When was the last time you questioned your perceived reality? Are you aware of which doors have appeared off limits for so long that you don’t even notice they are there anymore? Perhaps you have even shoved a cabinet in front, proving to yourself that the opportunity doesn’t exist.
In order to commandeer your life, you must realize that your social conditioning assigns a very tangible meaning to your choices. This meaning is a social construct: a socially constructed wall that may limit your view of what’s possible. It is not fact and it may not even be close to accurate.
Think back to when you were a child. What did you want to be when you “grew up?” Did you worry about being judged when you played at recess? Did you ever think you shouldn’t eat that cookie because you might gain weight?
The innocent minds of children have not been fully conditioned to the judgments of the world. To them, the world is a wide open door of possibilities.
Consider the following commonly held beliefs that color our decisions:
- All good salaried positions are Monday through Friday, 9 AM to 5 PM.
- If I get promoted, I will be happier and wealthier.
- Starting a small business is an enormous risk.
- As a female, I am disadvantaged.
- As a man, I must be the breadwinner for my family.
Now consider how these beliefs may limit your success through the next-step reaction that results from these constructs:
All good salaried positions are Monday through Friday, 9 AM to 5 PM, I wouldn’t even consider asking for an alternative schedule to accommodate more time with my family. This is reality.
If I get promoted, I will be happier and wealthier. I will blindly apply for every promotion, regardless of whether the position appears to be a good fit with my strengths and interests.
Starting a small business is an enormous risk, so I toss out great ideas that I would enjoy implementing because it would be irresponsible to leave a safe, salaried job. I would certainly fail.
As a female, I am disadvantaged. I will dress and behave more masculine in order to compete, downplaying feminine strengths that would be an asset to my company. I will role model this for other females who are motivated to succeed.
As a man, I must be the breadwinner for my family. I will take the highest salaried job I can find. It doesn’t matter whether I like it, I must provide. If my wife earns more than me in a powerful role, I will feel threatened and unworthy.
We don’t react in unproductive ways on purpose. We fail to question the feelings underneath the reaction and then connect those feelings to the social meaning.
When we are conscious of this process, we can analyze whether the meaning accurately reflects the unique situation we are facing and if it is helpful or harmful.
Social constructs vary by where you live, where you grew up, your family’s beliefs, your culture, and, importantly, who you spend time with every day. They are communicated naturally through projected fears, anxieties, values, and priorities.
Avoid the detrimental impact of limiting social beliefs:
- Surround yourself with colleagues, friends, and family who live their lives fully and embrace optimism.
- Thoughtfully question your current sense of the limits to your “reality” and then go out and test them.
Is that dream job really out of reach?
Is the risk of embarrassment really a risk?
What will you regret not doing that you are postponing now?
By completing these steps, you will likely begin to notice doors of opportunity that were only locked in your mind. Once you are aware they exist and that you are worthy to step through them, you can begin a life designed uniquely for you.