Cliff Lansley

Cliff Lansley

Our beliefs have a profound influence on our success in work and in life – whatever our goals. Our beliefs are the foundation upon which we build many of our thought patterns, our attitudes, and our actions. Unfortunately, these beliefs, particularly self-beliefs, can be limiting in nature. If these are coming from your family or your work colleagues, then it is worth checking that you are not part of the problem – putting a lid on their capabilities.


We can learn about this principle from a jar full of fleas. As the video from the YouTube link below demonstrates, if you fill a jar with fleas and place the lid on the jar, the fleas will jump and hit their heads on the lid. Fleas are capable of jumping 100 times higher than their own height so could easily escape if the jar had no lid.

But leave them for a few days with the lid on, and the fleas will adapt to their environment and, to avoid the pain of hitting their heads, eventually will not to jump as high as the lid.

The Lesson

So, what do we learn from these fleas? Just as the fleas began with the capacity to jump higher than the lid of the jar, we as human beings have the capacity to accomplish great things. However, through our experiences and our own reasoning, we sometimes come to believe that our ability to succeed is limited.

This could be from limiting conditioning from a parent, a teacher, or a boss. The job of a leader/facilitator/teacher, and also a parent/carer, is to inspire and support others and to constructively challenge any limiting beliefs.

This applies in all areas of life. I have friends and colleagues who have the capacity to achieve great success. Many of them do, though some hold themselves back from what they aspire to do. I have heard them use phrases like “We can’t do that because our last boss said so”, or “I could never accomplish as much as she/he has accomplished”, or “We tried that in the past and it failed”, or “Last time I did that I was criticised”. These beliefs about themselves and their capacity to succeed can limit them in their learning and in their lives. The beliefs may have emerged from a negative experience, but a temporary setback should never be interpreted as a permanent limitation. Even ‘rules’ should be considered (responsibly!) as mere ‘guidelines’. As Captain of the Black Pearl said about the pirate code –

Breaking the Pattern

So, how can we move beyond the limitations that we place on ourselves? The following tips can help to begin to shape positive, affirming self-beliefs and this will help others and ourselves to begin to move forward in our learning and in our lives more effectively:

  1. Acquire new, empowering knowledge. Placing new beliefs into your mind can help empower you and give you a new perspective. There are motivators like Zig Ziglar, Stephen Covey, and Anthony Robbins have can help you to see the world from a new, empowered perspective. I recommend reading their books and listening to their audio seminars.
  2. Remove dis-empowering relationships and messages from your life. Some individuals are toxic in nature and actually suck down those around them. Compassion and support for others is worthy, though sometimes it can help you if you distance yourself from these individuals in your life, wherever possible. In addition, the media we listen to, view, and interact with can heavily influence our perspective on ourselves and our lives, so be sure to control the flow of information so that true, positive, empowering knowledge is obtained.
  3. Set goals. Plan out what you would like to accomplish in your learning, your work, and in your life, and then identify exactly what must be accomplished to reach those goals. Set big hairy audacious goals well ahead into the future and then work backwards. Plan out exactly what you must do to succeed, especially the first, actionable step. For some good time management principles, have at look at “Getting Things Done”.
  4. Do something that is difficult. Accomplishing a difficult task can help us to build confidence in our abilities and give us the skills and tenacity required to do something that is even harder. Success breeds success, so set out to do something difficult and worthwhile.
  5. Recognize setbacks as temporary. There is no failure, only feedback. There are no mistakes, just lessons learned. There are no problems, just challenges. Viewing barriers in this manner enables us to learn from the experiences we have as we move toward personal success.

I believe in the power of the individual to achieve great success.

“To show your true ability is always, in a sense, to surpass the limits of your ability, to go a little beyond them: to dare, to seek, to invent; it is at such a moment that new talents are revealed, discovered, and realized.” (Simone de Beauvoir).

Dare…. empower and encourage yourself, your learners, your colleagues/staff, your children/relatives, and friends so they don’t step back too readily from the challenges of goals, projects, life that will help them to grow and succeed…

About the author

Cliff Lansley

Cliff Lansley

Expert in emotional intelligence, behavioural analysis and high stake deception detection contexts. Cliff holds; B Ed (Hons), MIOD, MABPsych, Cert Ed.