5 Limiting Beliefs That Sabotage Your Dreams

Man with Guitar

“Remember your dreams and fight for them.” ~Paulo Coelho

You have a dream. Something that you’ve wanted for a long time. But that dream continues to elude you.

You blame circumstances—your daily responsibilities, lack of time, finances—or perhaps your family for holding you back.

What if none of the above is to blame for your dreams not coming true?

What if it’s something else?

Madison Square Garden, New York, 18,000 people 

Four of us performing. Our band’s name—Oracle. Thousands of fans singing along with us.

That was my dream. Our dream. And it never happened!

In the year 2000, we recorded a demo album and sent it to a few of the biggest recording labels.

But not a single company signed us up.

I was nineteen, arrogant, and thought the world of our music. Not getting a contract anywhere was the last thing I had expected.

I could have kept trying to build a career in music. But I was devastated, so I gave up. The band also dispersed, and we went our separate ways.

I decided to forget about music for the time being, continue my education, and get a job.

A New Dream

After beginning to work in the corporate world, I realized that I truly enjoyed working with people. I had always been passionate about psychology, meditation, and learning more about the mind. So I started working on a new dream—to build my own training firm.

After a long time, I finally had found a career path in something that I was truly passionate about!

A New Journey

Things weren’t easy when I quit my job to follow my dreams again. But this time, I was determined not to quit, no matter how much hard work or sacrifices success would entail. I am incredibly lucky to have a wife who has supported me and encouraged me every day.

Over the years, my perseverance paid off. I am now doing well and growing.

But here’s the funny thing…

I now realize that if I had invested the same amount of time and effort toward music as I had done in my company, I could have become a successful musician.

How do I know this?

Because the fourth member of our band went on to become a professional musician. He now works in movies with some of the most eminent names in the industry.

So why did I fail?

Was it because I didn’t have the talent, the time, or a network of people in the music industry who could support me?

No. I never lacked any of the above.

I failed because of my limiting beliefs.

Our beliefs create our reality.

Our beliefs create our thoughts. Our thoughts determine what we do—our decisions, our everyday actions, and the way we work toward our dreams.

Most of the time, the only things holding you back are your limiting beliefs.

The following are five limiting beliefs that sabotage your dreams.

Belief 1: It’s too difficult.

How difficult does your dream seem to you? Do you feel that you don’t have the necessary talent, money, time, education, network, or other resources?

That’s what I felt like when our demo album got rejected.

If you feel that your dream is too difficult, just ask yourself: What small steps can I take that will take me closer to my dream?

If you want to run a marathon, start running for five minutes every day.

If you want to start your own business, start networking with people in that industry.

If you want to be a world traveler, look for jobs that will allow you to travel.

But why do dreams seem so difficult and so distant?

Usually because of the next belief.

Belief 2: I have to become successful quickly.

How quickly do you want your dream to come true? Definitely sooner than ten years, right?

In the year 2000, I was nineteen years old, and even two years seemed like a lifetime then.

I lacked the patience to work hard consistently. On the contrary, my friend carried on—learning, singing in other bands, and consistently working toward his dreams.

It took him thirteen years to get there after our band broke up.

If that sounds like infinity to you, just ask yourself:

“Would you rather get there late? Or would you rather not arrive at all?”

Belief 3: Either I’m famous or I’m a failure.

I can hear you asking, “Your friend might be working in the music industry, but is he a star? Has he played at Madison Square Garden? Isn’t that what the dream was?”

No, he isn’t a rock star, but does he really need to be one?

He’s doing excellent work in one of the most challenging industries on earth, making good money, and most importantly, having a great time.

Maybe you have a specific dream in mind. Does it mean that you have failed if you have only achieved a fraction of that dream?

You might never become a New York Times Best Seller or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Does that mean that any achievements short of those goals is a waste of your time?

Belief 4: It’s too late for me.

Do you feel that your time has passed?

Maybe if you were younger, it might have been possible, but aren’t you too old now?

I felt the same—when I was nineteen years old!

In a world where people become stars in their teens or billionaires in their twenties, no wonder we feel that we are too late.

