We sure do get this money stuff tangled up, don’t we? This is the place where I untangle pieces of it. Most of it’s about money while some of it’s about something else that strikes my interest. All of it is about noticing how things get knotted up and how to untangle the knots. Oh, and if you have a topic you’d like me to explore, just let me know. I’ll be happy to give it a good shake and see what untangles.
Who do you go to for information? These days we often dive into the ‘web’ for information, and I’m guessing you also have people who you seek out for their knowledge and expertise. Long ago my family taught me about this in some interesting and amusing ways.
First let me tell you how I learned to bake bread. My paternal Grandmother, Dossie, was a cook—like ran a lunch room, catered meals for 100+ by herself cook. And she baked, wow did she bake: rolls, cinnamon buns, bread… everything! In my 20s I started to learn to bake, and it does require finesse and practice. The interesting thing was how she tutored me in this. She couldn’t really explain what to do. She’d say things like “you knead the dough until it feels right.” Huh? What she could to was diagnose a problem in seconds, even over the phone. So that’s how I learned the art form of baking from her. I’d call and tell her how the loaf looked, and she’d tell me I didn’t let it rise long enough, or I didn’t have enough yeast in it, or a myriad of other tips. She was a very reliable source for baking knowledge, and I got to be a pretty good baker. (As a sad little aside, I have had to mostly give up baking, at least for myself—gluten and yeast are no longer my friends.)
Even earlier when I was in Junior High School—which you may think of as “Middle School”—there was another resource lesson. Actually it was several lessons in one event. My dad was the kinda guy that wanted you to think, and have a good reason for what ever you did, or asked for. We had this Funk and Wagnalls encyclopedia. It was many very small books. One day I came to him and told him that we needed a new encyclopedia. “Why would that be?” he asked. “Well, it’s because I have to do this report on WWII for my Social Studies class and our encyclopedia was published in 1937,” I responded. A new encyclopedia was purchased right away. I needed a better source, and he readily agreed!
What I took away from both of these early examples—and other life experiences—was that you really need to be careful who you go to for information. It’s not that people don’t have opinions on a variety of things—they do. But do they have expertise, a base of knowledge about the subject, or wisdom in that area?
I think we get ourselves in trouble when we ask well-meaning folks who don’t actually have expertise in the topic about things. For example, we tend to ask colleagues about how to attract clients. I’ve seen it within the coaching community for years. It’s not that talking with colleagues about your business is all bad… but how about talking with the people who you actually want as clients instead? Finding out what they want? Oh and finding a sales and marketing expert to help you attract those people?
When it came time to upgrade my website I worked with Jerry Fletcher, Brand Poobah and he started with having me gather data about my clients, and then I had conversations with the clients I really worked well with about what brought them to me. I needed to know what the clients wanted and needed in order to hire me. And I needed someone to help me give them that.
I know what I do well and where I need help. And when I need help, I look for someone who is a reliable, deep source in that area I don’t know about. We all have different talents and knowledge. I don’t need to know everything, what I do need to know is how to find and expert and when to ask for help. It saves me bunches of time and money, and also helps me learn about new things.
Where might an expert help you do better?
Shell Tain, the Untangler
Let me know if I can either be a source or help you find one. Give me a call at 503-258-1630 or leave a comment.
How do you get ‘ready’ for work? What do you do to prepare yourself to give a presentation? Or to have a challenging conversation? How do you don the mantle of your career?
I got intrigued with some of the creative ways we do this while reading a recent blog by my friend, Rachel Boehm. In The Clothes Make the Man she talked about the subtle messages our clothes send to others and ourselves. Part of her sharing was this great story about how she felt more strong and capable when wearing high heels, so she donned some to plunge into fixing the clogged kitchen sink. The heels helped her get the job done!
Of course all this is metaphor. The symbols help us ‘stand’ in the role. No wonder It’s often about shoes and feet. It sure was for Dorothy—from following the yellow brick road to clicking the heels of her ruby slippers together. We feel different in flip-flops than heels.
For some of us it’s a conscious act. Long ago in the ’80s I had a co-worker named Martha. Part of her job as the Finance Manager in that company was to make collection calls. Trust me, that can be a daunting thing for both parties on the call. The way she gathered her personal power to make those calls was by wearing her pearls.
