses do you hear yourself say? Do any of these sound familiar?
- It’s a pandemic, I can’t do anything
- I have kids, I’m too busy
- I’m too fat/skinny/tall/short/old/young/fill in the blank
- I’m not strong enough
- I can’t go 2 hours without eating
- I’ve tried everything
- My husband/wife/mom/dad/partner/kids won’t let me
- I don’t have enough time
- I’m too tired
- I could never give up dairy/sugar/my wine, etc.
- I’ve got to do (fill in the blank)
By the way, if you hear yourself say or think “I have to do” anything – I encourage you to really look at what you are forcing yourself to do, repeatedly, over time. This is a dangerous slippery slope, inevitably turns into burnout, and is worth an entire article in, and of, itself.
When this type of self-limiting language comes up for you (which it will for all of us) you might start by saying something like “thank you, but no thank you” or “cancel, clear, delete” or even “stop it” and chose to focus your thoughts and language on positive affirming statements like “what can I do to carve out more time for myself?” “What else can I try?” “Who has been able to do this and what did they do?” “What can I do to get more sleep, eat healthier, manage XYZ, etc..” The idea here is to look for and be part of a solution, rather than focusing on the problem.
Are you waiting for permission to finally do what you want to do or what your heart is calling you to do? If not now, when? What would it look like if you tried anyway?
I truly believe the Universe is like Nordstrom and Costco in the fact that if you don’t like what you get (or what you manifest for yourself) you can take it back. Seriously. My point with this analogy is that it is better to have tried and decided that you don’t like it than to wonder for your whole life “what if.”
Gary Vaynerchuk, a business thought leader, encourages people to spend time with 90-year-olds. When he surveyed hundreds of 90-year-olds, they all said that their biggest regrets were living their lives the way others wanted them to, not trying new things, and not doing what they really wanted to do in life. In other words, they regretted what they didn’t do more than anything they did do.
I could continue with stories and examples but I’m confident by now you get the point and can probably already identify where you might be holding yourself back.
Therefore, here are some strategies for breaking through limiting beliefs and entering a life about which you are totally and utterly excited:
Get clear on your intention/goal and remove any distractions. This means getting as specific as possible as to what you want to achieve and letting go of anything that is counterproductive, distracting, or taking up your energy. At one point in my life, I wanted to publish a book and I also wanted to raise two small children, run a consulting company, grow an online product business, and maintain a private practice. It got to a point where I couldn’t do it all and something had to go. I chose to create a passion and priority list where I listed all the above in order of joy level and let go of the last two items. That is when I let go of private practice and the product company so I could finish the book. Focus and Finish, I like to say.
If coming up with something crystal clear is difficult for you, as it is for many people, I have found that coming up with a theme is just as powerful. Examples: (Specific) I want a private practice where I see approximately twenty-five patients per week, with the majority being cosmetic acupuncture, work four days per week, have weekends off, and make over $150,000 per year with a net of over $100,000 per year. (Theme-based) I want ease and flow in my practice where I feel I have more than adequate time for myself while making an abundant income that allows me to pay all my bills, take vacations, spend money on myself and have savings in the end. (Specific) I want to get married to a person who has the following traits (fill in the blank with your checklist). (Theme-based) I want to fall madly in love with an available partner and finally feel the joy of a loving, supportive relationship.
Look at your mindset. What kind of mindset are you plugging into? Is it a growth mindset (where anything is possible with work) or have you adopted a fixed mindset that this is how it is, will always be, I was born this way, it can’t get better, I’m not a natural at this, etc.? For more on this, I highly recommend the book Mindset by Carol s. Dweck where she explains and proves with several examples how we can, in fact, improve ourselves in any capacity – career, relationships, business, sports/fitness, and parenting. The basic concept she offers is that if you nurture a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset you can accomplish almost anything. However, if you hold onto a fixed mindset, you will undoubtedly find yourself stopped in your tracks and possibly even giving up.
