On this episode, we delve into the unconscious mind and the concept of “limiting beliefs.” It’s the idea that our unconscious mind can hold us back without us even realizing it. So, how do we stop something we’re not even conscious of? The good news is that it is possible, and while it does take hard work, the steps themselves are pretty simple.
This limiting beliefs stuff may sound a little new-agey. I’m a big fan of data and looking at the facts at hand. For me, turning those limiting beliefs to unlimiting beliefs is fascinating because of the science behind it. This isn’t some magic act.
My guest on episode #168 is Karen Brown, author of Unlimiting Your Beliefs. Karen is a mentor and coach who works with people to uncover what might be impeding their progress in work and life. Often, our unconscious thoughts and actions are the source of this impediment.
One of the most interesting turns in the conversation for me was when Karen talked about her experience preparing to be an Ironman Triathlete. Her limiting belief had told her for 28 years that she shouldn’t even be thinking about this. She was not a good swimmer. That was a big hurdle. It was limiting. So, she unlimited her belief, telling herself out loud, “I am a good swimmer.” I asked if she suddenly became a good swimmer. As you might imagine, it took more than that. But giving herself that unlimiting belief propelled her to action. She got a swimming coach. She practiced. And soon enough, she was a good swimmer.
Our conversation is a fascinating look at the unconscious (or subconscious) mind and how it works. Listen to learn more about how to uncover the unconscious limits we put on ourselves and what to do to break that pattern.
Karen Brown is CEO of Velocity Leadership Consulting, a Denver-based business psychology executive and coaching company. With more than 20,000 business coaching hours under her belt, she founded Velocity Leadership Consulting in 2012, after finding her own divine potential while training for and finishing the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.
What You Will Learn in This Episode:
- The science behind limiting beliefs and how to retrain your brain
- How to make unlimiting beliefs natural and habitual
- Asking the right questions to uncover the limiting beliefs of your unconscious mind
- Why writing out your limiting beliefs is so important, and why speaking the opposite out loud is just as important
- How the skills used in unlimiting your beliefs in one area will have a broad positive impact personally and professionally
- How to counteract the most common and pernicious limiting belief: I’m not good enough
- Why our unconscious beliefs and our conscious goals are sometimes at cross-purposes, and what to do about it
- How, like most things, you’ve got to use it to lose your ability and reshape limiting beliefs
- One way to get yourself into the unlimiting mindset: name and write down just one of your achievements
The Golden Nuggets:“It’s very simple and powerful when you tell your unconscious mind what you want. Then its job is to go out and get it.” – @ReadKarenBrown Click To Tweet “An unlimiting belief doesn’t have to be true in the moment. When I first started telling myself ‘I am a great swimmer,’ I was not. Repeating an unlimiting belief will guide you toward the actions that will make it true.” – @ReadKarenBrown Click To Tweet “We've got to tell the unconscious mind what we want. So, every single time a limiting belief comes into your mind, you’ve got to verbalize the opposite. Out loud. You are retraining your brain to unlimit instead of limit.” – @ReadKarenBrown Click To Tweet “As you identify limiting beliefs and counter them, you can develop the habit of unlimiting belief. You can switch it so much more quickly because now, you have a structure as you establish new patterns.” – @ReadKarenBrown Click To Tweet
Subscribe to Build A Better Agency!
Ways to contact Karen Brown:
It doesn’t matter what kind of agency you run, traditional, digital, media buying, web dev, PR, whatever your focus, you still need to run a profitable business. That’s why Agency Management Institute started the Build a Better Agency Podcast a few years ago. We help agencies just like yours, grow and scale your business, attract and retain the best talent, make more money and keep more of what you make. Bringing his 25 plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.
Hey everybody, Drew McLellan here with another episode of Build a Better Agency. Now one of the reasons why I love the work that we get to do at Agency Management Institute is quite honestly, because I love hanging out with agency owners and agency leaders. You are a committed group of people, you are overachievers, you are funny and smart. And yet, I think for all of you, every one of us has something that we want to get done. We want to write a book, we want to exercise more, we want to build our business, whatever it may be, there are things that we want to do that seem like they are a little out of our reach.