I have a friend who has won three National Geographic contests and traveled to four continents, photographing polar bears in Alaska as part of his expeditions.

He did all that after he retired.

What’s admirable is that he never abandoned his dream of becoming a successful photographer.

If he can live his dream, why can’t you?

Belief 5: It’s too risky. I might fail.

What if you don’t make it? Despite all your efforts, what if your dream remains unfulfilled?

You might end up damaging your career, losing money, and alienating people.

You are right; you might fail. But here’s what you must ask yourself: Are you completely happy with your life right now?

In your twilight years, when you look back, will you regret not trying hard enough?

But hold on. What about your responsibilities toward your family? Isn’t it selfish to pursue your dreams if you have to neglect them?

A woman I know who has built a thriving organic food business once told me, “I had to sacrifice a lot to follow my passion. But If I didn’t pursue my own dreams, how would I have proved to my children that they can succeed at their dreams too?”

Don’t you think that’s a risk worth taking?

Question Your Limiting Beliefs

I have been held back by every single one of these limiting beliefs. But I didn’t let them stop me from fulfilling my second dream of building my own firm.

If you have a dream, you have a duty and responsibility to make it come true—not only to yourself but also to those who love you.

Examine your thoughts and question your beliefs. Your dreams are closer than you think.

What small steps will you take today to make your dreams come true?

Man with guitar image via Shutterstock

About Peter Banerjea

Peter is co-founder of SuccessIsWhat, a coaching firm that helps people achieve their goals faster by building life changing habits and conquering time. Get his latest free e-book “Productivity Secrets of 7 Billionaires that YOU can put into Action Right Now” here.

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  • Debbie

    What an inspirational post Peter! I can relate to the third point – all or nothing. I keep feeling that if I don’t reach my goal of getting my dream job, everything else is a waste. But I can also know that holds me back from doing better in my current job. This post reminded me that I need to work hard and focus on the present to fulfill my dream.

  • It’s always hard when you have people who constantly tell you, you can’t do it

  • Hi Nicky, thanks for commenting.
    Yes, I completely agree that its hard when people around you keep telling you that you can’t do it.
    However, it’s also not too difficult in today’s connected world to find people who will support and encourage you. We have the option of visiting networking events where we can find people with similar dreams. We can also find plenty of online forums on Facebook, LinkedIn as well as forums for specialized areas like writing, blogging, sports, music, entrepreneurship and so on.
    Not only do these forums keep us motivated every day, they are also valuable sources of information and feedback which helps us in our course.

  • Hello Debbie,
    Focusing only on a very specific goal and not the milestones in between can be counterproductive and stressful indeed. We need to keep working consistently and enjoy the journey. Glad the post helped!
    Thank you,

  • VincentK

    This just came around when i really needed it. Thank you Peter. It’s good to know that am not alone. All the best.

  • Great to hear that Vincent! All the best for your endeavors!

  • Awesome article …and nicely written Peter. I particularly liked point#3 “Either I’m famous or I’m a failure.” This is our typical “all or nothing” feeling that we run through so often. I can relate to entire article having had somewhat similar journey. Every day is a new lesson and its fantastic to read such posts and like minded thoughts 🙂

  • That’s like that with my Lao folks who constantly sabotage my dreams and ambitions. It’s even harder to find freedom when even your own family tries to sabotage you.

  • Really great article! I’m in my twenties and I feel like I’m too old sometimes. Isn’t it weird that we do that? This really shifted my perspective, and I thank you for that.
    xx Lane

  • Hey Lane,
    I remember feeling old on my twentieth birthday! Now at 35, I actually feel a lot younger! Strange how the mind works. Sometime around my late twenties I realized that I am only as old as I think I am.
    Considering that a person is his/her twenties still has more than 70 years remaining on Earth, imagine what you can achieve within that time!


  • Thank you for those kind words Rohan! Glad you could relate to the post.
    There’s a saying, aim for the stars and you will reach the sky. While we should have lofty goals, we shouldn’t disregard our achievements that fall short of those goals.

  • Laura J Tong

    This is such an inspiring post Peter. I love your question: “Would you rather get there late? Or would you rather not arrive at all? You’re so right about the pressure and perception of achieving success not only early in life, but huge and early in life. Congratulations on succeeding in your dream No. 2.

