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Do This Before You Set Any More Goals

Kicking off a new series of posts today, called Get What You Want This Year.  Because it’s about time, isn’t it?

Do This Before You Set Any More Goals

“Only rich people actually travel,” she said.

“Oh really?  Why’s that?”  I asked.

“Because it’s expensive.”

“Huh.  If you could go anywhere, where would you want to go?”


“Okay, just for fun, let’s figure out how much it would cost to go to France.”

I asked a few questions – how long would you want to stay, do you want to go all over France or explore just one corner, are you wanting to eat all meals out or would you be okay visiting markets and cooking some of your own meals, etc.  Back-of-envelope calculations indicated that including flights, she could do everything she wanted to do for around $4,500.

So I went ahead and posed the quiet question, “Does having $4,500 make you rich?”

“Well it’s not like I have that lying around.”

“Okay, so you don’t have to be rich, you just have to have some extra money.  Those are already pretty different things, huh?”

I paused for a moment, then continued.  “So how many clients would it take to earn $4,500 in profit?”

More scribbled calculations.  “About four.”

“Okay, so, do you have to be rich to travel, or do you just need to find four extra clients this year?”

You’d think that any series of posts about “getting what you want” would kick off by helping you make a list of goals, right?


Because the goals you set are shaped by the things you believe.

If you think that only rich people have the means to travel, you probably won’t make a goal to take a trip this year.

If you think you’re terrible at sales, you probably won’t make a lot of sales goals. (You might avoid thinking about it altogether.)

If you think only huge businesses can afford to hire help, you’ll probably keep soldiering on solo, en route to burnout.

To start getting what you want, you need to develop one skill first:

Become intensely curious about your limiting beliefs.

A limiting belief, for our purposes, is something you think that prevents you from taking action:

That you have to be rich to travel.  That you have to be tall to play basketball.  That you need to have a full studio to make big sales.  That you have to be thinner to make friends.  That you have to get X piece of hardware before your business can get unstuck.

Limiting beliefs shape what you see as possible.  This shapes what you plan to do.

Some people think that the way to get rid of their limiting beliefs is just saying “That’s not true!” and forcing themselves to believe the opposite.

I mean, if you can actually do that, great. But usually, trying to blunt-force your way out of a belief still leaves you stranded in inaction.  (Simply yelling “I don’t have to be rich to travel!” doesn’t exactly lay out a plan for how to go travel.)

The solution to a limiting belief is to get used to asking questions about them, and demanding answers.

Questions like:

Huh, that’s one way to look at it – what’s another way?


Let’s grab a calculator – how much would it actually cost?

Have I ever actually tried?  What happened?

The process of being curious not only changes the belief, but tends to uncover a solution.

Like my chat with someone who wanted to go to France.  Being curious about that led to figuring out how much would actually cost, which led to figuring out how many clients it would take to generate that amount.

Of course, nailing your limiting beliefs requires knowing what they are.  They can be hard to see, but there are two places where they tend to lurk.

Look at these two places, and you’ll probably find them standing in line, leaning against a wall looking smug:


#1: Limiting beliefs lurk where you try to talk yourself out of something.

Let’s say you’re swamped with emails, so you’ve thought about hiring someone else to do them.

The tricky thing is, you might discard this idea so quickly that you barely notice the idea crossed your mind.  But when something keeps frustrating you, you will probably keep thinking of and discarding the same solution.

I can’t tell you how often I’ve coached people through problems and say “What if you {insert solution here}…” and they say “Well, I’ve thought of that, but I haven’t done it.”

With astonishing frequency, I find that people don’t need more solutions.  They already know the solution, they just think something is wrong with it.

When you find yourself stuck in this pattern, explicitly name the solution and then keep asking why not until you arrive at the core limiting belief:

Okay, what if I hire someone to answer my emails?

Well, I can’t find anyone who would do that great of a job.

Why not?

Because I don’t know anyone who will do as good of a job as me.

Why not?  (You think other people can’t write emails?)  

Other people won’t care about it as much as I do, so they won’t spend as much time.

And so we’ve arrived at the limiting belief:  I believe that other people don’t care as much.  It’s not their business, so they’re not as hungry to keep it going.

Then you can keep being curious:

Really?  Well, if it’s their job, won’t they want to do well so they can keep the job?  And protect their reputation?

Can I try posting a job on a board and just see who applies?  

Are there educated, smart people in my circle who stay at home with kids and would love some flexible part-time work who I could train?

Could I have someone do a one-week trial as an experiment, just to see if I’m right or wrong?

