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Do you have an inner voice that tells you are not good enough?  Or declares you will not get a better job, or lose that weight you so desperately want to shift?  May be that voice says you’re not intelligent or talented enough?  Perhaps you have an inner voice that says you just need to go on one more course before you’re ready to get that promotion, write that book, or start that business?  These inner voices have many names- saboteurs, gremlins, the committee, inner critics, demons.

Whatever name you give them, you probably face these voices many times a day.  From getting out of bed on time to eating healthy meals and working out to getting your filing done, your saboteurs have a lot to say about what you do and think and what you don’t do and think.  So, if you are finding these saboteur voices are particularly loud, especially during this new year resolution period, here are some things to think about to help you manage your saboteurs more effectively:

Recognise the voice and the feeling of your saboteurs

When that negative voice starts talking, how does it make you feel?

When that negative voice starts talking, how does it make you feel?  Low? Lousy? Depressed?  Negative? Does it make you feel like giving up or not bothering?  Are you focused on the problem or the solution?  Do you feel particularly creative or inspired?

When the saboteurs have their grip, you feel heavy, low and uninspired.  It’s not a great place to be.  It also makes your body feel lethargic and you may experience tension in you stomach, chest, shoulders, neck or other places.  You might be confused, conflicted and find you are second-guessing yourself.  Worst of all, you don’t have clarity and you feel stuck.

The saboteurs use words like “can’t” such as “You can’t do that!”, “should” like “You really should do it this way!”, “shouldn’t” for example “I shouldn’t make that phone call………”, “would” such as “I would do it this way rather than that way”, “wouldn’t” for example “I wouldn’t do that”, “ought to” like “I ought to do what he wants”, “don’t” such as “Don’t do it like that!”

Saboteurs hold you back and stop you moving forward.  When there is any growth, your saboteurs are there to stop you taking risks.  The bigger the risk, the louder and sharper the voice, the heavier the feelings.  The voice and feelings are designed to get you to take notice, shrink back and stay well inside your comfort zone.

What are the embodied resources to counter your saboteurs?

Like any superhero movie, there is the hero and the villain.  In fact, you cannot have one without the other.  They are the yin and the yang, opposing forces that keep things dynamic and flowing.  If your saboteurs are the villains in your tale, who are your heroes?

The heroes to counter-balance and hold in check your saboteurs are the positive voices and feelings that make you feel empowered.  While the embodiment of the saboteurs is usually contracted, small and reduced, the embodiment of your inner heroes is expanded, large and takes up space.  When you were a kid and pretended to be Batman and Tarzan or Xena warrior princess and Electra, you felt invincible.  You could achieve anything………….. and often did.

Simply envisioning yourself as this character (putting your big boy/girl pants on) can be enough to feel more confident and do something you wouldn’t ordinarily feel willing to do.  If TV and movie characters don’t work for you, why not try a mentor, sports personality or a person in history you respect and emulate the qualities you admire in them.  You are not trying to be them.  You are embodying the qualities they possess that bring you confidence and an opposing voice to the saboteurs.

If that doesn’t work, stand and move like them. When I feel the grip of one of my saboteurs, one of my strategies is to go for a fast and determined walk, which breaks the lethargy and gives me more energy, focus and determination for the task ahead.  I call it my “fire walk” as it gets me all fired up and I stop listening to the limiting voice of my saboteur.

What is the 2% truth?

What is the truth behind what the saboteur is saying?  Saboteurs will take the smallest grain of truth and blow it out of all proportion.  When you can see the core of the truth, you can dismiss the rest and you can deal with the truth of the situation more effectively.  For example, I don’t like calling people.  My saboteur tells me that they are busy, or they do not want to talk to me and that I am wasting my time.  Then, when I call and they do not answer of brush me off, my saboteur then says “I told you so” and tells me not to bother and makes up stuff like “they don’t like me” or “they are not interested in the work I’m doing” or that my work is pointless and useless.  And even worse, that I am pointless and useless.

See how insidious these saboteurs can be?  Maybe you relate to this direction and momentum of thought?  When I can look at it clearly, I can see that being rejected or ignored are possibilities when I call, and that has nothing to do with me.  The rest is make-believe.  Sometimes it’s easier to stop that train of thought than others.  The key is to catch it early as your thoughts have less momentum.  With greater saboteur awareness, the sooner you can head it off and with greater ease.

What do your saboteurs look like?