What we are really doing with all this is both making a declaration, and gathering talents and strengths together. The shoes, or jewelry, or whatever just help to remind us. Additionally by using them, seeing them, feeling them we open those neural pathways in our brains where all the positive association around them live.
I take my maternal grandmother with me everywhere I go in the form of a ring that was hers. As I do that I bring her qualities to life in me—things like fortitude, kindness, and even poise—which I need more of! When I’m doing a talk or presentation my other grandmother brings her feisty, fearless self to me. Together the talismans and ancestors all support us.
What do you don to set the tone and take up the mantle?
Oh, and just for grins, what talisman or item of clothing or jewelry might help you uncover and rely on a part of you that would be more helpful and effective with money? And please, don’t make it a green eye shade… that would likely have the opposite effect!
I invite you to become even more conscious of this idea of creating intention through symbols that serve you.
Shell Tain, the Untangler
I’d love to hear what item works well for you. Give me a call at 503-258-1630 or leave a comment.
This year is almost done, we are about to cross the finish line — and begin again! Like most of our finish lines, it’s an arbitrary thing. There really is little difference between December 31st and January 1st. Of course there are rituals around these two days, and traditions, and they still are each 24 hours long.
We actually celebrate this ‘finish’ every year. The year will finish no matter what we do. And yet there is a huge pile of goals we declare and never ‘finish.’ Why is that?
We distract ourselves, we procrastinate, we make up weird rituals around things… on and on it goes.
Recently a client turned me on to this very aptly named book called: “Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done”, by Jon Acuff. It’s a WONDERFUL book about the tangle we get ourselves into in ‘trying’ to get things done. I highly recommend that you read it… NOW! It’s fun and amusing and dead on. He comes at this issue through the idea of Perfectionism, and how it scares us and holds us back.
Another book along a similar path that I find equally compelling is “The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles”, by Steven Pressfield. He’s writing about the same result of not getting things done, only instead of centering it around perfectionism, his nemesis is Resistance. This is a favorite ‘bathroom book’ of mine—a book with short bits to be read in several minutes! He’s less outright humorous, perhaps more sardonic and witty, and absolutely on point!
Here’s my take on both of these books, and why we need them. They are full of strategies and tactics for us to, at the very least contain, and possibly even curtail our “inner critics”. This handy, dandy persistent nagging voice in our heads is responsible for us staying in ruts, and not embracing our dreams.
You’ve heard me talk about it before, and no doubt will hear my musings on the topic again. I do so because it’s crucial to you living a life that is fulfilling.
A short review of your critic’s game plan:
- It wants to keep you safe
- In this moment you are safe (i.e., not on fire)
- It wants to block anything that might create change (i.e., change could make things worse)
- Distraction is a very good technique keep you where you are!
Can you see this pattern at work in your life? You get close to doing something that might ‘change things’ and then somehow get distracted, or confused, or mired in the process. That is very likely your Inner Critic keeping you firmly planted in the doldrums!
Part of the value of both the books listed is that they give you some practical tactics to break through that cycle and create the life you want.
Also, please note, this is NOT new stuff. We, as humans, have always had these challenges in staying stuck in places that don’t work for us. One of the main reasons for a ‘coach’ is to help us break through that and create the life we want.
So to finish out 2018 and start 2019, how about giving yourself some strategies through one of these books—or other ones you find—that will give you some new tools and perspectives? It just might change things for you!
Ka-ching to a Cool Yule!
Shell Tain, the Untangler
Feel free to share any other books that may have helped you avoid the critic’s traps. Give me a call at 503-258-1630 or leave a comment.
In September of 1943, at the tender age of 18, my dad was drafted. At that point, my Grandmother, Dossie, started a ‘Scrap Book‘. She wrote about what was happening and gathered telegrams, letters, newspaper clippings—all sorts of information. Dossie was not exactly ‘organized’. She was a dynamic, wonderful whirlwind of a woman, who had a quirky nature. Often the description on the back of a family photo read something like “all of us“—which was true, but not necessarily helpful.