So no matter how much of an overachiever we are, no matter how hard we work, just sort of feels like there are some dreams that aren’t meant to be had. And quite honestly, what I have seen over time is I have seen so many agency owners figure out a way to get those limiting beliefs, to get that idea that you can’t work four days a week and still be successful or you can’t actually take two weeks off and not check your phone or you can’t double the size of your agency or you can’t stop smoking, lose weights, lower your blood pressure, whatever it is, whatever your health goals are. I’ve seen enough of you do it and I know it’s possible. And I know that there is something in all of us that we have to figure out a way to tap.
Which is why I was super excited to invite Karen Brown to the podcast. So let me tell you a little bit about Karen, because she’s a little bit of an unusual guest for us here at Build a Better Agency. Interestingly, she works with a lot of agency owners and agency leaders in her coaching business, but that’s really not her background. So she is a coach and an advisor and also an author. And she helps high achieving type A superstars in their professions and in their personal lives actually accomplish even more. And she does that by helping them understand their unconscious mind and their conscious mind and how those things work together and sometimes do not work together.
So Karen’s written a great book called Unlimiting Your Beliefs, and has really dialed into the idea of that our body and our mind have these patterns. And some of them are from our childhood and some of them are from our professional life. But in many cases, we’re unaware of those patterns, particularly what’s going on in our unconscious mind. And she’s going to give you some stats that are going to blow your mind, no pun intended, about how much of our brain we actively use and how much of that is at the conscious level and how much of that is at the subconscious or unconscious level. And how we can tap into that. And how do we identify when there is conflict between our conscious and unconscious mind. How do we identify those conflicts and resolve them so we can actually accomplish what we want to get done.
And so I suspect this conversation is going to be crazy fast and it’s going to go in some places that normally on the show, we don’t really go to, we say pretty pragmatic and practical. And I think this is going to be a little deeper than sometimes we go and I hope you’ll stick with us, I hope you will stay. And if you find yourself dismissing some of this or thinking, oh, that Drew has gone off the deep end this time. I would challenge you that it seems to me that that’s your unconscious mind telling you don’t listen, don’t listen, you might learn something I don’t want you to know.
I will say this, I’ve read most of the book, I am going to finish the book this weekend. And I’m excited about it. There are some things that I want to do that I have been not able to get to yet. And I’m excited that with some of the techniques. It’s all science based. It’s all very practical and pragmatic once you get to it, you just have to get to sort of the steps of doing it. And there’s some stuff I want to get done.
So I promise I’m going to report back to you probably in a solo cast. What it is that I’m going to tackle after I finish the book and you’re going to hold me accountable to it and I will share with you how I’m doing in terms of getting those limiting beliefs out of the way so that I can accomplish even more for myself and my family and for all of you. So I’m super excited about this interview, I think you’re going to find it fascinating. And so I’m excited to dive in, so let’s do that. So without further ado, Karen, welcome to the show. Thanks so much for joining us.
Thanks for having me on Drew, excited to be here.
I am so excited to have this conversation. Because, I’m about halfway through the book. And it’s brilliant. And I just, I think what you teach and talk about is so critical. So my listeners are successful people, they’ve got successful agencies, they’re growing and building teams. But I think all of them at some point or another, and myself included, I think at some point, we sort of feel like we’ve reached our bandwidth, we have nothing more to do, maybe we’ve crossed the four-oh line, and we’re sort of feeling a little tired. And so I think your book’s message, not only is it intellectually interesting, but I find it sort of inspiring that I do have more gas in my tank than I thought I did. And I can do more things. So I’m super excited to have this conversation.
Me too, man, this is the juicy stuff.
This is the juicy stuff. So talk a little bit about our brain and the conscious mind versus the unconscious mind and what happens in those two places. And some maybe a misperception or two that we have about that.
Sure. All right. So for the sake of our conversation today, let’s just agree that the conscious, sorry, the unconscious brain is the same as the subconscious because I get that question out of the gate a lot. Are those two different? Yes, in scientific terms, they are different, but we’re not going into a science class today. So I like to use the term unconscious mind and subconscious mind just for our conversation today means the same. All right. So the unconscious mind is actually the primary driver of everything we think and do in a day. And it’s also responsible for all learning, behavior and change. In fact, this is a staggering statistic that only 0.008% of all daily thoughts and actions are conscious.
