Working against Self Limiting Beliefs

The A to F Model

The A to F model is a classical model used in working with self-limiting beliefs. The model has its roots in cognitive and behavioural psychology. It is widely used in sports psychology and executive coaching. The basic idea is that all events are neutral. Only our thoughts stir reactions. For example:

Action Belief Consequence

Your boss yells – I have done a bad job – You feel angry, depressed

Your boss yells – She is overworked – You feel compassionate

Consider the following illustrative example:


A. Activating event or situation

  • Giving a presentation in front of colleagues

B. Self-Limiting Belief(s) about the situation

  • I must perform exceptionally well or my colleagues will think that I am stupid

C. Consequences of these beliefs – emotional or behavioural

  • Anxiety, poor concentration, defensiveness

D. Disputing the Self-Limiting Belief(s)

  • Just because I want to perform exceptionally well, does it logically follow that I must?
  • Am I being realistic? If I don’t perform exceptionally well, will my colleagues really think that I am stupid?
  • What use is this idea to me? How is it helping me?

E. Effective new beliefs

  • Although I prefer to perform exceptionally well, it does not mean that I must
  • There is no evidence that my colleagues think or will think I am stupid if I do not perform exceptionally well
  • Holding on to this idea will make me more anxious and more likely to perform badly. I can feel concerned but not anxious about the presentation

F. New feeling

  • I am more confident, able to feel the presentation is a challenge rather than an ordeal

Remember, the three key questions to ask when working with self-limiting beliefs are:

1. Is it logical?

2. Is it realistic?

3. Is it helpful?


Fill in A, B, C, and F below.

A. Describe a troubling or difficult situation/event in your life

B. Detect what negative self-talk or self-limiting ideas or behaviours you are bringing to the situation

C. Specify your unwanted emotions. Write down what you felt like doing as well as what you did do or feel.

D. Dispute self limiting beliefs

E. Determine effective new beliefs

F. Nominate new effective feelings. How do you want to feel about the situation/event?

Try this belief by saying it to yourself:

“I am the creator of everything in my life, and I can create whatever I want.”

If this doesn’t feel true for you, what is it exactly that prevents you from creating your ideal life?

There are two categories of possibilities: external blocks and internal blocks:

1. External: real-world physical conditions and limitations that exist outside yourself; and

2. Internal: conflicting or limiting beliefs inside of you.

No matter what you want to create, both kinds of blocks and barriers appear in your way as soon as you make a commitment. Why? Because it is part of the automatic function of the mind. Whenever you decide to create something new, everything that was previously created that is in conflict with that new thing rises up and re-asserts itself.

This little-known law of creation is the cause of more failures than anything else. Blocks, barriers, and resistance are natural and can be expected.

One of the differences between successful people and those who are not successful is that successful people learn to handle beliefs with various strategies, such as inner work, persistence, work-arounds, clearing techniques, getting help, enrolling others, etc. People who are unsuccessful simply give up in the face of these natural, expected blocks, barriers, and resistance.

If you want to be successful, study what comes up in the process of accomplishing your goals, and learn techniques for dealing with them, one by one.  Like any skill, they require some learning and practice to get good at them.

A limiting belief is any internal belief or certainty that you are a particular kind of person, and there’s nothing to be done about it. For example, “I’ll never learn to play piano” is a belief that limits your possibilities. The truth is, anyone can learn to play piano. It just takes perseverance with lessons and practice. What stops people from becoming a person who can play piano is giving up somewhere along the way. This usually comes from another limiting belief: “I can’t,” “It’s too hard,” or “I’m not talented.”

If you want to create a particular condition in your life, such as a great relationship, greater financial security, or fulfilling your life purpose, you can do so – if you’re willing to confront and deal with your limiting and conflicting beliefs that get in the way and undermine your best efforts.

Whenever you hear yourself say, “That’s just the way things are,” or “That’s just how I am,” you can be sure that there are limiting beliefs just underneath the surface.

The next quiz will help you expose some of your own subconscious limiting beliefs. Limiting beliefs are not permanent – if you’re willing to do the digging required to root them out. Once you clear the old belief, you can then plant a new empowering belief. It’s like planting seeds in a garden.

First you clear the ground, then you plant the seeds in fertile ground so they can grow. Your beliefs create your attitude, your orientation toward life, your interpretations of events, and your experience of reality. If you transform your beliefs, you can transform your life.

Beliefs can be “tried on,” as you would try on an outfit at a clothing store. Some clothes fit you better than others, and every outfit makes you feel a certain way. Some clothing makes you feel comfortable, others uncomfortable. Some make you feel attractive, while others make you feel competent or successful. The same is true of beliefs.