Did you know that it’s possible to be WORKING HARD towards a goal that you’re subconsciously resisting because deep down you are holding on to beliefs that are in direct conflict with that goal? And did you know that no matter what you do, that negative belief will keep showing up to sabotage your success?
For example, an ambitious career woman who believes the higher she goes, the greater her children’s well-being suffers will experience internal conflict every time she reaches for a promotion. Or, the woman who sincerely desires an intimate marriage but believes deep down that openness leads to being exploited or abused will struggle to lower her guard.
These types of beliefs are called limiting beliefs and they are not so easy to identify, or to even accept when brought to your attention. In this blog post, I highlight THREE subtle but very powerful negative beliefs that could be holding you back from your biggest successes in life. I have extracted these limiting beliefs from the story of the Man at Bethesda Pool in John 5.
Our first insight into this man is that he had been sick for thirty-eight years. Thirty-eight years?! Can you imagine dealing with one problem and not really making a headway for almost four decades. It might seem far-fetched, but it really is not. So many people are walking around today with unfulfilled desires and dreams that are almost as old as they are.
What would he have been feeling? What would have been the state of his heart?
Well, for one, he would have been intensely dissatisfied or even depressed because Proverbs 13:12 says when a dream seems to drag on and on, the delay makes the person susceptible to depression. Especially when so much effort is still being invested into trying to create that change but with nothing to show for it. When success is elusive and keeps getting pushed into the future, it comes to the point where the heart becomes sick.
Then, after thirty-eight years, without warning, Jesus shows up in his space offering the solution he had spent all those years searching for.
“Would you like to get well?” Jesus asked him.
Now, one might be forgiven for thinking that Jesus’ questions was not a very intelligent thing to ask. Would he like to get well? The man had been sick for almost forty years. He had been working very hard to get to that pool day in day out for decades hoping to get healed. Of course, he wanted to get well, right?
Check out what the man’s response was: “I can’t, sir.”
I can’t?! To the casual observer, this man was 100% committed to his success. Imagine what it would have cost him, as a crippled man, to get himself over to that pool every day. It would have required a tremendous amount of effort. Here he was, showing up, working hard, thinking that one day his luck would turn. But when the opportunity presented itself, the true state of his heart was revealed. His desire and his belief were completely at odds with each other!
And this brings me to the first limiting belief I will be highlighting.
1. You believe that as long as you keep showing up and working hard, success will come.
As we can see in this man’s story, is hard work alone responsible for success?
A study conducted in 2014 found that 73% of Americans believe that, on a scale of 1 to 10, hard work is a “10” when it comes to achieving success in life. This is how most people view success.
Have you ever worked hard at something and failed? Very likely. Maybe you busted your butt for that promotion but were passed over.
The Oxford dictionary defined hard work as: A great deal of effort or endurance.
If we go by that definition, the man at the pool would have scored a perfect “10”. For thirty-eight years he worked hard, showed up, but he never succeeded.
The woman hawking a tray of oranges in the punishing Lagos heat for ten to twelve hours a day but is struggling to feed her children. Is she not a hard worker? Would you call her vocation successful?
That man revealed the true state of heart when he uttered the words, “I can’t sir.” He didn’t really believe he could ever be healed and that belief kept him in that place for thirty-eight years.
The point is, hard work alone is not enough. You have to continually evaluate the state of your heart and ensure your heart truly believes what you’re pursuing can be yours.
Hard work without a heart that is aligned to your success does not produce success.
2. You believe you lack the resources you need to succeed
What was the man’s reason for his lack of success? He said, “I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.” In other words, I can’t do what those other guys are doing because I don’t have the resources at their disposal. Today it might sound something like, “They have the right connections.” “Her parents are rich.” “He went to an ivy league school.” “I have no business experience like they do.”
And by doing that, he completely disqualified himself from achieving that success. Have you ever noticed how throughout Scripture, God always asked people to use what was already in their possession to do whatever he was sending them to do? Those bible heroes used mundane, everyday resources that most would have discounted or belittled to accomplish great things.
Everything you need to accomplish your goals is already around you. Until you stop wishing for what other people have, you won’t really recognise them.
When you see people just like you succeeding, it’s very tempting to explain their success away and attribute it to some form of advantage that you don’t have. But what you’re simply doing is erecting a wall that you believe you will never scale.
3. You believe success is a destination rather than a journey
The final lesson I gleaned from this man’s story happened after Jesus had healed him. Before he’d even had the chance to settle in and enjoy his newfound freedom and success, Jesus walked up to him and issued a stern warning. He told him, “Now you are well; so, stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you.”
This man was at the peak of his success and this was Jesus’ advice to him? Imagine the day Jeff Bezos was announced as the richest man in the world, someone walking up to him and saying, “Hey, watch your step mate, because it’s downhill from here.” How about letting the guy even celebrate the momentous achievement? But Jesus knew that man was in danger of becoming lost in his success. He was essentially saying to him, Don’t rest on your laurels. This success is not permanent. You have to keep growing. You can’t go back to old ways of doing things. Because not only will you not maintain your success, you will end up in a worse state than where you started from.
I once read the story of the first people to reach the peak of Mount Everest. The two men, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay literally went where no other human had been. Try to imagine how they must have felt? The incredible sense of pride and accomplishment. The unbridled joy! It had taken seven weeks of gruelling labour to get there. But guess what, they could only stay at the summit for fifteen minutes because of the limited air supply. They had to keep moving. If they had stayed there for too long, they would have died.
Success is not a destination; it’s a journey that never really ends until God calls you home. If you believe, “Once a success, always a success,” that pattern of thinking will prevent you from taking the necessary steps to grow. And anything that stops grows begins to die.
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