How much do you stand in your own way, undermining your alignment? Alignment is not about falling in step or conforming to others’ expectations, but rather becoming more of yourself, connecting with who you really are—and in so doing, transcending what you thought were the limits of your capabilities.

Take a moment to ask yourself if you do stand in your own way.

Self-limitations—often due to beliefs or fears that have turned into behavior patterns and habits—throttle our ability to stretch towards our full potential.

As Henry Ford masterfully remarked, “there is no man living who isn’t capable of doing more than he thinks he can do.”

One of the CEOs I regularly coach constantly argued with his colleagues. Robert was respected within his company for his competence and drive, but his mistrust of others and his propensity to blow a fuse obscured his vision, weakened his standing, drained his energy, and undermined his impact. Even the words he used to describe his work-life spoke of constant battle.

Does Robert’s situation sound familiar? Can you think of habits or behavior of your own that might not be serving you?

We all have patterns that run on loops throughout our lives, like a scratched vinyl record. Sometimes we can see that we’re standing in our own way, but we don’t know how to change. More often than not, we are not even aware of it in the first place. They live within us for years without getting in our way until we suddenly find ourselves in a situation where they do.

To move past your self-limitations and become aligned, you first understand where these self-limitations come from. Our brains are constantly manufacturing meaning. Often without our conscious awareness, our brains are busy absorbing, interpreting, and connecting the stimuli that our senses collect.

All kinds of associations, fears, and beliefs get planted in our minds early on, and they strengthen over time. These beliefs, often buried in our subconscious, influence our behavior like an invisible puppeteer pulling the strings.

In addition to fears, old beliefs about ourselves, fossilized into false truths that remain unchallenged, can be self-limiting. Do you find yourself saying or thinking that you’re terrible at, say, drawing or singing, or perhaps that you have a great analytical mind but little imagination?

One of my coaching client’s entire career had been in the nonprofit sector, and she’d become the CEO of her organization. Yet, she struggled to advance her views during budget discussions with her board of directors because she was convinced that she did not have a brain for money. What she took as a fact about her own abilities was actually a largely untested and outdated belief. Growing up in a family of engineers, she’d convinced herself that she was “bad” at math, tallying her abilities against her siblings’. She’d later extended that belief to finance without any corroborating evidence. Now that belief was limiting her potential.

How can we get past our self-limitations? It starts with awareness. The first step is to shine a light on these hang-ups, so we can identify them. For instance, it was difficult for Robert to see that he was trapped in constant conflict.

Can you say with absolute confidence that you’re fully aware of your self-limitations? Probably not. Mapping out your life often reveals these patterns of self-limiting behavior that we all pick up along the way. A neutral observer is also much better positioned to help you identify these patterns, then unlock what hides behind them.

When you become aware of your source of conflict, you gain the freedom to let go of behaviors and beliefs that limit your evolution. You open a door, and you have a choice to make.

What behavior patterns would you like to change?
Of whom or what do they remind you?
What is your worst fear? Where does it come from?
What are your beliefs? What proof confirms that they are true?
What do you want to get better at?


  • Hortense le Gentil

    Author of "Aligned: Connecting Your True Self with the Leader You’re Meant to Be," and Executive Leadership Coach

    Hortense le Gentil is a world-renowned executive leadership coach, speaker and author. She guides CEOs and senior executives on their journey from hero leaders to human leaders.  Author of “The Unlocked Leader: Dare to Free your Own Voice, Lead With Empathy and Shine Your Light in the World” (Wiley, September 26, 2023) and Aligned: Connecting Your True Self with the LeaderYou’re Meant to Be (2019), Le Gentil’s thought leadership is informed by 30 years in business, working across industries—including media consulting and advertising – and as an entrepreneur. She is a certified Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder CenteredTM coach, a member of MG100 Coaches, and has been ranked #5 on the Global Gurus list by World Management Global Gurus.  She is a contributor to Harvard Business Review and ThriveGlobal, and has been featured in Forbes, Fast Company, Inc. and Business Insider.