And if your limiting belief comes anywhere near the phrase “it costs too much,” be sure that you’ve actually looked up real numbers and laid your hands on a calculator before you accept it.

I’m serious.  You don’t get to say “it’s too expensive” until you’ve done actual math.  On a calculator.

Occasionally, something does cost too much, but not as often as you think.  Sometimes, “it costs too much” is itself a limiting belief about the way something has to be done.  You don’t have to hire someone full-time.  You don’t have to get the top-of-the-line model to get the job done.  You can create a new revenue stream to pay for it.  You can calculate the amount of money you could make in the time saved by hiring someone to do X.

There is probably a way.

#2:  Limiting beliefs lurk where you have envy.

It’s hard to sit with, but the next time you feel fingers of envy tightening around your heart, take a deep breath and start asking questions:

What is it exactly that I wish I had here?

Why don’t I have it?

If I started working, would I get there?

What would keep me from doing that?

Those last two questions, especially, help uncover limiting beliefs.  Maybe you think only fashionable/charismatic people can be successful.  (I once thought I had to have more of a cheerleader-style personality to run an educational blog.  So I became curious about that, and 4.5 years later I’m still blogging.)

Once you’ve identified what keeps you from doing something, keep asking.  Design an experiment.  Play around.  Don’t stop.

Ask, ask, ask.

We’ve all met five-year-olds who just keep asking questions.  They do this because they know if they do, something interesting will happen.  (Like, maybe they’ll hear something unexpected.  Or maybe Dad will explode.)

If you keep asking questions, I promise, something interesting will happen.

Curiosity didn’t kill the cat.  Curiosity killed the limiting belief.

(Click here to tweet that!)

Before you go, let me warn you:

Challenging and letting go of limiting beliefs is EXTREMELY UNCOMFORTABLE.

Whereas once you had a tidy excuse not to do something, suddenly seeing that you don’t have an excuse can be legitimately, edge-of-cliff scary.  Because it now means you have to do the thing.  

You might find your brain inventing new limiting beliefs when an old one gets challenged.

Don’t panic when this happens.  Just keep being curious.  Relentlessly, pleasantly, calmly curious.

You will win.

Try it and let me know what you find!


This post is part of a series called

Get What You Want This Year.

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  1. Dawn on January 27, 2016 at 11:06 pm

    This made me smile:

    “We’ve all met five-year-olds who just keep asking questions. They do this because they know if they do, something interesting will happen. (Like, maybe they’ll hear something unexpected. Or maybe Dad will explode.)”

    Gosh, you are spot on with this post, as usual. We do limit ourselves and I think a lot of it is rooted in fear. Whether we admit that to ourselves or not is another story. And sometimes I think we actually fear being successful. Because maybe a limiting belief is that if we are successful, we will be too busy to do what we want, spend time with family, etc.

    I applaud you for teaching us how to push past that so we can live a life that is more free and more fun. 🙂

    • Jenika on January 28, 2016 at 1:49 am

      That’s an interesting point you make too, Dawn. Fear of success. That we will be too busy, too “in the public eye,” that we will have fans but also detractors…there are lots of reasons to want to ‘stay small.’ An idea worth exploring, for sure. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I always find them insightful.

      • Kim on January 29, 2016 at 4:59 am

        This is SO weird/true/interesting/infuriating. I used to think “Afraid of success? Who on Earth would be afraid of that?!?” But now. . . . . I am!
        I totally blew my Valentine’s booking goal because I was already so busy this month (I’m still in 9-5 land, as well as running my business)I thought I’d never be able to handle even more bookings. I did all kinds of marketing and advertising, but I still didn’t meet my goal and I KNOW it’s because deep down, I was afraid that if I booked too many sessions I would get behind and I wouldn’t be able to deliver on my promises.
        It’s so disappointing to get to that point in your business where you are actually AFRAID to book more clients because if you start getting steady work (the very thing you’ve prayed for for years now), you might screw it up. Very frustrating.

    • Michelle on February 8, 2016 at 4:45 am

      Dawn – I like your comment!! Sometimes we are also afraid of becoming successful because then we still might fail (or not be able to continue with our ideas, content, momentum…) and the higher you climb the harder you fall? Jenika – can you write a post regarding the psychology in that ?

      • Jenika on February 8, 2016 at 4:30 pm

        way ahead of you Michelle! 😉

  2. Katharine on January 27, 2016 at 11:50 pm

    Wow. SPOT ON. I am so tired of making excuses for not being where I want to be. And both of these areas are where my limiting beliefs come from. Thank you for writing this and I’m looking forward to the series.