Rather than a disembodied voice, it can be easier to work with your saboteur when it has a face, body, clothes, habits, character and personality.  Create a stereotype of your saboteurs.  Have fun creating a caricature that gives you a more manageable perspective on your saboteur.  One of mine is The Drill Sargent, like the one from Full Metal Jacket.  He shouts and rants and raves at me, saying that I’ll amount to nothing and give in.  Another is The Sex God.  I’m sure you can imagine what negative and undermining things he says to me!  But, when those voices have a comedy caricature, like a cartoon, it makes it easier to dismiss them and even send them somewhere so that I am apart from their negative influence.

Saboteurs are trying to help

As frustrating as they are, saboteurs are actually created to keep you safe.  Though you may want to change and do things differently, your saboteur is designed to stop you failing, being humiliated, getting hurt and taking risks.  The truth is, change involves risk and failure is possible.  So, learning to manage your saboteurs for the sake of change, growth and evolution is important.

It seems our habit is to fight our saboteurs.  We push against them, refuse to accept them, tense up and rant and rave in the face of them.  And all that does is make them come on stronger.  It’s human nature to push against what pushes against us.  So, rather than steam roller him, try thanking him.  That’s right.  It’s not a type-o! Thank your saboteurs for trying to help and explain that while you understand they are trying to keep you safe, you no longer want to act and live like this, so it’s time to change.  I was amazed how well this worked the first time I used it.  Faced with lots of negative talk about growing my business, I continually thank my saboteurs for their input and respectfully say that I choose a different way that I believe will get me the results I want.

Because of their helpful nature, I’m not sure we ever stop the saboteurs’ voices.  Perhaps they become easier to manage.  And remember, the bigger the risk you take, the louder the voice they have.  In a way, we don’t want them to stop- as they tell you that you are on the right track!!

Another useful tip given to me by my coach was the more saboteurs you have and the louder they speak, the bigger the dreams you have and the more capable you are of creating them.

Over to You

So, there are five strategies to manage your saboteurs.  Use one, use all, use them in different scenarios.  Work with what works best for you.  Do you recognise the voices of your saboteurs?  Are there more than one?  How do they sound different?  Have you noticed how you stand and move differently when you are lacking confidence and in the grip of a saboteur, compared to when you are feeling like a superhero?  Can you see the truth in what the saboteur is saying and separate it from the lies?  Will you face that 2% of truth and let it teach you what your next moves need to be?  Does it help to personify your saboteurs?  What becomes possible when your saboteurs are no longer holding you back?

Pass it on

Saboteurs are active all the time, not just when new years resolutions are at the fore front of your mind.  Whenever change is afoot, saboteurs are there to hold you back and keep you safe.  They are there to stop change.  So, if you know someone who is struggling with making changes, perhaps their saboteurs have got a hold of them.  Maybe this blog could give them some insight that could make all the difference.  Why not send it their way?

** inspired by personal life events, clients’ conversations and Taming your Gremlin by Rick Carson **

Do you view brushes with failure as negative? When you fail, do you respond with self- ridicule and judgement? If you get things wrong does your inner saboteur use it as ammunition to keep you limited, safe and inside your comfort zone?

The Weight of Failure

Failure is an inevitable part of life. Making mistakes offers valuable lessons on the road to success and excellence. Your learning and experience from failure is ultimately determined by your mindset around failure. How do you hold failure? Is it weighty, full of high risk and dire consequences? Or do you hold it lightly, with curiosity and an opportunity to learn, experience, understand and adapt?

This point was brought home to me recently when I visited a local museum. There was a display, showing how locks work and how boats on rivers and canals navigate ascents and descents. I was trying to work out how the various buttons and handles worked the display so the model boat could move from one end of the display to the other. Every wrong button I pressed or handle I moved was met by a correction from the volunteer. Even though I said I wanted to work it out myself and use my mistakes as stepping stones to deeper understanding, the volunteer desperately tried to save me from error.

What was interesting was I felt the empowerment to learn from exploration drain away with every comment from the volunteer. I know it was meant kindly and to be supportive. Yet my experience was the opposite. It undermined my confidence.

Perspective of Failure

I think this volunteer’s perspective is a common relationship we have with failure. As if it is bad. As if we are wrong to get it wrong. If we chastised our children for falling when they were learning to walk, we would all still be crawling. Yet, every time little Johnnie falls over we encourage and champion him, in the belief he can do it. When little Suzie takes a tumble we enthusiastically suggest she try again, knowing full well she will succeed in time.