Even the book’s history is intriguing. Apparently the book and all the accompanying bits of paper, photos, and such were in a cardboard box. Early in my parents marriage, my mother started to throw out the box. To ‘make up’ for this egregious error, she took the whole mess to be ‘laminated’. That’s good news and bad news. The laminator paid little attention to chronology and backs of pages. I’ve tried several times to ‘fix’ it, and it’s determined to stay a bit chaotic… but then it is about the most chaotic thing to ever happen to my dad and his family.
He ended up in the Army Air Corps, serving as a tail gunner on a B17. On December 7, 1944 his plane was shot down after a bombing run over Germany. Parachuting out, he was eventually turned over by Hitler Youth who found him hiding in an elderly woman’s basement. He ended up in the Stalag Luft 1 POW camp in Northern Germany. The camp was liberated on May 1, 1945. My dad weighed 110 lbs.
I’m just giving you the basics. There are many stories to tell about his time in the war, and also about how it was for my family back home. What I really wanted to write about today is this fascinating tidbit I recently found in the book. And guess what? It’s about money!
On May 20, 1945 my dad wrote a letter home. It was his first letter since being liberated, and most of it was a recap starting with his being shot down. I think the reason for the rehash is that this was the first letter that he was able to write that was only censored by Americans, and not his captors.
At the end of the letter he wrote: “Deposit $100.00 in the Wyoming Loan and Trust for I lost a bet and wrote a check on that bank. All My Love, AC ‘Slug’ Stone” My first response to this was to laugh out loud! It’s so my dad.
Here he is, a young man of 20, who has only been ‘free’ nine days, and he wants to make sure he honors a debt! Amazing, and yet perfect.
So back in those days you could literally write a check on a cocktail napkin. Who knows, the one he wrote may have been on one! He wanted to make sure that his check didn’t bounce. It’s impressive.
And here’s the check. It was actually cashed at the bank on July 12, 1945 so it took some time. It’s a counter check. Just a blank typed form with the information hand written in. This is not the original check, it’s the bank making up a check for their records. The signatures are also not original.
There is also an intriguing piece in the way he made the request. It was a simple request, with little explanation. Which tells me (of course I kinda know this about my dad) that him making a bet was not a remarkable thing. Yet this was a large bet. $100 in 1945 was a major chunk of change. I did a bit of exploring and discovered that it would be about a $1,395 bet today. Yipes!
So here’s this 20-year-old kid, who has just been freed from a terrifying experience. I’m sure there were times he thought he’d never make it out of the camp. With all that, top of his list is honoring his bet? I can’t think of a clearer representation of what I mean when I say that Money is Reflective.
And here’s the kicker. There is no record as to what he bet on. It will forever remain a mystery. Trust me, if I do end up in some future existence where I get to see him again, one of my first questions will now be: “What DID you bet on, Dad?”
Shell Tain, the Untangler
How is your money reflective? Give me a call at 503-258-1630 or leave a comment.
For most people the whole point of coaching is to change something, do something different. In order to do that, we have to actually stretch and step outside of our ‘box’. We all have a particular inner force that—to say the least—inhibits change. It’s the Inner Critic.
We all have one. It’s not a new idea. Monkey mind, gremlin, saboteur—all the same thing. It’s that voice that tries valiantly to keep you SAFE. The problem really is that it has a really strange perspective of safety. Sort of goes like this: “If you are not truly in imminent danger, why rock the boat. Just hang out here, after all it’s safe.” That can sound sensible, and at the same time it can be soul crushing. Maybe you are miserable in your work, or relationship… but you aren’t actually on fire, it could be worse! So we stay and plod on.
Remember the definition of insanity that is about doing the same thing over and over the same way and expecting the results to be different? That is what we want to avoid because it’s not effective. And yet that handy Inner Critic thinks where you are is fine, okay, good enough… poo bah!
I have written before about the critic, and seeing it as a signal that you are actually embracing change. I know that idea is hard to get our arms around, and yet it’s really valid. If you Inner Critic is calm and happy it basically means you are on the hamster wheel.
