Limiting Beliefs

My Shaman teacher once shared this parable about a family, their cow and a monk. I'll summarize it....

A monk came upon a family living alone in a shack. They had one cow and used it for milk and cream and sold some to the other villagers. They were proud of the cow and their ability to survive on such humble means, and they were proud to share their meager helpings with their visitor.

On the day the monk was leaving, he walked the cow to the edge of the nearby cliff and pushed it off, sending it to its death! (this is where everyone gasps). Personally, I'm not sure why a monk would be this violent either, but those monks and teaching through metaphors..shrug.

Years later the monk revisited the place where the family had lived and, to his surprise, found a prosperous family living in a lovely home and doing quite well. When the monk inquired about the previous family, the man stated that they had always lived there. He added how they had lost their dear, sacred cow long ago and were forced to find other ways to provide for themselves. It turned out, in learning new skills and thinking more expansively, they had improved their lives significantly. (Source and author: Unknown)

This story is typically used in business to help stakeholders understand a need to shift and adapt and let go of ingrained limiting beliefs just for the sake of the company's culture. Usually it involves addressing something, or someone, that has previously been untouchable, above criticism and beyond question.

But we all get stuck with sacred cows. It's those firmly held beliefs that end up limiting us rather than expanding our ways of thinking.

In fact, during Covid, we have all had to take a look at our cows. Things that worked, have always worked for us, suddenly fell into question. We saw many creatives on social media finding new ways to adapt, and we were all challenged to socialize, date, and otherwise engage with the world differently. We had to shift the way we saw or did things before in order not to limit ourselves.

Some common sacred cows may be: 'I'll start dating when I lose 20 pounds" or "I have to be thin in order to be loved" or "I don't have value if I'm not married (by 30), don't make 6-figures, don't have a partner, don't have children," ______ you fill in the blank. Others run a little deeper: "I can't be alone." Or, "I'm not capable of learning new things, bettering my life, changing my habits or behaviors..."

We end up limiting ourselves with these sacred cows. There may be one or two hiding in your "always/never" language or your "shoulds".

If we push the cow off the cliff, we are forced to think of new beliefs and ways of being in our lives. It turns out we can live more richly as a result.

Maybe we don't need a cliff or a pandemic to thrust us into this shift. Maybe just having it in our awareness is enough. Maybe just asking ourselves questions like:

Does this cow keep me safe or does it really help me to grow?

Is this cow my comfort zone? Is this really the best I can do?

Is my fear lurking behind this cow? My self-doubt?

A coach can help you ask the right questions and throw those cows off the cliff! Or gently nudge them. Reach out now at

Lone cow standing in pasture  with clouds overhead
Cow in Pasture form Wix Media

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