  • IBikeNYC

    Hi, Lane!

    Just wanna tell you that I think your logo is KILLER!!!!!

    I’m a former typographer and have noticed it before.

    (Also LUSTING after that pizza on your home page! Any chance you’ll come up with a low-carb version?!)

  • Thank you Laura!
    I believe that life usually does give us ‘second chances’, and a lot more. It’s important not to give up!

  • Talya Price

    Thank you so much for this. I had to realize that I am the one who matters in my life and in manifesting my dreams, no one else.

  • Aw, thank you so much for your kind words!

    As for the pizza, I don’t know if you’ve made cauliflower crust before, but check out the site below for a massive list of recipes! #13 on the list is really good- actually a lot of the recipes on this list are delish. You could use the cauli crust instead of the naan and then follow the recipe from there 🙂

    Have a good day 🙂

  • Man, you are so right! I’m practically a baby! Haha. I feel so much calmer hearing that, actually. Thanks 🙂

  • Hey Peter,

    Yes our limited beliefs can get the best of us if we allow ourselves to succumb to them. For me I rushed things as well as thought that I needed to reach a certain level in order to be successful. If I didn’t fulfill these things then I felt that I was a failure and should quit.

    But I realize later that it’s all about the process. In a lot of ways there’s a beginning but there is no end. We are constantly change either for the better or for the worst, but its really our choice of what road to take and stay on.

    Thanks for sharing Peter! Have a great week!

  • LaTrice Dowe

    Thank you so much for sharing this article, Peter. I feel that everyday is a new learning experience. It’s important to NEVER give up on yourself, as well as having a better understanding that your dreams are within your reach-if you’re willing to work hard for them.

    I’m determined to become a Social Worker someday. My friend that I met from college recently graduated with a Master’s degree in Social Work, and has found a job working for DCFS. It happens to be a dream career of mine, even though Social Work is extremely competitive. I enjoy helping others, as well as utilizing the resources that I have to better enhance someone’s life. I believe in standing up for what’s right, and I’m okay if no one agrees with me. If I have to move to another state just to pursue my dream career in Social Work, I’ll do it in a heart beat. Right now, I’m almost finished working on my Bachelor’s in Sociology, and will be graduating next spring.

    Congratulations on succeeding with dream #2. I can’t help but be happy for you.

  • Hi LaTrice,
    thank you for sharing your thoughts and your wishes!
    I can relate to your ambitions because I wanted to do social work as well. Music can be a powerful means of social change and we tried to include meaningful messages during our concerts.
    Sociology’s a great field to be in and I am sure you will have ample opportunities to make your dreams come true!
    Wishing you all the best!

  • Great line Sherman, ‘In a lot of ways there’s a beginning but there is no end’. Thanks for sharing!

  • Absolutely Talya, if we are determined enough, we will persevere. If we persevere, we will figure out solutions and reach our goals. We have more control over our ‘destinies’ than we usually realize!

  • Nice article, Peter.

    Yeah, why does 2 years seem like infinity when you’re young? 6 months to me was like eternity! And now, 1 year seems like 2 months. Sometimes it gets me thinking I could’ve done better back then. Oh well. Kids!

    Time can really help big time with your dreams. One good question to me is: How would you know if that’s the dream you want? Sometimes I wonder if I’m pursuing the right dream, if stopping the ones in the past was ever the right thing to do. A person may reach success sooner than another person. There comes a time when you know it’s time to quit. But I also believe in success that takes some 10+ years. That length of time is a big deal for someone who really fights for their dream. It can be amazing, but as they say, one should enjoy the process, not really the outcome!

    It can be a test of courage and persistence, really.

  • Nice article, Peter.

    Yeah, why does 2 years seem like infinity when you’re young? 6 months to me was like eternity! And now, 1 year seems like 2 months. Sometimes it gets me thinking I could’ve done better back then. Oh well. Kids!

