People often associate change with adding something: starting a new diet, picking up a fitness routine, finding 10 extra minutes in the morning for meditation, taking on extra at work for that promotion. One thing we often get wrong about change, however, is that another very important part of the process is what we let go of.

When my clients are considering starting a new goal, I try to always ask the question, “what can you let go of to make space for this new goal?”. Often, we find ourselves in situations where we keep adding because we think we need to – we feel a sense of guilt associated with letting something go. But to maintain balance and prevent burnout, I would suggest using the rule of letting one thing go when you add something new.

Another aspect of letting go that is so important to the change process is releasing limiting beliefs. I’ve talked about this a few times on my Instagram, but another of my favorite questions to ask is, “what limiting beliefs about yourself are you ready to release?”. Limiting beliefs are often born out of one or several experiences you had in which you couldn’t do something, and then you end up apply those handful of experiences across the full spectrum of your life. For example, math always felt really hard for me as a kid, and so I developed the blanket statement that “I’m not good at math” and applied it to everything moving forward. When I got a copy of my transcript at the end of one semester in undergrad and it had calculus listed as an elective instead of fulfilling my math requirement, I called my advisor confused. What happened was I had scored high enough on my AP Calc exam that it counted toward my math credits, and I didn’t need to take that calculus class, but I never checked my AP Calc score because I just assumed I didn’t do well since “I’m bad at math”. It turns out I’m not as bad at math as I told myself I was.

Releasing limiting beliefs is so important to change because holding on to them can cause us to throw up barriers when we don’t need to. Instead of trying something, you may tell yourself preemptively that you can’t do it because of some past experience you’ve applied more broadly, and this can make progress very challenging. It can make you feel stuck and powerless.

Give this exercise a try: write down the things you may think of as limiting beliefs. Then, once you have them on paper, really take stock of them. As yourself what evidence you have to make them true. Then, challenge those reasons. Play devil’s advocate for yourself. Examine the potential downsides of leaning further into those beliefs. Ask yourself what might happen if those beliefs weren’t actually true – what would you do? What could you accomplish? Consider a new “belief” you’d like to replace the old one with. How could you put that into practice this week?

This is a busy time of year – the summer is ending, school starts again, work picks up heading into the fall (and let’s face it, the last big stretch before everything relaxes for the holidays). Whether you decide to address a limiting belief, or remove one or two things from your to-do list, try this week to check in with yourself a few times and ask, “what can I let go of?” as we begin moving into this new season.

Rooting for you!

-MB