    • Jenika on January 28, 2016 at 1:48 am

      Hope you got some info to make some changes! Thanks for writing, and hope you enjoy the next article too.

  3. Allison on January 28, 2016 at 3:22 am

    Welp, you’re still speaking my language. 😉

    Thanks for an awesome kick in the pants!

    • Jenika on January 28, 2016 at 4:56 pm

      I love hearing from you, Allison! So glad you enjoyed…

  4. Melissa on January 28, 2016 at 4:52 am

    It’s like you were coming after ME on this one! So on point! And kinda good to know I’m obviously not the only one struggling with my “limiting beliefs”! Thank you for this one!

    • Jenika on January 28, 2016 at 4:56 pm

      Ha ha – definitely coming after you! 😀 You’re welcome, and thanks for reading.

  5. Lindsey on January 28, 2016 at 6:44 pm

    What great post! I do think you are right about everything, sometimes we just aren’t ready to be successful or un-stuck!

  6. Nicole on January 28, 2016 at 6:44 pm

    SPOT ON Jenika! I’ve been delving deeper and deeper into the world of positive intentions and mindset and the power in our own heads in nothing short of phenomenal. I’m so looking forward to this series! 🙂

  7. Belinda on January 28, 2016 at 6:45 pm

    “…maybe dad will explode…” HA! I’ve been that kid.

    Time to tap back into that. Thanks for the reminders, I needed this one today =)

  8. Karen on January 28, 2016 at 6:50 pm

    Wow, thanks. My limiting beliefs have kept me frozen in “pretty advanced amateur who takes people’s pictures for money” land, rather than moving solidly into “professional photographer” land. I’m going to start challenging those beliefs. Starting with the belief that I’m not good enough, and people won’t pay me money to do what I do. Hello, silly, they already do!!! I can talk myself out of anything that pushes me out of my comfort zone. 🙂

  9. kerrie monti on January 28, 2016 at 7:26 pm

    This was a great read! And it’s so true. I am constantly finding thoughts on why I can’t do something and staying there. Not moving anymore around that thought of “no”, “not”, “can’t” or any other negative thing. I’m really going to change my thinking to asking why, then doing the math and driving forward.

  10. msn on January 28, 2016 at 7:39 pm

    Holy cow. Nailed it to the wall, Jenika. Always appreciate your incredible insights. Girl, you are so in my head. *Thank you.*

  11. Nicole on January 28, 2016 at 8:11 pm

    Crap. Now this just makes sense. It’s like you were writing this specifically for me! Thanks!

  12. Nancy on January 28, 2016 at 8:13 pm

    Hmmmmm! Disturbing to think that you have been sitting behind me listening to me run through the reasons I can’t / won’t do something; in particular, print or share my images. I concur with Dawn, that fear, in particular fear of failure or rejection is at the heart of our self-imposed limits. But, more, the willingness to just accept and be with the discomfort as you approach and push through the limits is particularly challenging. I’m constantly trying to remind myself that discomfort doesn’t necessarily equate with harm. So, feel the fear …

  13. Mike on January 28, 2016 at 8:16 pm

    This is a fantastic article! I think most creative types really have an issue with creating limiting beliefs, especially when it comes to marketing and sales. I look forward to the next one.

  14. Cattie on January 28, 2016 at 8:47 pm

    Very thought provoking. I have so many things I want to happen this year that I don’t even know which one to begin with (Move to a different part of the country? End relationships that are no longer working? Launch a new line of prints?). I’m going to read this again at home and really think about what needs to come first. Thanks for an awesome blog!

    • Theresa on January 29, 2016 at 12:47 am

      I think social anxiety would be rooted in/ be a limiting belief. And then there’s always feeling like I need to see one more video about posing or read one more thing about lighting before I can do anything. Would love to figure out the roots

  15. Rick on January 28, 2016 at 9:31 pm

    Already I can see that my fear of success (how will I handle all those clients) is what’s keeping me from going forward. Now I can start asking the questions to drill down to what the core limiting belief is. Thanks for the insight. I am currently doing the steps in the Irresistible Website course and finding it to be very enlightening.

  16. Christina @ Martha, Martha on January 28, 2016 at 9:47 pm

    Oh my gosh! This is just what I was writing about yesterday, though I believe you said it more scientifically! Always excellent!

  17. Maria Sheehan on January 29, 2016 at 1:25 am

    Jenika, this is so speaking my language. At the beginning of January I decided I was going to plan the year and my goals and have a sensational year. I write my goals out every morning. I’m trying to work on myself and change my limiting beliefs using auto suggestion, it’s extremely hard! but it’s working! This article is so great and I’m so excited for the series. I hope everyone takes your advice seriously because it could really change their lives for the better!

