Welcome to Reset Your Mindset, a 3-to-5-minute coaching moment. We are in the September Reset Series, and in this episode, I am talking about “Shattering Cognitive Boundaries.”
Cognitive boundaries are like invisible walls or barriers in our minds. These are often constructed from our past experiences, the fears we’ve nurtured, and the societal lessons we’ve absorbed over the years. They act as filters, influencing how we perceive the world, shaping our reactions, and often limiting our potential.
For instance, if, as children, we were constantly told we weren’t good at math, we might develop a cognitive boundary that prevents us from pursuing careers that involve numbers.
Sometimes, society tells us who we are, leading us to believe we’re not suited for a particular profession or calling in life, even if we have a natural aptitude for it.
These boundaries can be subtle, sneaking into our daily decisions without us even realising it. Over time, they solidify and become so ingrained that challenging them feels unnatural or frightening.
Shattering cognitive boundaries starts with recognition, which is when you stop and think about those times that you’ve said, “I can’t,” or “That’s just not me”, or “I’ve tried that before, and I can’t do that.”
Let me tell you about a client I had several years ago who was invited to speak at a prestigious conference and was going to turn it down.
Let’s call her Jayne; she was more than qualified in her expertise. Jayne was a financial analyst, a very good one. Yet, despite her expertise, the mere thought of standing in front of an audience, speaking on a subject she knew and loved, was almost paralysing for her.
So, during our coaching session, I asked her if I could explore her fear of speaking in public. She said yes, and I asked when she first remembered experiencing this fear.
She closed her eyes and recalled a memory from when she was in high school and had been selected to represent her class in debate. Standing at the podium, she lost her train of thought and froze. The mocking laughter of the audience and a singular smirk from an opponent had stayed with her more than any other accomplishment in her life.
She took a deep breath, her hands clenching tightly as she recounted the memory. “Every time I stand up in front of people now,” she said, her voice shaking, “that laughter, that smirk, it’s all I can see and hear. It’s like I’m that scared teenager all over again, terrified of being ridiculed.”
I nodded, offering a reassuring smile. “Thank you for sharing that with me. Memories like that can be deeply rooted and powerful. They can overshadow many of our proudest moments and accomplishments and stop us from achieving milestones in our lives and careers.
But the key to overcoming them is not to forget or ignore them, but to acknowledge and confront them.”
She looked up, eyes filled with uncertainty. “But how do I do that? How do I face a memory that has so much power over me?”
I gave her a three-step process, and I want to share that with you in this episode:
Step 1: Reframe the Memory
I began, “First, let’s reframe that memory. You were chosen to represent your class, which means you were seen as a competent and promising student. Everyone has moments when they lose their train of thought. It’s a part of being human. The audience’s reaction wasn’t necessarily a reflection of your abilities but perhaps their discomfort at seeing someone struggle.
Step 2: Ground Yourself in the Present
“Next,” I continued, “You are no longer that teenage student. You’ve grown, learned, and achieved so much since then. Ground yourself in the present moment. Take deep breaths, feel the floor beneath your feet, and remind yourself of your recent accomplishments.”
Step 3: Practice in a Safe Environment
Finally, I suggested, “Before taking the stage and talkig about something you truly love talking about, let’s replace that old memory by giving a practice version to a group of trusted friends or family. let’s let the new experience, one that you are more than well-equipped to deliver. You replace the old narrative with a new one.”
She nodded slowly. Then, I told her to remember that she can rewrite her narrative, turning past vulnerabilities into future strengths.
This story has a great outcome. With consistent coaching and determination, she took on the challenge head-on. While the memory from high school never completely disappeared, its hold over her weakened. Instead of being a symbol of fear, it became a testament to her resilience and her ability to grow beyond past setbacks.
Ok. that’s it for this episode.
Remember, breaking cognitive boundaries is far more than overcoming barriers; it’s about freeing ourselves to reach our full potential. We open up a world of limitless possibilities by challenging the ‘I can’t’ and ‘It’s not me’ in our minds.
If this episode rang a bell for you, share it with a friend.
Thank you for joining me today.