That’s crazy. That’s a crazy number.
When you think about how crazy and busy and noisy your brain is, it makes you wonder, wow, what is the unconscious sound like, it must be insane.
Actually no, the unconscious is a very simplistic yet powerful machine. And actually, the analogy I like to use for the unconscious mind is caveman brain. Because it is so simplistic, it thinks like a caveman, but the processing speed is faster than anything we know up or can measure.
So how do we tap more into that part of our brain? Because it sounds like we’re not using one of the most powerful parts of our brain as well, we haven’t trained it or we’re not tapping into it. So how do we go about getting there? And what gets in the way of that?
I’m so glad you asked. First of all, what gets in the way of tapping into it is this pattern and this premise of thinking consciously. Well, I’m making a decision to do this, I’m making a decision to grow my agency or expand my services. And so that’s what we’re going to do. And here’s how we’re going to do it. Now, what I often find in working with clients in these businesses is that what happens is the unconscious mind and what’s going on in it, say unconscious values about your career, that’s a big one that gets in the way because if you’re pursuing something at a conscious level, say growth or expansion, it is in direct conflict with say your first top five or top three unconscious career values and say your number one is something like creativity or doing phenomenal or pioneering work, then those two things are going to be in conflict and you’re going to find yourself holding back from and probably not getting the results you want on expansion or growth or both.
So how do you figure out what your unconscious mind is thinking? So you can align?
Yes, you can align. And the first thing, the first way that we get a glimpse of what’s going on in the unconscious mind is to ask questions. So we ask questions like when we go through limiting beliefs, we’ll ask a question, which is, what is stopping me from achieving X? So whatever your goal or dream is, ask yourself, what’s stopping me from achieving that goal or dream? And then it’s amazing what happens. Now, your first response, sort of reactionary response is usually, well, I don’t know. And stick with it. Because keep asking yourself that question. Because the answers all live in our unconscious mind. We’re just not used to asking ourselves questions like that, we’re actually used to the other pattern, the conscious pattern, which is I think of something, I make a decision, I think of something, I make a decision.
And then we want to get an action about that. That’s all conscious kind of stuff, but it’s all being driven from the unconscious. So it just makes sense then, when you ask a question that’s actually answered in the unconscious, then you’re going to be able to get into action and achieve it more quickly and easily because now you’re self aware of what’s going on. Now, there’s sometimes then, if there is a conflict somewhere that, that awareness is just step one and then we’ll need to do something to resolve it, that’s actually the relatively easy part. The tougher part is A being blind that you don’t know what’s going on and B not choosing to do anything once you become aware.
So I know that you’ve been doing this work for a long time. But in the book, and I know in some of the other appearances you’ve made, one of the focal points of your story is the fact that you really mastered all of this stuff when you decided that at the age of, I think 46, you were going to compete in an Ironman competition, right?
Yes, yes, actually, it had been a 28 year dream of mine that during that whole time, I was very outwardly successful. I climbed the corporate ladder, became an executive in different companies, different industries, and had all the trappings of success. And I think, like you said earlier, probably felt like I was nearing the big four-oh or I was at it. And I was at my bandwidth. And thought, well, what else is there, but the whole time I had this nagging feeling that was growing deep inside of me. And it was always related to thinking about doing the Ironman World Championships as an amateur athlete.
And what I found was, I was holding myself back that entire time through something called limiting beliefs. When I would say, well, the folks that compete in the Ironman are elite and I am just a recreational athlete, how could I possibly get there and compete? And that is how a limiting belief works. You think of it, you come up with whatever the limitation is, it comes straight from your unconscious, because think caveman brain. In caveman times, our unconscious mind had to keep us protected, it had to keep us alive from threats, right?