“Yeah, but,” you say, “what has all this got to do with the title of this blog? – Beware the “Yeah, but…?” One of your Critic’s biggest tools to keep you ‘safe’ is to distract you. After all when you are distracted you miss things, you get sidelined, you drift away from your dreams and goals. That’s where the “Yeah, but…” comes in. Just when you start to explore an idea, up pops a “Yeah, but…” to stop you in your tracks. It’s one of the things I really listen for with clients.
Somewhere, most of us got really sidelined and confused about how to dream, explore, and investigate new ideas. This concept used to be called Brain Storming and one of the primary rules of brain storming was that you weren’t allowed to “Yeah, but…” it! Why? Because the “Yeah, but…” distracts and halts the idea.
These days we seem to think that we have to bring up all the possible problems and objections right at the beginning of building an idea. Somehow it’s a fairness or objectivity thing. Nope! It’s a distraction technique that shuts down your dreaming right at the get go! Sure, as you pursue a dream and actually start to make it real, obstacles and problems will arise. And you’ll cope with them. You’ll get clever. You’ll change the design. Maybe even change the whole project. It’s all good and part of the creative process.
And you’ll never get that far if you let in the “Yeah, but…” voice early in the process.
Bottom line? Beware the “Yeah, but…!” Gather questions to ask yourself when it shows up. Things like:
- When does it show up? Early in the process? Midway?
- Is it a constructive comment, or one that blocks the process?
- How distracting is it?
The biggest question really is: “Do you want your Inner Critic’s fears to keep you where you are, or do you want to venture into new territory?” It’s up to you. Being aware of the “Yeah, but…” is a good place to gain clarity on what you are up to!
Shell Tain, the Untangler
Want to shift out of letting your “Yeah, but…” run you? Give me a call at 503-258-1630 or leave a comment.
We sure act like it is. And we’ve been of that opinion for centuries. Money, in and of itself, is somehow bad and evil. And yet, is it really?
I did a bit of digging for biblical verses about money. There are quite a few. Timothy, who got tagged with the ‘Money is the root of all evil’ thing actually said: ‘For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.’ That’s a bit different, isn’t it? Mostly the biblical references about money are really about what people do—or don’t do—with it.
Money, being that it’s actually just a ‘place holder’ of value, has gone through all sorts of changes throughout the ages. It’s been made of gold, paper, and now just numbers in the air. It has had kings and presidents on it, slogans about trusting in God, and pictures of monuments. It has been a symbol of all sorts of things—worthiness, power, ego, generosity, security, endurance—actually a never-ending list. It’s never-ending because all of it is made up.
Money has the value we give it. Whether it be the bigger bit of the ‘Economy’ or your own personal money, it’s all stuff we make up. It was initially a good idea: Rather than trading hay for a goat, and then the goat for cloth, and then the cloth for wheat, it was much easier to use a token with a value assigned to it. It started as a stand in for value. We now have attached a ton of meaning to the symbol of money that is just what we, and our culture has laid on it—not the actual Truth.
Money inherently has no value, or opinion, or goal. It only has the value we assign it. Notice that the value of the dollar moves and shifts? Money reflects the shift. Money doesn’t actually cause the shift. People set a value.
We say we want a house in this neighborhood, or a job that pays that, or a car that has this. Money reflects what we care about, what we want, what’s important to us.
Okay, by now you may be thinking: “Why does all this stuff Shell’s often saying—about money being what she call ‘reflective’ not ‘causative’—matter?” It matters because the way you think and feel about money has a direct effect on you! If you believe that rich people are bad, you will make sure not to become one. You are constantly telling and training your brain what to believe, all the time, every time you think or speak.
I have seen this over and over again. I’ve experienced it myself. Those words you use with yourself have power, and your brain will take them as Truth, and protect you from letting them ‘hurt’ you. The ONLY thing that is true about money is that it reflects what you choose to think about it and do with it.
What do you think and feel about money? Really, answer that question. It’s important, because money will reflect those thoughts back to you. If down deep you think it’s a big struggle and you can never win at it, you will be right!