There seems to come a time when that unconditional support evaporates, encouragement gives way to ridicule and cheerleading is replaced by judgement. Very quickly we develop a perception of failure that is self- defeating. It justifies our unworthiness, lack of ability and missing resourcefulness.  Please remember:

You are able, worthy and resourceful.

Often, we need encouragement to tap into those qualities. Failure is one of those spaces in human experience in which we can be educated to view it as a sign of defeat or a chance for opportunity.

Celebrating Failure

What if we could celebrate failure? Rather than see our lack of knowledge or understanding as a condemnation and a road block to our learning. Perhaps we can develop a more empowering mindset? What if failure was met with an eagerness to delve deeper, create new solutions, explore different perspectives, investigate other paths?

What learning becomes available when you fail? The results tell you everything. 2017 saw me launch Mindful Movement workshops. They were met by my captive audience with enthusiasm and deep learning. I expected 2018 to continue that way. In reality, engagement has been poor so far. Why? After consulting enough people with experience, it has become clear marketing is the main issue. As a result, I have been on marketing workshops. Some improvement but still not great. The next step has been audience focus. Better results again. Now it is language. What words am I using in my marketing literature? Each step gets me closer. Every failure points to the next solution.

On a personal note I have been challenged with communication with my son. I have always reached out to him but he has never initiated contact. At 20 years old I was hoping for a more balanced relationship. I tried a few things- silence, texts, phone calls- none of it worked. I was seeing the endless failures as a sign there was no road through and it was upsetting to contemplate that I would have no two- way relationship with him. Instead, I had it out with him face to face, kindly, openly, respectfully. He responded beautifully to his great credit. It’s early days and so far, we are enjoying a much more balanced and open communication.

Failure as a Positive Force

I have a tendency to view failure as an end of the road. Perhaps you do the same?  It is no such thing unless you choose to put the road blocks there. It is hard sometimes to find the way through, the next step, another option. Creativity, openness, receptivity to advice and suggestions from others and a desire to find your way through are essential I believe. It is a challenge in itself to maintain these mindsets when you hold failure as a negative force. Held as a positive force, it acts as inspiration for creativity, receptivity and desire.

Failure is an inevitable part of the life coaching process.  Each session is an open space for exploration, taking risks and deep learning.  And sometimes when action steps are not achieved, the next coaching session is ripe ground for getting curious about what the obstacles to taking action were.  Is it something about realistic expectations?  Does the client have a relationship with that action that limits them?  Are they holding a disempowering perspective?  At no point is their judgement.  There is only the opportunity for more learning and growth.  Seeing failure as the route to success I think is a healthy view point. That you succeed is a wonderful by- product. Failure is the fertile ground of learning, growth and understanding.

We are all Roses on The Wheel of Life

As a wonderful teacher told me years ago, the rose grows strong and beautiful when you put lots of manure and water on it. Failure and the expansion out of your comfort zone that comes with failure held in a positive light is the manure you flourish in. All the manure and water can do is bring forth what is already there. Failure can entice you to dig deeper into yourself in any given area of your life. In fact, it is the manure your whole life flourishes in: health, business/ career, relationships, finances, education, contribution and any other segments of your Wheel of Life.

As a result, let’s celebrate failure- the barometer that points to your need to learn, expand, grow and ultimately flourish.

Over to You

Do you see failure as a positive or a negative? How do you hold failure? Is it a learning tool or a road block? How does seeing failure as a positive change outcomes for you? Where is the learning in your failure? Failure is such a common part of our lives if we wish to grow and move our lives forward. The alternative is stagnation and overwhelming fear to try. How can celebrating failure change that mind set for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts, experience and realisations. Please share them in the comments box below, on social media or e- mail me at david@potentialitycoaching.co.uk. I look forward to hearing from you.

Pass it on

If you know someone who is struggling with failure, why not send them the link to this blog or share and retweet the posts? It could be just what they need to see failure as something to celebrate.

Two rows of oak trees on either side of a straight road with branches creating a beautiful arch along the length of the road

Does the prospect of self growth daunt you? Are you aware that you need to learn and grow. Are you put off by the struggle, dedication and sacrifice you anticipate is involved? Does the thought of the pain and sweat make you not want to start or perhaps throw in the towel once things get tough?