And so that’s actually the default pattern of your unconscious mind. When you think about doing something big or scary or audacious or that you haven’t done before, your unconscious pattern comes in and says, “Oh, no, no, that might be harmful to us, that might kill us.” Like an Ironman might have, right. And nope, nope, we’re not going to be able to do that. And it quickly looks for a previous pattern, maybe an experience you’ve had that it thinks is the same. And then says, “Oh, well see, this thing is just like that thing and you’re not going to be able to do it.”
Interesting. So I have to guess, I would guess that I’m typical in some ways of my listeners. But I would have to guess that the most common limiting belief that my audience has, and probably most business owners have is, either there’s not enough time. I don’t have enough time to do this. I don’t have enough time to exercise every day. I don’t have enough time to do the new business things I need to. I don’t have enough time to actually mentor my employees. How does somebody wrestle that limiting belief down to the ground?
That’s a great question. I get this all the time. Right, pun intended. First of all, the conscious thing to be aware of here is that, yes, we all have 24 hours in a day and we have enough time for everything we actually want to do and oftentimes, it’s just finding either the things that we need to say no to that are taking the time away from what we really want to do, which I found in my journey, or it’s doing it in a more efficient manner, which we can go through that in a moment, which is how to effectively, you said mentor, but really coach team members. Because once you switch into a different pattern there, man, you tap into people’s natural motivation, their engagement and you will spend far less time mentoring them and pushing them to do things, you will ignite them and then just literally get out of their way. It’s really cool.
So with regard to limiting beliefs in time and the unconscious mind, first of all, remember that question I went through earlier, which is actually part of a scientific technique and the way, the scientific way that you can conquer and transform limiting beliefs, right, because that’s really all that’s going on there. It’s a limiting belief that you’re just getting caught in that thought pattern. So the first thing to do is, and we have a document for this, so and you can also just write it on a piece of paper. But it’s important to write this out with that old fashioned device called a pen and a piece of paper.
What. There’s not an app for this?
No, there’s not an app for this. Because this is one of the gateways to the unconscious mind. Now remember, the unconscious mind is caveman brain, okay. So the gateways to it are like antiquated or old fashioned, old school.
That’s the thing, right? So writing things out, this is why journaling is oftentimes so effective for people. Also, asking yourself questions and writing down the answers that come up for you, capturing them, writing them out. Also, visualizing what something will look, feel and sound like to achieve. That these are all doorways into the unconscious mind, okay. So for limiting beliefs, basically, we’re just going to use a sheet of paper and we’re going to ask ourselves that beginning question, what is stopping me from achieving X?
And if your first answer, and this is a key point, capture everything as you think of it in the exact way you think of it. Now, everyone out there is probably an agency owner and/or on a some sort of leadership capacity. And so you guys are used to marketing things. Marketing spin there.
No, just write it down exactly as it comes out of your mind, okay, and in the same order. Capture it. And if the number one thing is I don’t have enough time, okay, that is a limiting belief. Because when you think things like, I don’t have enough time, money, talent, skill, support, those are usually the top five, that is, in essence, a limiting belief, okay. So capture all of the limiting beliefs that come out. And when I did this, and it was related to the Ironman. First of all, I thought that my personal dream of the Ironman had nothing to do and no effect on or impact on my professional life or performance.
And I couldn’t have been more wrong. I thought they were two separate things. And actually, they were inextricably linked. And once I tapped into this personal dream of mine of the Ironman and started growing and developing and using these scientific techniques, I got so much better in my professional performance. It was staggering. So those are inextricably linked.
So talk a little bit more about that. Was that just because once you learned how to tap into your unconscious mind because of your personal goal, then you were able to do that professionally as well?
Yes, it was a method of expansion. And specifically regarding time, because this is such a big thing, especially for the folks in your tribe and me at the time. So what I found and having to go through this, first of all, when you take on an Ironman, you have to do two to three workouts a day, six days a week.
It’s not just I want to get my 10,000 steps in.
Right. So two to three workouts a day. And I also was running an office or an agency just like your listeners. So I still had to perform and meet all of my daily professional responsibilities. I wasn’t able to shift and work later or work longer or work on the weekend, because on the weekend, I had longer workouts to do. And by the time I was done with them, I was on the couch sleeping.
