There’s a story about a young boy who loved his goldfish.   He spent hours watching them swim in circles in their small glass fishbowl.  But sometimes he felt sad for the fish because their small fishbowl caused them to swim in tiny circles.

One day he filled his big bath tub and gently placed each of the goldfish in the tub, excited to watch them swim in their huge new home.   He was shocked to see what happened.  The goldfish continued to swim in their small circles even though they had a large new space in which to adventure.

When we heard this story we wondered about the invisible limiting beliefs that keep us human beings swimming in the same small circles.  It takes reflection and insight to identify beliefs and the impact they have on our lives.

Some beliefs are clearly visible. For instance, we are both Extroverts and believe we can establish rapport with just about anyone.

The real challenge is becoming aware of the invisible beliefs that run in the background of your awareness.  These invisible beliefs define your reality. They determine what you believe is possible or impossible.

Because of the way invisible beliefs dictate your thinking, you may not be aware of how much they impact how you relate to life.

Here’s a scenario to consider that might reveal a few of your invisible beliefs.  Listen for your interior conversation and see if you can detect statements that will point to some of your invisible beliefs.

  • At the last minute you are asked to speak at a professional luncheon the next day in place of your sick boss.  You will represent your organization at an important gathering of peers and influential people.   The presentation is 15 minutes.

What is the first thing you think? Reflect for a moment and write down your thoughts.  What do you whisper to yourself?  Was it “Oh, yes?” or was it “Oh, shoot?” Do you see it as a problem that raises anxiety or an opportunity to share something you are passionate about?    These whispers are clues to your invisible beliefs about yourself and the world.

Here’s one more scenario to consider:

  • It’s spring and your family has planned a picnic and time with good friends.  You’ve worked hard all winter and you’re looking forward to a sunny day of relaxation.  You wake and look out the window and see pouring rain.

What’s your first thought here?  Write it down. What hint of your invisible beliefs are you hearing?

Those whose beliefs are rooted and reinforced in a Victim Orientation usually see a change in plans as a problem that produces anxiety.  One example of an invisible belief may be “I can never count on anything turning out as planned.”  Such beliefs limit what they accept as possible.

On the other hand, those who adopt a Creator Orientation develop resilience and can see a change in plans as an opportunity to create something new (e.g. an exciting presentation or an opportunity to have friends over to play a game while it rains).  Their invisible belief could be “Give me a lemon and I’ll make lemonade!”

Engaging in a world of co-creating and being a Creator in your own life requires that you reflect upon, bring into the light of understanding, and choose to move beyond any invisible limiting beliefs that run your life (most of which are established early in one’s life).

The more aware you become of your invisible and limiting beliefs, the less likely you will stay constrained and, like the goldfish, swim in small circles.