The Dip

I see this time and again with coaching clients. The first few sessions are full of enthusiasm, momentum, growth and learning. Then people hit a lull or what is known as The Dip. The resistance to change steps in. The desire to keep things as they are, becomes increasingly powerful as greater change looms on the horizon. The fears of “am I good enough?” and “do I have what it takes” beat a steady rhythm in your heart and mind. Doubts flood in and suddenly all this change and growth doesn’t seem like such a good idea.

When this happens, it is the coach’s role to champion the client. To remind them sensitively of what they have declared is most important to them, what they want to achieve and perhaps most importantly, how they want to be in the world.

This shift requires challenge, courage, learning, action and growth. The coach supports and cheers the client along throughout the journey, celebrating their resourcefulness, creativity and determination.

The Courage for Self Growth

To stand up for the life you really want for yourself requires courage. As you grow into this person more and more, you show yourself the strength, resilience and mettle that lives within you. Sometimes that resolve comes through clarity and focus as you realise your purpose, fulfilment and goals. Other times it comes from the depth of despair as you face another obstacle or setback and find the resolve to uncover the learning, discover deeper resources and take further action.

As Rob Bell says in one of his podcasts, it is the sweat and pain that makes you strong. If you do not realise how incredible you are already, then in order to discover it you can go through the process of breaking through the limiting beliefs that hold you back.  You find your backbone as you journey along these paths. It seems most of us have lost that knowing about how great and magnificent we are.  Without struggle and work it is hard to discover what qualities you bring to the table of life and what you can meaningfully contribute.

The Growth of Inherent Skills

I have seen clients emerge from challenges to their health or careers for example, having discovered qualities and inspiration that have taken their lives in new and fascinating directions.  You may already know people who have had a health scare or faced redundancy.  So often, that process sets wheels in motion to look inward and ask “what do I really want and how am I going to achieve it?”  Suddenly, doors open, inspiration floods in, they take the action steps required, they succeed, they fail and learn and in time they grow the skills inherent within them.   They become more confident, fuller, stronger, broader in range, deeper in resources and resilience.  In short, they have grown from the experience.

Self growth has its advantages. It can be a transformative process. And it does not have to be all hard graft and full of resistance. When you are clear about your purpose and goals, self growth is a joyful process that brings you into full alignment with what is deeply fulfilling for you.

Yes, it will push you out of your comfort zone. That may scare you. Yes, you may have moments when you doubt yourself. That may frustrate you. What I see in clients is a focus and resolve on the bigger picture, drawing them irretrievably forward into the person they wish to become. That may be painful, sweaty and fearful. It will also be fulfilling, exhilarating and purposeful.

The Oak Tree

Two rows of oak trees on either side of a straight road with branches creating a beautiful arch along the length of the road

The sapling has all the qualities of the giant Oak, it just needs time to grow

I like the phrase self growth. It speaks of already being what you are, you simply have to practice it more to become bigger, stronger and more proficient at it. An Oak tree is no less an Oak tree as the acorn, a sapling or a giant in the forest. The acorn has all the qualities of the giant Oak, it just needs time to grow. It will take time. Effort will be required. Perseverance will be essential. Set- backs will be inevitable. Adaptation unavoidable. This is the process of growth.

You grow into a larger version of yourself: more confident, resourceful, resilient, creative, experienced and joyful; with greater capacity, learning, depth, height, breadth and power.

Every person you have ever admired started their journey to where they are today a younger, less confident, knowledgeable, experienced and wise version of themselves you see before you. It was not without learning and pain as they transformed over time into these wonderful teachers, guides, mentors and leaders. They overcame limiting beliefs, diminished confidence, fear of rejection and visibility of speaking out. These people carried on through moments of doubt, uncertainty and countless nay- sayers to be where they are. They are no different to you or me. Know that the learning leads to growth and the growth leads to learning.

Over to you

What do you love about self growth? Are there elements about self growth that you don’t like? What are your areas of growth? Where do you need to grow? Are you aware of your blind spots? Do you have a team of people around you who will supportively point them out to you? Are you someone who supports others in their growth and development? Please share your experience and insights in the comments box below or on social media. It’s so valuable to create discussion on these themes and support people on their road of growth.

Pass it on

Why not share this post with other people? If you found it valuable, perhaps other people will find it useful too. I’d really appreciate it if you spread the love and light. Thank you.