Changing limiting beliefs and assumptions in coaching

15 Apr 2021

It is now widely accepted that coaches need to be able to work with the whole person and this includes any limiting beliefs and assumptions which are holding their clients back from achieving what they want.  Delegates on our Postgraduate Certificate in Business and Personal Coaching are often concerned about whether this is straying into the domain of therapy.  On the contrary, we feel that dealing with limiting beliefs sits at the core of most coaching work.  How many of us do not harbour some limiting assumptions which would benefit from being re-examined and questioned in a safe and mutually respectful relationship?

Of course, on our University accredited coaching programmes we provide very clear guidelines about when to refer on to other professionals and when the work coaches are being asked to do is outside the limits of their expertise. 

 However, most coaching conversations about limiting beliefs and assumptions can be approached with a light steer once a really strong relationship of trust is in place between coach and client.

Here are some of our top tips for working with belief change work in coaching:

Question the limiting belief or assumption:

Was it true once – another time?

If it was true once, how did it serve you to hold this belief?  

Is it true now? What evidence do you have?

If you absolutely knew that this was not true what would you do differently?

If it is not true, what is true in this context?  Find some new words to re-phrase this belief so that it is more empowering.

If another person was instrumental in setting up this belief for you – is this a person you respect and trust? What was their intention in the first place?  Look at the original situation with fresh eyes.

If this was something that originated in your childhood - What resources were available to you as a child or young person back then?  What resources are available to the adult you now?

Is there one stress-free reason to keep this belief?

What is the pay-off to you holding on to this belief?

Techniques or approaches to challenge and change the belief:

Encourage change of perspective – what would the adult you say to that child? What would your best friend say to you about this?

Use humour and lightness and be gently provocative – agree with the belief!

Use logic and reasoning

Keep chipping away at it! Use every opportunity to challenge the belief

Task your client to behave differently and test out their physiological and emotional response to a new belief and behaviours

Ask your client to gather the opinions of people they really trust and respect about this limiting assumption

Ask your client to notice what they have done over time to perpetuate the limiting belief – what have they said and done which has kept it alive?

Ask your client to generate some new things to say and do which will perpetuate a more empowering belief

If you feel there are areas of your life, work or business that would benefit from working with an experienced personal or business coach then please contact us or find out more about our coaches here.

If you are a coach and would like further training we offer our ICF accredited PG Cert in Business & Personal Coaching or our PG Cert in Coaching Supervision.