I can’t even imagine.
What I had to do was figure out a better way. So the time I had was finite, but I had to still do these things. And I had to figure out a way to do it. What I had to learn was to identify the things that I had to say no to, those things that I was probably wasting time on that more than wasting time, they were eating up the critical time that I needed to achieve my goal or dream.
Like back then I would watch TV at night. Now I know, now we have all these other devices and Hulu and all this other stuff. But it’s essentially the same thing. Right? I often call my cell phone a dream killer. Because it’s all a bunch of distractions that come through that thing, right, either it’s social media or it’s notifications, about messages or something like that, or it’s a place for entertainment. Well, in essence though, all of those are distractions, because they take time. And so when you identify what are the things that are distracting you the most and specifically getting in your way of achieving what you really want, it’s a powerful thing to say no to them.
Like I literally during that time, and this was the first time I learned this, and maybe for your listeners, this will be the first time they learn it, I learned that my cell phone had an off button. Or there was an off setting for notifications. Or I could turn off my apps. I mean, just like this or I could even just choose to pick one or two times a day to respond to incoming messages, emails, texts, phone calls, whatever. And I could set up auto responses that said, hey, really appreciate you getting touch, I will be returning your message during this time and this time, and then I would stick to it, right.
What it also forced me to do was the time that I was working, I was so much more highly focused. Because I didn’t have extra time to waste. I didn’t have the luxury of extra time. And what I found was, when I did this, I found the limiting belief. And then I actually went to work on it. I had much more time than I ever realized before. In fact, I ended up having extra time even though I was having to complete all of these workouts and everything to get to the Ironman.
I think a lot of people when they get to the, I want to do an Ironman or let’s ratchet it back for somebody whose goal perhaps is not as lofty, I just want to exercise three times a week, because I’ve got a lot of agency owners that it’s a high stress job and it’s something that they want to do, and they just can’t find the time for it, or I want to spend more time with my kids or whatever it is. But when they get to the limiting belief of I don’t have enough time, they get stuck.
And so therefore they don’t keep moving, they dismiss the goal or the idea as impossible. So I just want to make sure I’m understanding you. So what you’re saying is the trick to get into this is to keep pushing past the I don’t have time and say what does that really mean? Where how am I spending my time? What’s eating up my time? Or whatever the limiting belief is, I’m not smart enough, I’m not skilled enough, whatever it is, it really is pushing past or have that crust of the limiting belief and finding out what’s underneath, right?
Let me dial this in, because this is a great question. All right. So when we came up with that limiting belief, the number one being, I don’t have enough time. Then what we do to scientifically transform that limiting belief is then we go to the right hand side of that same piece of paper where we captured that limiting belief and write down the opposite of it. So I have more than enough time, okay. Now, here’s where it gets really fun. Because basically what we need to do to transform or conquer a limiting belief, to open up our unconscious mind, to be able to see these opportunities for time that we really do have that we’re just, that we need to say no to, we’ve got to tell the unconscious mind that that’s what we want.
Because right now, it’s just holding us back by saying, I don’t have enough time. I don’t have enough time. See, you don’t have enough time, right. Here’s what you do. Capture that piece of paper and that limiting belief and carry it with you every day. Now, when you catch yourself thinking that limiting belief, stop what you’re doing and verbalize, and I don’t care where you are. There’s no reason this can’t be fun. Verbalize.
Or freak out a crowd.
Yeah, exactly. It is an icebreaker, that’s for sure. And you’ll get some funny looks as well. Like I said, go with it. Have fun. You guys are marketing and advertising people. All right, so stop what you’re doing right then and verbalize the unlimited belief, which is, I have more than enough time. Now what you do by doing that is you are changing, you’re actively changing that habitual thought pattern in your unconscious mind. And you’re literally telling it, I do have enough time. Then what happens is, your unconscious mind will start identifying these ways that you can get more time.
Honestly, take it from me, I’ve gone through this, a ton of other clients have gone through this as well using the same exact technique. And it works like gangbusters with everything. So what happens is because you told your unconscious mind this is what I want and I have enough time. Then these great ideas bubble up. It then like serves them up to you