We all fall short of our goals, sometimes.  

Humans are imperfect and things come up – that’s nothing to be ashamed of.  But what about that person who keeps having the same hurdle?  For that person, there may be a bigger issue than just, “things happen”.

There are tons of books on limiting beliefs and psychological paradigms.  I’ve explored this a lot and been amazed with what I’ve found.  Whether it be in psychological journals, in the work of Debbie Ford, or even a FastCompany article, there are tons of scientific sources to reference about this work.  Many major universities are even starting positive psychology programs.  So what the heck is this stuff?

Limiting beliefs, paradigms, stories, or whatever you want to call them, are the systems you hold near and dear to your heart.  When I talk about them, I’m referring to the ideas you formed at a young age about your place within the world around you, based on things that you saw.  

These imprints are formed because of our tendency to look to model behaviors.  What I mean by that is when we are children we often don’t have the ability to discern fact from fiction.  When something big happens in our lives, we look to those around us to show us how to respond.  We draw our own conclusions, which are not always the absolute truth.  

Here’s an example:

When I was young my dad was very successful.  He worked long hours at a big company, traveled a great deal, and always was able to support us.  As a result, I was fortunate enough to have a great deal of privilege, whether that be the camps I was able to attend or the vacations we would take.  After a long day he would be so tired.  I would often hear my mom say things like, “your dad works so hard to provide this great life for us”.  It was true.  I so appreciated his efforts, and knew that his hard work made our life possible.

As a result of this all, though, the story I told myself was that success=hard work.  Success=pushing.  Success=long hours and being really tired afterwards.  I thought the only path to success was to work in a traditional 9-5, where I would continue to progress and receive incremental promotions and raises until I “made it”.

This was all good and well, until I realized I didn’t want that life.  I realized that I enjoyed my work in advertising, but wasn’t completely fulfilled by it.  I kept my 9-5 as I started my own career coaching business because of this story that success=corporate.  I was worried that if I was fully committed to only making my income from work that was not in a traditional company, I wouldn’t be successful.  The fact is, I was more committed to the safety of a 9-5 than to pursuing my passions.  

Until I unpacked this story, I wasn’t able to make the leap into being fully reliant on my business, Empowered Achievers.  Now I am well on that path and so happy I made the choices I did because I’m finding more success through entrepreneurship than I had through corporate.  

Overturning the belief that corporate isn’t the only path to success took some time, though.  I had to think about all of the people who are successful outside of the 9-5. The Tony Robbins of the world, the Oprahs, the authors and enthusiasts.  There are plenty to pick from, but I wasn’t focusing on these people from the get-go.  I was focusing on looking at success as only those who had climbed the corporate ladder, so of course I couldn’t see myself there.  I looked at this belief as fact, and it slowed me down.  Once I challenged this belief, I was able to re-write that story.

I share that long example to provide a bit more insight into beliefs and just how sneaky they can be.  The truth is, if you hold a belief then you consider it to be fact…even if it isn’t.  You formed your beliefs at a young age and before you knew any better, so of course these fear based stories are confusing. 

This all ties into how you may be blocking yourself. 

When we talk about blocks, we talk about the gaps in your ideal versus your reality. Consider your ideal as the situation that you want to be in, and your reality as the situation that you are actually in. This gap shows for everyone in some way.  For example, if you say that you want to make time for exercise, your personal volunteering, and friends, yet each job you take “requires 12 hour work days”, the issue may not be with the job.

If your “ideal state” has a gap from your reality time and time again, regardless of whether you change the situation you’re in, then you may be the biggest constant. You may have a larger underlying belief that is driving you towards this situation, and you have something else that you’re more committed to than what you say you want.  


This is not to say that all is lost, but this a reminder that if a pattern is showing up time and time again, then there is a lesson that you need to learn.  We learn the lessons we need exactly as we need to be learning them, so if something keeps “coming up”, then maybe it’s time to start listening.  

I ran a training this week to help unpack some of these beliefs in regards to self-imposed pressure.  Check it out here.  

I do this work with all of my 1×1 clients, because if you keep running into the same stumbling block then there is a belief driving your behavior. I know what a game changer it can be to step out of the moment and figure out what is causing you to show these bad behaviors, because this work has changed the life of my clients and even myself.  I couldn’t feel more strongly about the urgency in which you must start to do this work.  It is so, so, so dang important, so you’d better start now.


  • Chris Castillo

    Career Coach and Founder of Empowered Achievers

    Chris is the founder of Empowered Achievers, where she works as a career coach helping ambitious women craft careers that they love.  Originally coming from the corporate advertising industry where she worked on clients like Google, YouTube, and Expedia, she traded in the agency life for the world of talent development and culture. She transformed her own career into something she loved, and is passionate about getting rid of the "Sunday Scaries" for each one of her clients, too.