This morning I was on the phone with a coaching client who was being brow beaten by her inner critic.
I asked her what the critic said and she rhymed off it’s favourite phrases without too much difficulty.
“The important thing is to recognize the voice of the inner critic when you hear it,” I said. “So you don’t go mistaking it for the voice of reason.”
“Oh,” she said, in the voice of dawning realization.
“The first step to managing the inner critic is to write down the things it likes to say on a piece of paper or a bunch of post it notes, so that you won’t be fooled when it pipes up.” I said.
“The second step is to put some kind of heading at the top. I suggest something like, ‘Possibly true, but not helpful’. Because the thing about the inner critic is that it targets your deepest fears or insecurities. A lot of what it says will have a grain of truth in it, just enough to hook you so you drop what you were intending to do, and go off trying to reassure yourself, or argue with the voice, or cower in the corner from the sting of its rebuke.”
“I do that,” she said.
“We all do,” I said.
“On a separate piece of paper or different colour of post it notes, I want you to write down your goal. What you are trying to accomplish. Label it something like ‘What I Want’ or ‘Focus’ or ‘Goal’. And then write a few specific actions you can take to move the goal forward.”
“So when I hear the inner critic, I say ‘Possibly true, but not helpful’ and turn my attention right back to the goal, taking immediate action to move it forward,” she said. Because she is a quick study.
“Exactly!” I said. “And if you want to make it a little more fun, you might decide on a small treat you can use to reward yourself every time you do one of the action on the list. For example, if your action is to make 5 business development calls, you might lay out 5 chocolate covered almonds on your desk and give yourself one after each call you make.”
“Or five glasses of wine” she said.
“Probably not,” I said.
“One inner critic message can be especially convincing,” I said. “It’s the one that says you don’t know what to do.”
“I’m going to borrow some advice from a Danielle LaPorte video on this one and say the antidote to that is the mantra ‘I’ll figure it out.’ Because you can and you will. You are creative and resourceful and nobody ever knows what to do or how to do it before they’ve done it. It’s a trap to think you can, and it stalls way to many people and keeps them from attempting what they know they want to try.”
We went on to talk about how the client can bring her best self to the table, reviewed past successes and creative strategies. She left the call with a commitment to write and post her ‘Possibly true, but not helpful,” list and her “Goals and actions to move them forward” list. She decided to take Danielle’s advice and post the ‘I’ll figure it out’ mantra as well. And she’s thinking about a small reward she might use to sweeten the process. She also had an insight into how to leverage a past success in her current situation and was pretty excited about that.
Three + 1 morals in this story,
1. The messages your inner critic whispers and sometimes true but usually not helpful.
2. The best course of action is disregard the critic and focus on taking specific action toward a meaningful goal instead.
3. You have many strengths and past successes that you can leverage in your current situation.
+1. Small treats and kickass coaching can help you get where you want to go.
Yours with creativity and imagination,