Why do our beliefs hold us back from achieving fulfilment?

“I always believed that work was to be lived in sacrifice. When I first started, I was in a dark place for living by that principle. Now I have clarity, I feel capable and I’m not afraid.”

These are the words of someone I have recently helped. In the final stage of her process, she sent me this feedback. In fact, it is a common ritual at this stage of every process. Usually, people change. They change the way they feel, their relationship with others, decisions that put them at the helm of their professional life. It is from this internal change that the results emerge. New tasks, new positions, new companies, promotions or even a radical career change or the development of one’s own business. Although the external results are different, they all come from a common idea: internal change!

What do I mean when I mention internal change?

I mean beliefs, that is, what we believe in. And what we believe translates into the way we think and relate to life’s challenges. So, it influences our decisions and the way we place ourselves in relationships.

Notice the first sentence my client shared:

“I have always believed that work was to be lived in sacrifice”.

This was her belief throughout her professional career. She was not born with this belief. She acquired it by modelling it on her parents. Her parents lived their professional lives at great sacrifice to ensure they had enough money to raise their several children. To the point of demanding that they become independent and leave home at 18 and be self-sufficient. It was a very intense and striking experience.

So, complying with the demands from an early age, my client started her professional life with only one thing in mind: to make money to subsist at all costs, just as his parents had taught her!

She had always the same focus. Now, a few years down the road and with a family of her own, she found herself in a professional situation where her employer was constantly demanding because everything was urgent and important. She believed that to be worthy of her salary she would have to enter a ‘self-sacrifice’ mode, and so she did the possible and the impossible to respond. She only stopped when she had a burnout. Only then did she understand that perhaps the way she was dealing with her professional life might be a problem; the way she was positioning herself was bringing her financial stability, but emotional and physical instability. And so, it is for many of us. It’s only when we hit rock bottom that we stop to reflect that maybe we are approaching the issue the wrong way. Simply thinking about it, allow us to change our beliefs.

I went through that myself. I was brought up to assume that work is to be lived in sacrifice and to do what we are told without question. I tell this episode of my story in detail in the book I Want, I Can, and I Change Careers (download the free sample and check it out for yourself).

Can you see how much these kinds of beliefs affect us?

They are the reason we deal with and endure situations that are harmful to us.

This belief leads people to live for years in situations of great effort and sacrifice. However, there are many other beliefs that affect us and have been instilled in us:

  1. If I say what I think, I will be punished and therefore I cannot speak much or I can only say what others want to hear,
  2. Security comes from outside, from what the job market asks for and I must go after it. Therefore, I will be happy!
  3. To have a successful career, I must be promoted frequently and get to the top!
  4. I can only look forward to a promotion or a professional ascension if I know how to do my technical work very well and if it is recognised,
  5. I can’t change now, this is bad!

And the list could go on…

From this list it may be clear how these beliefs may be negatively affecting you. But it may not be obvious, so I will describe the signs associated to the beliefs I have listed above:

  1. The person keeps relevant contributions to themselves, often later realising that they were right. But because they tend to inhibit self-affirmation, they are less likely to be promoted. On the other hand, they live in daily contention because they have different opinions. They often disagree with others, feeling so misaligned that they end up deciding to leave.
  2. Going after ‘what’s on’ is the choice of many for financial security. With this choice, they ignore the person they are and the interests they have and find themselves trapped in a daily life that is totally demotivating and apathetic. They feel like real automatons, without proactivity or willingness to work, spending most of the time trying to live life exclusively on holidays and weekends, trying to forget the daily life they lead.
  3. Many times, a person believes that they will only be happy and recognised as a success story when they reach the top. So many people told me “I reached the top and there was nothing there!”
  4. This belief comes from the school educational model. If we study, we will have good grades. When you work, it is not like that. Of course, skills are important, but if you expect that just because you do your technical job well you are guaranteed it, beware and be prepared to deal with frustration when a colleague who is not so competent is promoted instead of you. To get the results we want in our career we need to develop many more dimensions than just knowing how to do the technical work. Knowing how to manage interpersonal relationships and gain the trust of others is crucial if you want to have new possibilities.
  5. Here you assume that if the market is bad and you have a job now you won’t be affected. The truth is that you are probably already in a situation that has not served you for a long time, but for the sake of financial stability you are choosing to live in sacrilege until you see it. Without realising it, you are running the risk of feeling increasingly difficult to cope with the current situation, with a propensity to become reactive and toxic towards others around you. Also, I want to remind you that there are no jobs for life!

I think you get the idea, don’t you?

We all have beliefs that limit our ability to be fulfilled professionally and achieve what we want. If you want to change your professional life, you will have to replace those beliefs by others that enhance the results you want.

How can you do this?

The first step is to write down exactly what you want to achieve in your professional life. That’s right. Write it down. After a few days re-read it to see if that’s what you really want and adjust until you’re totally comfortable with what you’ve described. There are many studies that show that the probability of achieving what you want increases when you are clear and describe it exactly. It’s a way of being conscious and intentional in our choices

The second step will be to list all the limiting beliefs that will inhibit you from achieving what you want. Or put another way, what you think about yourself and the situation that prevent you from achieving what you want.

For each of these beliefs/thoughts answer the following questions in writing:

  1. To what extent will this belief enable me to achieve what I want?
  2. Can the person from whom I learnt this belief be taken as a role model in the goals I want to achieve?
  3. What are the costs and damage I will incur emotionally, physically, financially and in terms of relationships if I don’t get rid of this belief?

If you take enough time to do this exercise, you will realise how important it will be to let go of these beliefs.

The third step will be to replace each of your limiting beliefs with empowering beliefs.

If like the person I mentioned at the beginning, you have the belief that work is to be lived sacrificially, you can describe what new belief you want to adopt to counteract the previous one. For example, ‘it is possible to live work with gratification and interest’.

To start believing in this new belief you need to collect evidence that this is possible, through stories of others living according to this belief. On that note, listen to our Podcast which is full of testimonies aligned with this positive belief.

Another thing you can do is identify people who have already achieved what you desire and described in your goals. Seek out those people and ask them about their belief that leveraged those results.

In summary,

If you are not getting the results you want for your life, you need to call out the beliefs you have been regulating yourself by. That’s where the change begins. In you!

Only after making essential changes within yourself, is it relevant to address the outside world and manage the various variables present and never the other way around.

That is what is called redesigning your life from the inside out!


  • “Awaken the giant within. How to take immediate control of your mental, emotional, physical and financial destiny.” Anthony Robbins.
  • “Quero, Posso e Mudo de Carreira”. Lourdes Monteiro and Alexandra Quadros.
  • Podcast “Quero, Posso e Mudo de Carreira”. Lourdes Monteiro and Alexandra Quadros