    Time can really help big time with your dreams. One good question to me is: How would you know if that’s the dream you want? Sometimes I wonder if I’m pursuing the right dream, if stopping the ones in the past was ever the right thing to do. A person may reach success sooner than another person. There comes a time when you know it’s time to quit. But I also believe in success that takes some 10+ years. That length of time is a big deal for someone who really fights for their dream. It can be amazing, but as they say, one should enjoy the process, not the outcome!

    It can be a test of courage and persistence, really.

  • Great work, Peter!

    I especially liked #4 – “it`s too late for me”.

    Age is just a number and maturity is a state of mind.

    The funny thing is that TIME will pass by no matter what.

    Do you want to spend your time hanging with your old friends at the retirement home talking about your big list of broken dreams…

    or do you want to talk to them about your actual accomplishments?

    Who cares if you reach your ultimate dream when you`re 70? It`s a heck lot better than not reaching it at all.

    In addition, your dream will most likely evolve as you grow older.

    When I was 10 I dreamt of kissing the cutest girl in my class…and I did.

    And then when I was 32 I dreamt of leaving my six-figure job in order to follow my passion – to help online entrepreneurs SAVE TIME and INCREASE RESULTS.

    And guess what?

    I did.

    When I`m 40, I will have bigger goals, the same goes for when I reach 50.

    But you know what?

    As long as you are willing to adapt, learn and work smart and strategic towards your goals…

    …you have a big chance of achieving them.

    Reaching your big hairy goal doesn`t need to be that hard.

    It basically consist of 4 factors:
    1.What is your goal?
    2. Have a burning passion – a strong WHY (why should you want to go outside your comfort zone and hustle like crazy in order to achieve your goal?)
    3. What do you need to sacrifice in order to achieve it?
    4. Are you willing to make the sacrifice?

    When the questions above have been answered and you are willing to PAY the PRICE combined with a strong why…

    then you just have to program your mind and become a machine, executing ALL the necessary tasks whether you feel like it not.



    P.S. I just added this post in my Buffer queue

  • Hey Tor,

    Thanks for taking the time to write such an insightful comment! And hey – we just came closer to guessing your age! 😉

    “As long as you are willing to adapt, learn and work smart and strategic towards your goals…you have a big chance of achieving them”- great point!

    See you around!

  • Hey Ethan, thanks for commenting.
    On a practical note, its important to keep making progress towards our dreams every single day. Every yard run, every word written or every user acquired for a business – it all matters. How long it takes doesnt matter as long as we are willing to put in the efforts to generate results every single day.
    A dream is all about taking action, and as you say, enjoying the process.

  • Susan Mary Malone

    This is just brilliant, Peter! I can so relate to your original dream. Writers often fall by this wayside, as being successfully published can be such a long, arduous climb. And what is success, really? I simply love: “Either I’m famous or I’m a failure.” Great reminder for me this very day!
    Thank You!

  • Imani Dlamini

    Thank you for this article. It really resonated with me 🙂
    I am 20, and since I was 15 I have always felt like I was too old to achieve those grand dreams I had for myself!
    I had wanted to publish by 16(haha), but at 14, I got so intimidated by entire process!!! Igot scared of making mistakes and seriously sucking,lol.
    Now I realise how sometimes sucking is part of the process and that I am Young… and even if I was 40, or 80, as long as I am healthy, I will try 🙂

  • Hi Susan,
    Yes, our dreams have a lot in common!
    “being successfully published can be such a long, arduous climb.” – in fact , anything which is worth achieving takes a lot of time, energy, commitment and passion! Otherwise everyone would have done it already!

    Don’t give up and keep writing! 🙂

    Thanks for your thoughts!

  • Hi Imani,
    Looks like you are a lot wiser than I was at 20! Back then, if I had realized that I needed to put in a few years of hard work, I would probably be featured in ‘Rolling Stones’ now! 😉 (Not many regrets though!)
    Keep working at it, and hopefully I will find your book in a bestseller list someday.
    All the best!

  • Andrea Alexander

    Reading this, I felt as if my life story was being read back to me. I, too, had a life long dream of being in the music industry (as a singer and songwriter) and allowed my dream to die because of each of the limiting beliefs mentioned. Also, for some reason I just didn’t believe it could happen for me.

