A Punnett square is a scientific tool - a diagram typically used by biologists to predict the probability of certain genetic outcomes. Here, we’re sharing a revolutionary way you can use this organizational tool to discredit your most insidious limiting beliefs. In biology, Punnett squares outline both possibilities and probabilities. As we shift our mindset and unleash our human potential, the value of these Punnett squares is in their ability to illustrate possibilities - the ones that tend to hide out in our blind spots.
Mindset work is all about uncovering misunderstandings that created limiting beliefs in our childhood. These misunderstandings may have arisen out of imperfect observation, or from explicitly being taught incorrectly. There are many ways to break them down. One way is to discredit them, to use the intellect to disprove them and interrupt their perceived logic.
Some limiting beliefs arise due to a one-time experience. Others because a person has seen a trend, and drawn a conclusion about why it’s happening, but that conclusion is wrong. Here’s one concrete example I like to use. As a child, my parents were good, rule-abiding drivers. They used their turn signals regularly. From the backseat, I drew a conclusion: it was the use of the turn signal that made the car turn. As any driver knows - there is a relationship between the turn signal and the turning of a car. And we humans make this kind of error in thinking all the time: we see a pattern happening over and over, and we assign a causal relationship between two independent variables. These variables have a relationship to each other, but one does not cause the other - the car turns without the signal.
Although my child self was noticing some good driving features, the Punnett square illustrates the possibility and even likelihood of turning without a signal - or signaling without a turn. This is why the Punnett square structure is useful in breaking down misunderstandings around causal relationships. Our misunderstandings, aka our limited beliefs, typically look like conflating many possibilities into two options - creating a limiting “either/or” paradigm.
Maybe these classic ones are familiar:
- I can be rich and sell out, or be poor and do what I love.
- I can have what I want and hurt my partner, or give up what I want in order for partner to be happy.
- I can overwork and achieve, or focus on self-care and sacrifice my success.
See the trade off that’s built into our subconscious programming? We’re taught that we can’t have two good things - only one.
For example, although most people believe at some level that having more money will solve all their problems, the truth is that people with lots of money worry about it and so do people without it. There are also people who have very little financial resources and don’t worry about money one whit!
Let’s use this Punnett square to look at the truth about money and worry. Fill in each box with one example of someone you know - or know about - who fits each description. Prove to yourself that all four possibilities are in fact real.
One of the first things I talk about with my clients is how to receive support. Most of us are taught that in order to ask for help and get it, we have to be needy, broken, and desperate. We forget that people like Oprah and Obama, Gates and Beyonce have MASSIVE teams to help them do what they do. They are some of the most supported - and powerful - people in the world. And the honest truth is that so often when we feel weak, it’s because we’re not getting the support we truly want.
To round out our introduction to this tool, here’s a much more subjective context. While you might have personal preferences in the realm of what you’re attracted to, it is clearly possible to find examples for each of the boxes above.
The whole point of these Punnett squares is that in giving ourselves exposure to ALL of the possibilities available, we can (for example) quit trying to be skinny when what we really want is to feel sexy. We can see that the two axes are truly independent variables.
And don’t get hung up on statistics. It doesn’t matter if you can find as many examples for every box - it just matters that you can find examples for each box. As a math teacher, I studied plenty of statistics, and I’m here to tell you: statistics is not relevant to human potential. Potential is not a statistic. Our historic results are informative, but incomplete. Our capacity to create now is not restricted by what we have created in the past. We are capable of more than we realize, and the more of us who do the work around mindset, the more of us will be able to massively change the world for the better.
Interrupting our limiting beliefs is the work of quantum leaps, and it goes against the dominant paradigm. Don’t expect to see everyone doing this! Everyone has the capacity - but not all people have the dedication or desire to do this work. Mindset work is uncomfortable - and many people prefer to stick to their inaccurate beliefs than to be as uncomfortable as they need to be in order to do this work. We aren’t here to change everyone’s mindset: we’re here to support you in changing yours.
So, here are your two next steps:
Scroll back up to the square about money and worry and honestly assess yourself:
1. Which box do you fall into? Are there multiple boxes that you resonate with? Is it variable? Are there any boxes that you have never experienced? Why? Would you like to?
2. The next time you feel that something is impossible, create a Punnett square and see where you fall - and where you want to fall.
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