Let go of the when and how. When we allow the Universe the space to work on the when and how I have found that we often get even more than we have asked for. If you think about it, the when and hows are often out of your control anyway. The need to control is ego-based and will most likely block the Divine from assisting you. Stay focused on your what and why. I promise you the Universe will conspire to make it happen for you.
Set your expectations correctly. If you believe something is going to be a struggle, guess what? It will be. Too often our limiting belief lies in statements like “It’s going to be too hard” or “I don’t have enough time” or “I can’t… etc., etc.,”. Replace that kind of language with “What would this look like if it were easy?” “What would this look like if it got done with limited time?” “Whom else has been able to do this with a similar situation to mine and what did they do?” The idea here is to seek for a solution rather than feeding the problem. Intentionally transform your journey into one that is calm, flowing, and enjoyable (or however you would like it to feel).
Release the attachment and the importance of the outcome. This strategy takes muscle and like a muscle, it needs to be conditioned and strengthened over time. As stated before, the Universe most often gives us more than we ask for if we get out of our own way and allow it. By releasing attachment and the importance of our intention/goal we tell the Universe that we trust in the process of life and that we are open to receiving something greater.
Look for the signs. If you look for them, you will see messages from the Divine that your desire is coming your way. Sometimes those signs come in the way of someone else getting or achieving what you want. It is incredibly important that when/if this happens, you celebrate with those people on their achievement. In the end, we are all one and if you pinch yourself off from the collective, you are blocking yourself from receiving for yourself. You can also ask for a sign from the Universe that you are on the right path or that your desire is on its way.
Receive what comes to you. Allow good things to come to you without guilt, a feeling of needing to earn it, and/or obligation. The Universe may be testing you to see if you are ready. And when you do finally allow yourself to receive, receive with gratitude as this only attracts more of what you want to you.
Stay the course. Great things take time. It takes bamboo five years before it spouts out of the ground, but when it does, it grows incredibly fast. Be patient with yourself. If you are truly aligned with your heart’s calling, doing what you love, and working towards something for which you are passionate, time will drop away and become un-noticeable.
Speaking of passion, why am I so passionate about this topic and feel so strongly that we, as healthcare practitioners and lightworkers need to master this more than anyone else?
It’s because we are models for our patients and the whole world. People look to us to see if we will walk our talk and be the example that we want to see in the world. Our patients, our families, our communities, and even the skeptics of the world watch us see if what we are telling everyone is real, effective, and truly possible.
Since we affect the lives of so many people through our treatment sessions and the way we live our own lives it’s even more important that we first learn how to manage our own limited belief behavior so that we can help others do the same.
I am not claiming that this work is easy because it’s not. It takes work, dedication, time, patience, and sometimes even grace. But I promise you, it’s worth it.
If not now, when? What excuses start to come to the surface for you? What if you could eliminate those excuses? What would your life look like if you were living the life of your dreams? What would you be doing every day? How would you feel? How would you serve the world? What gifts would you share? When you are looking back on your life, what do you wish to see?
Sadguru, one of my favorite spiritual thought leaders often reminds us that life is short and we are mortal beings. Embracing our mortality can help us focus on what’s important and choose to live a life full of joy. He is quoted to say: “Once you are clear about what you are doing and why other people’s opinions will not matter.”
When it comes to going for your goals/dreams/desires/passions – be sacredly selfish. I mean this. No one is going to give you permission to pursue your dreams. You must give it to yourself. Yes, you need to do the work, stay the course, overcome limiting beliefs, and remove all obstacles to your joy. However, I promise that by taking these steps, you will ultimately find yourself living a life you absolutely love. I am right there with you, still working on these things as well. I’ve come to realize it’s a process and a lifetime pursuit. Wherever you are on this journey, please know that you’re not alone, you’ve got this, and that living a life beyond your wildest hopes and dreams is my wish for you, sincerely and whole-heartedly.