    Lately my dream has been knawing at me as if telling me it’s time to try again. I keep wondering how to begin again as a 41 year old mom with a full time job and little support. The question I must answer is how to change this limiting mindset to one that will help propel me in the direction of achieving my dream. Thanks for writing this. It was meant for me to read.

  • Hey Andrea, great to hear that you are thinking of trying again!

    If I were you I would get back to practicing everyday, even if its for a few minutes. You might try looking for a local band to sing with and performing whenever you get the opportunity.

    You don’t really have to quit your job! Interesting fact – Paul Allen (Microsoft co-founder) has a band called the underthinkers!

    It doesn’t have to be job or music – it can be both!

    Something to think about!

  • Anon

    Ahh thank you for this. I’ve wanted to be a singer-songwriter and actor since I was a child. I had a major crisis quite recently that led me to reevaluate my entire existence and I found out (or rather finally admitted, lol) that I had been pursuing my dreams because I so badly needed that external validation. So I dropped everything (temporarily!) to work on myself and pursue another path. Mastering self-love is the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do in life! But hopefully one day I’ll get there and maybe then I can chase my dreams again, not out of desperation but out of the genuine love for my craft and the desire to help others. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this experience, it’s that you really can’t help others until you help and love yourself first.

  • Hi Anon,

    That’s a very interesting aspiration. I do believe that mastering the self is the most difficult goal of all, but probably the most worthwhile. Spiritual growth is one of my key goals in life and I have been practising meditation for a while.

    Having said that, here’s something to think about.
    Human beings have their limitations and ‘flaws’, but I believe that its ok to have those flaws. Self-growth is a never ending journey.

    The question is, does it have to be x or y? Can you chase your dreams and pursue inner development at the same time?

    What are your thoughts?

  • lacy.escalan
  • joydeep goswami (JD)

    Hi Peter. No words can describe the feeling of deja vu. After reading the article…I’m 27 yrs old right now and I work with AMEX. I had a very bad day at work, lost a promotion that I was after for a very long time..and it’s one of those moments in life when I was questioning my life and direction it was moving in…..ur article stopped me from doing completely stupid! And I sat down to get a reality check on myself. Was I really unsuccessful and did I lose everything today ? Guess what? I sat down and wrote down list of things I had done for my passion, to see if I could break free of my limiting beliefs. And the things I achieved so far in my life made me smile on one of my most gloomiest days of my life. Thanks a lot. Can’t tell u the relief, on being able to see a ray of hope.

  • Excellent post and wise words for anyone along the path to their dreams….

  • Guthries Machine

    amen to that

  • Hey JD, glad to hear that you spent some time in reflection and have arrived at some positive conclusions. Life has a lots of ups and downs, but that’s just part of the process! We should draw lessons from setbacks, modify our approach and move on to the next step towards our dreams.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  • Mikhail Anthony

    Thanks Peter to this wonderful and inspiring article. I enjoyed reading it as i am going through set backs and doubt about pursuing my dreams. I am feeling the same thing that you had before and i am glad that i found this site. It gives me more hope and courage. Thanks again! More power to you!

  • Very well said Peter – “While we should have lofty goals, we shouldn’t disregard our achievements that fall short of those goals.” Completely agree and Loved it !

  • Hi Andrea I love how brave you are in sharing this story and I absolutely agree with Peter that taking some baby steps and at least practising each day is a wonderful first step. Stop hiding behind the curtain of your age or the responsibilities you have, all those are part of the limiting beliefs.
    What I can tell you from my own experience having created a life that most people who grew up in the slums like me could have never dreamed possible is that – all things are possible to those who believe. It doesn’t matter whether your story is about music, baking, knitting, cooking, teaching, preaching – it just doesn’t matter! All that matters is that you realize that in our current economy we have options and choices and there are those of us who are creating breakthroughs each and every single day.
    Then start surrounding yourself with such people who have real faith because then it starts to spill off on you and you’ll be amazed how different your life can be in just a matter of weeks. But don’t just wish for this, step up and show the universe you mean business 🙂

  • So agree with you Peter and thank you so much for creating such a wonderful article! Absolutely loved it and will dig into more of your work 🙂

  • Thanks a lot Janette!

  • Thanks Rohan!