• Andy

If They Can Do It, I Can Do It

A determined man jumps off the bench into the sky
If they can do it, I can do it.

An ‘allergy’ to Aeroplane Food

I was around 12 years old sitting on a plane mid flight on the way to Hong Kong from London. This was an annual trip my family made from as early as I can remember to go and visit relatives. It was the dinner service on the flight and the air hostesses were slowly bringing the food cart closer to my seat.

I could smell the food, that smell of food on a plane is very distinct. For me, it smelled vile, how can people eat that?! Just the smell made my stomach churn, I was getting nauseous slowly feeling the need to vomit.

I told my mum I didn’t want any food. She had become accustomed to my distaste of aeroplane food. She had seen me vomit it all out numerous times. She had taken the sick bags from her own and my dad’s seat and gave them to me.

At 12 years old I believed I had developed an ‘allergy’ to aeroplane food. If you had given me the same food on the ground, I would be fine. The whole experience of being on the plane and eating was something I couldn’t do without feeling sick.

To overcome this before any flight I would stuff myself with McDonald’s in the airport, and then not eat on the whole flight. Yes I did this on long haul 12 hour flights too.


Going into my teens, I got frustrated by this ‘allergy’. I started to realise this wasn’t an allergy, this was all in my head. I had fabricated this whole thing, probably because of one bad food experience on the plane. So I set about using some logic to challenge this irrational fear I had. I asked myself these questions…

  1. Do other people of the same profile (demographic, age) as me have this issue? No, I haven’t heard anyone else have this problem

  2. Do other people not of the same profile (e.g. older or from other countries) as me have this issue? No, I haven’t heard anyone else have this problem

  3. Can I overcome this problem? Yes because other people who are the same profile as me don’t have this issue. So it must be all in my head, I can change this.

There are 7 billion people in this world, and if the majority of humanity can do what I can’t then surely I should be able to…

I set about challenging this strong belief of having an allergy to aeroplane food. It took me a few years to eliminate this limiting belief (bear in mind I was probably flying only once or twice a year). It wasn’t easy as I had an instant reaction to food on the plane. Even though my mind said you are making this all up, my body was still convinced aeroplane food was a problem. Using this 'If they can do it, I can do it' mindset provided a foundation for me to power through my body’s reaction and persevere in reconditioning my mind and body.

Do You Know What Your Limiting Beliefs Are?

Looking back it sounds ridiculous, who could be allergic to aeroplane food? I tell this story because the limiting belief I had was completely irrational, yet at the time it was so true and real. We all hold on to limiting beliefs and we believe they are so real and true that we don’t recognise they are holding us back.

You can work out if one of the beliefs you hold are a limiting belief by using the questions below. If the majority of people of your profile are doing what you’re not, then most likely (not all the time) it is a limiting belief.

An example, one that I still hold is I am not a good cyclist, therefore I can’t cycle on the streets because I’m afraid of getting hit by a car. Yet I know many people who cycle to work or use it as their primary mode of transport. Athletically I am better than them (I surf which I’m sure is way harder than cycling) so if I commit to it I should be able to get good at cycling. Moreover, in London many people cycle on the streets of all varying capabilities so I’m sure I can do it.

The 3 Questions to Ask Yourself

Over the years I have used this strategy to overcome small to huge challenges. From changing my eating habits (there were certain vegetables I didn’t like e.g. celery, asparagus — now I’m a vegetarian and eat all of them) to shifting from an introvert to an extrovert (read about that here).

A more recent example where I have used this is writing.

My limiting belief: I have never considered myself a writer. I studied engineering, my professional career has been around data and software. I can write code but I don’t know how to write a blog. Will anyone read my stories? I don’t want to put myself out there on the internet.

  1. Have other people of the same profile (demographic, age) achieved my goal? Yes, there are all types of people writing. And a lot of them don’t have writing experience. If my content sucks then no one is going to read it anyway. There are people writing about subjects I am interested in, I’m sure I have something to offer that I can write about too.

  2. Have other people not of the same profile as me achieved my goal? Yes, on Medium you get all sorts of topics, and the profiles of people are so vast. Literally anyone can write and publish.

  3. If other people have achieved my goal and can I achieve my goal? Yes, I can do it. There is no good reason why I can’t write

  4. Make it happen — OK I’ll start writing about something I am passionate about

(These are the more up to date questions I use now.)

Question 1 works on the basis that if other people who are the same as me have achieved my goal then I can too. Why couldn’t I if these other people who have the same attributes and resources as me are able to?

Question 2 widens the scope of people so that if a wider group of people have achieved my goal then it reinforces the belief I can do it if question 1 is answered yes. Or it highlights any gaps I’m missing if question 1 is answered no.

Question 3 reinforces that the goal can be achieved because other people have done it so can you.

Point 4 is not a question but for you to put down the first action you need to take to achieve your goal. I found it useful to put the first step there so while you got this momentum you can take the first action.

Why This Wouldn’t Work For You

My approach to the answers are largely based on statistics and logical thinking. For me, knowing that thousands (in some cases millions) of people of the same profile as me have achieved my goal is enough evidence to convince I can do it. If you are very analytically driven this may not be enough for you. You may need to seek out research papers to get the exact numbers to convince yourself. Tweak this to whatever works for you.

Second reason this may not work is because it is logical. Some people are emotionally driven so logic with no emotional hook may not work. In this scenario you can answer the questions with an emotional narrative. E.g. the feeling the writers on Medium get when they have published their first piece is magical, they have unleashed the writer in them which has been yearning for creative output for years. I have that same craving I want to feel that magical buzz of writing. I am no different than the thousands of Medium writers who have published their first story once they bit their lip and took the plunge. I would love that feeling too.

This is Only the Beginning of Reaching Your Goals

The final point I will make on this is using this approach only provides you with the self belief that you can do it. You still have to go out and take action.

Self belief is the most critical part to achieving your goals. If you don’t believe you can achieve something you won’t. Like for me, I never felt adequate that I could write. I have tried and failed, when I started my first Medium story a few weeks ago, I noticed in my Medium account I had a draft story in my account which I started 2 years ago and never finished (I will be finishing it soon :) ).

If the majority of people can do it, you can too. Try out this approach and let me know if it works for you!


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Love and light x


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