  18. Marlene on January 29, 2016 at 1:26 am

    Thanks for breaking down the seemingly impossible to bite-sized, manageable chunks! I’m curious by nature and often ask a lot of questions. Apparently, I haven’t been asking the right ones when it comes to limiting beliefs. I look forward to your next post! (I hope you tackle procrastination somewhere along the way – that’s another toughie that holds me back.)

  19. Jenni on January 29, 2016 at 5:37 am

    Can you please come be my cheerleader every day – I truly hear everything you said above, but definitely struggle with changing! <3

  20. Claire on January 29, 2016 at 10:05 am

    Gosh! Such a good post and totally relevant for me as I’m in the process of taking a good long hard look at myself and my career. Your post really made clear so many of the fears and things I do to limit myself, which is madness! Why do we want to limit ourselves! So looking forward to your year of kick up the backside posts, they help me so much to take stock, think about things and understand better. When I read your posts I always feel like I’ve been picked up, brushed down and then pushed gently back out into the world to try again.

  21. Michelle on January 31, 2016 at 7:58 pm

    What a FANTASTIC article (once again)!!!

  22. amy on February 2, 2016 at 5:51 pm

    What a truly fantastic post. I’ve shared this on my Facebook business page And Then She Was Mighty because its so on point.

    thank you!!!

  23. Kelli on February 2, 2016 at 11:25 pm

    Such a great post and fantastic reminder to be curious. A word that keeps popping up for me at the moment so I need to allow myself to be more curious. Love the tips on where my limiting beliefs might be lurking. Thanks again x

  24. Martina on February 4, 2016 at 7:13 pm

    Jenika, You are really so on-point! I love reading your blog – it’s always encouraging and I always learn something new. Thank you for this super helpful nugget of advice!! AWESOME!

  25. Antonio Espino on February 5, 2016 at 10:03 pm

    My goals for the year, just like my New Year’s resolutions – go out the window on the second/third week of January. You have made some good points in this article. I guess, I will have to retrieve that piece of paper with all my goals written on it, and continue to pursue my goals and dreams!

  26. Tatiana Rodriguez on February 6, 2016 at 4:11 am

    Jenika, how timely! Ive been thinking a lot lately about my limiting beliefs and am so glad after 4.5 years you are still blogging bc your content is so rich. You always make so much sense to me… Not in the “yes yes I know” way but in the “yes yes excellent point and well said” way. ?

    “You might find your brain inventing new limiting beliefs when an old one gets challenged.” – that part made laugh out loud.


  27. Bonnie on March 6, 2016 at 4:58 pm

    Well, this couldn’t have come at a better time. I am a lot like the others who have commented on this post. I know I have limiting beliefs, I know they are blocks I need to remove because every year at this time I say: this is going to be the year I pull my head out of the sand, man up and get my business where I want it to be. Every. Year.

    I always take the easy road and say “Fear is blocking me” and stop there without going further, I don’t question the comment or the fear, fear of what?

    Today, I am going to find out what that fear is, and also answer the questions in the last part of your blog, about envy, and write down those answers. I am going to be truthful too, because sometimes you can lie to yourself.

  28. Three Steps to Lasting Change - Martha, Martha on December 30, 2016 at 3:30 pm

    […] most clearly was in a blog post aimed at photographers, but applicable in almost any endeavor.  Read it here.  Understanding this could be the most important aspect to setting your goals, because the goals we […]

  29. Alain Briot on December 29, 2017 at 9:47 am

    I use to believe I could not make a living doing what I love until I realized I was not making much of a living doing what I did not love…

  30. heather on December 29, 2017 at 11:18 am

    Jenika I always take the time to read your emails and am always glad I did. So insightful, no fluff and you get down to the core of whatever topic you’re addressing! Thanks for being such a strong and on-point voice in a sea of not-so-much 🙂

    Here’s to a great 2018!

  31. Marisela on January 12, 2018 at 6:35 am

    Lovely post, as always. Thank you for all that you do.

  32. Luminosity Studio on February 21, 2019 at 5:42 am

    Absolutely insightful article! I enjoyed reading this! Before, I too often say that only rich people travel until I started researching and asking around on how can I possibly do this without overspending. I can totally relate with this, “With astonishing frequency, I find that people don’t need more solutions. They already know the solution, they just think something is wrong with it.” Very true, sometimes we just have to find the courage to take that first step. I hope to continue reading…..

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