What happens when you tell yourself, "I can create my life exactly the way I want it, in all dimensions--work, family, relationships, community and the larger world"? How does your inner voice respond? One way to discover this is to divide a sheet of paper down the middle. On one side, write what your pessimist has to say in response, and on the other, write what your optimist says. This exercise (especially your pessimist's voice!) will help surface the limiting beliefs that impede your path to creating the levels of satisfaction and prosperity you have the potential to enjoy.

According to Robert Fritz, author of the books, "The Path of Least Resistance" (1989, Fawcett-Columbine), and "Creating" (1991, Fawcett-Columbine), most of us possess a dominant belief system that limits the fulfillment of our desires. This dominant belief system is made up of two parts. The first part is powerlessness: we believe we are unable to manifest what we really want. The second is unworthiness: we believe we do not deserve to have what we really want.

Your vision of what you want in your life is made up of

1) where you are now, (your current reality), and
2) where you want to be, (your desired future).

This gap between current reality and the future creates a force called "creative tension". This is an unstable state, which in all living systems requires resolution toward stability. Creative tension is best resolved by creating momentum toward your vision. Simultaneously, however, there is a dilemma operating, which Fritz calls "structural conflict". Deep-seated beliefs of powerlessness and unworthiness create another force to keep you rooted safely in your comfort zone--in current reality. Fritz says that the more you grow toward your vision, the stronger the pull back toward your comfort zone. This is a natural, protective response against the anxiety provoked by change, and the fear of your weaknesses being exposed. We all may experience the effects of limiting beliefs, but nobody wants to expose them to others. ! Unless you are aware of your unconscious "operating system", you may tend to use the following common coping strategies to resolve structural conflict:

Giving up the vision:

Do you just give up what you want? Do you ever rationalize why you can't or shouldn't have what you want? Do you find yourself questioning whether you really want your vision?

Negative visioning:

Do you increase your efforts toward your vision by focusing on what you don't want to have happen? This often involves fear of punishment, embarrassment or loss. For example, if your goal is to organize your office, negative visioning might cause you to focus on potential embarrassment if others see it, rather than the positive effects on your work flow and energy.


This is literally overpowering your own resistance to change. It may work in the short term, but is an energy-consuming and ineffective long-term strategy. With willpower, you push through obstacles set up by your operating system. This is commonly seen in dieting strategies. When the initial surge of the commitment wears off, there is a tendency to bargain with oneself, and to revise, postpone, or abandon the vision. The real problem with willpower, aside from the potential for giving up and burn-out, is that the underlying beliefs don't change at all.

Here are some ways to empower yourself to resolve structural conflict by leveraging creative tension:

Commit to your own truth:

Listen to the stories you tell yourself about "the way things are" for clues of limiting beliefs. Increase the awareness of your level of responsibility for your actions and choices. When you find yourself stewing in a dilemma ask

1) How is this issue important to me?
2) What am I feeling about this issue?
3) What is my own contribution to this issue? What part do I play -- how do I keep it from getting resolved?

Commitment to authenticity -- your own truth -- relieves a source of internal stress. When part of our truth lurks in the shadows, it can manifest in physical symptoms such as higher blood pressure and heart rate, and restricted breathing.

Awareness of your subconscious:

Use meditation or centering exercises (see the January 1999 issue of On The Learning Edge coaching newsletter at www.TheEdgeCoach.com/jan99.html), to quiet your conscious mind and observe your thinking processes. This also allows you to observe the places in your body you carry the tension of negative beliefs. Your attitudes, and what you choose to pay attention to expands in your consciousness. Do you focus on obstacles or opportunities? On your mistakes or your learnings?


This is a process of intentionally choosing your desired future state, and visualizing it as fully formed and realized. Visualization taps into your natural, creative abilities to propel you toward what you want. There are many good books to guide you in using visualization. One of my favorites is "Creative Visualization", by Shakti Gawain, published by New World Library.

Connect with your deepest values, and use them as a guide for all of the commitments and decisions you make. One of the ways to connect with your values is to take one of your goals and ask yourself, "what would this give me?". If you go deep enough, the answer to that question reveals the underlying values you hold.

Personal Growth and Mastery:

Life is a creative process. If you want to continuously generate and sustain creative tension in your life, make choices to leave your comfort zone and explore your learning edges. Get yourself the support you need to take risks and stretch yourself toward your potential and your vision.

Choice and commitment play a vital role in empowering your vision. Your vision should be expansive, including aspects of who you want to be, the qualities you embody, your physical environment, your livelihood, the people you relate with, your community, and even the world. Which aspects of your vision have your focus right now? Which aspects of your vision can you fully commit to right now?

I challenge you to explore what holds you back from anything you really want. Choose one more step you can take toward your vision. Then make your choice real by stating it out loud, telling someone you trust, writing it in your journal or somewhere you can easily refer to. If you want to physically embody your commitment, place a symbolic line on the floor (tape or something similar). Reflect on your commitment, then when you're ready, say "I choose....[insert your commitment]" and step forward over the line -- into your learning edge and toward greater empowerment.

Author's Bio: 

Sheila Adams, M.A. draws on 16 years in business as entrepreneur, executive, trainer, and coach, to guide you toward living your vision. For more information about workshops, teleclasses, and coaching customized for your success, visit The Learning Edge Coaching web site at www.TheEdgeCoach.com or send email to LiveYourDreams@VibrantWomen.com.