by Niall Doherty

I know many readers aren’t fans of the whole pickup dealio that I’m in to, but I have to say that it’s one of the best things I’ve ever gotten involved in in terms of personal development. I’ve learned so much from it, lessons that aren’t specific to flirting and dating. I think of framing, storytelling, group dynamics, leadership, self-assurance, self-trust, persistence, being assertive, how to handle rejection, body language, eye contact, social skills… and on and on.

Today I want to address the concept of reference experiences, and how they help kill limiting beliefs. Let’s start with some explanations of these terms:

  • A limiting belief is simply a disempowering belief, one that holds you back. Usually these beliefs are false. Example: Girls don’t like me because of my looks.
  • Reference experiences are experiences you’ve had that tell you more about how the world really works. They serve as reality checks. If you get out there enough and put yourself in enough situations, you can’t help but figure out a few truths. Reality has a habit of smacking you in the face repeatedly until you accept it.


From the above explanations, can you see how reference experiences help kill limiting beliefs? Here are a few personal examples to explain further…

I never considered myself very physically attractive, and I used to tell myself that girls wouldn’t like me because of my looks. But over the years I’ve had enough positive interactions with women to know that this belief is bullshit, simply a story I was telling myself that was holding me back. Now sure, I know I’m still not the best looking guy in the world, but I no longer believe that I’m unattractive. I’ve had too many reference experiences say otherwise.

As mentioned, many of the concepts I’ve learned from pickup apply far and wide, and this one is no exception. I think of how I recently hired an assistant and she’s now busy working for me. I have this limiting belief that I don’t really deserve the money she earns for me, because she’s doing all the work. But I can feel the experience chipping away at that belief. I know that logically I do deserve the money because people should be rewarded for working smarter (not just harder). I know with enough time and experience, I’ll get comfortable with the idea of other people earning money for me.

A more general and simplified example would be tying your shoelaces. At some point you thought such a feat was really difficult and that you couldn’t do it. But then you saw enough other people doing it and practiced it enough yourself that it became really easy. Now you don’t even think twice about tying your shoelaces. You’ve had enough reference experiences enforcing the belief that you’ve become a master at it.

Bad reference experiences

Even reference experiences that we label as bad can be viewed as beneficial. I think of an incident recently where I took home a girl I met at a club and the next morning she asked me for 2000 Baht (almost $70) “taxi money”. I felt my stomach tighten. Up until that point there had been no mention of money. I felt cheated. But more so, I felt like a fool. I should have known better. I’d met this girl leaving a shady club in the wee hours. She’d been pretty drunk. It didn’t take much convincing to get her back to my place.

Like I said, I really should have known better. But at the same time, I’ve chosen not to regret that it happened. I view it as a reference experience, one that made me smarter (or at least less stupid).

(Best be clear here: This way of thinking isn’t a license for reckless behavior. I’m not saying you should go out and do stupid things because you can always shrug them off as reference experiences later. Be smart and avoid trouble whenever possible. But when you do inevitably find that you’ve made a mistake, treat it as a lesson learned and be grateful. No point beating yourself up about it.)

To summarize…

  • You can’t kill a limiting belief with logic. But you can often kill a limiting belief by getting out there and putting it to the test in the real world, by actually experiencing that logic at play.
  • The more experiences you have in life, the easier it is to get in tune with reality. You’ll notice patterns, the same truths coming up over and over again.
  • You don’t have to get down on yourself when something “bad” happens. View it as another reference experience that gives you more insight into how the world works. Learn from it.

How to get more reference experiences

Get out there and do more things. Want to get better with women? Get out there and interact more with women. Want to get better at business? Get out there and start doing business. Want to become a better public speaker? Get out there and start speaking in front of people.

What reference experiences would be beneficial to you? Comments are open.


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