Changing that thinking isn’t easy. You and the entire planet have been making up things about money forever. However there is an easy way to start the process. Get clear on what you actually, deep down, believe about money. What are those statements that just pop into your head about it? Like ‘it doesn’t grow on trees!’ What does that even mean to you? The first step is always to acknowledge the problem.
Once you get clear on those deep-seated beliefs, the next questions to ponder are: “What is the cost of that belief? What am I missing by thinking that way? How could this be different?”
Changing the way you think about money may be the best gift you ever give yourself. Give it a try! Maybe you’ll find out that it’s not really money’s fault afterall.
Shell Tain, the Untangler
Want to chat about changing your money thinking? Give me a call at 503-258-1630 or leave a comment.
Maybe it’s just because I’m a Libra? You know, born in October, the scales thing. Maybe it’s deeper than that? It seems like for me it’s always about seeking balance. Notice I didn’t say finding balance, I said seeking it. That’s because it’s illusive and fleeting.
One of the things that fascinates me in working with clients is our very human predilection to have black/white, on/off, good/bad thinking. We are so driven in that direction that ALL this amazing computer stuff in our lives is based on zero and one. Seems simple, seems practical. In the context of actually living it makes for very narrow and restricted possibilities.
One of the ideas I latched on to long ago during my coach training is that you need more than two options. I like the image of black at one end of the possibilities, white at the other, and all the multitudes of color in between. Wow! Bringing in the color really helps us find new solutions, experiences, and balance.
The fuel for this blog comes from an Anais Nin quote: “We don’t see things as they are: we see them as we are.” It’s a stunning thought. While noting our own view, it really asks us to look beyond our own perspective and see what else is there.
There is a dichotomy at work in this. It is both always about us, and never about us, simultaneously.
One of my favorite coaches would ask me this very irritating question: “What two percent of this is yours?” It was irritating, because it was also on point. All of us always have ownership in it somewhere. As much as I’d want to be right about the other person, I had ownership in the exchange.
And to play with the Seeking Balance theme here, it is also often true that the ‘rant’ someone is turning on you isn’t really about you—it’s about some place where they are disappointed, frustrated, tied up. Your question to yourself in these instances might be something like: “What if this really isn’t about me? What if it’s about something else? How does that change my reaction to it?”
People seek coaching because they want something to be different. They want something to change. And above all else, change requires self observation. As Dr. Phil puts it: “You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.” Acknowledge the extreme of both edges and the middle.
Getting clear is a crucial first step. It gives you a way to seek balance. If you try to skip it you just wander around bumping up against things. Clarity doesn’t actually mean you have to go over and over and over things. That’s actually counter productive because it keeps you literally stuck in the muck—you build up your neuropathways around the mess more and more. The trick here is that by acknowledging what you don’t want you become more conscious and make better choices.
Frankly, part of why this is on my mind is our current political climate. It’s all on/off, yes/no — oppositional. The idea of seeking—let alone finding balance—has been lost in the fray. To me the bigger goal is to create a country and culture that allows us to actually have differing views and seek balance and harmony. That’s up to us, each of us. And as we do that for ourselves it ripples out to others. All any of us can really do is be the change we want, right?
Shell Tain, the Untangler
Want to chat about this idea of Seeking Balance? Give me a call at 503-258-1630 or leave a comment.
The bulk of my clients are working directly for themselves. They are the company or ‘talent’—be they real estate agents, coaches, accountants, lawyers, artists, or some other sole proprietor. A crucial part of that situation is that there are two distinct piles of money that we (yes, I’m one of those types, too) all need to deal with: Business Money and Personal Money.
1). What happens when you keep the business and personal money together, and treat it the same? This one ends up being messy, ugly, and way too complicated. It is guaranteed to not only drive your tax person crazy, but to cost you bundles of money, time, and energy, on both the business and personal side. Frankly it’s an avoidance tactic that will make things much more difficult. And if you do this you miss one of the really great things about money. By mushing everything together you miss being able to see what is happening with it. “Where does it all go?” “Why can’t I ever get ahead?” Judgments and nagging voices in your head abound! Bottom line: this is not a sustainable way to go.
2). What happens when you keep the business and personal money separate, yet still treat them the same? This option is slightly better than the last one. At least the taxes are easier. There is however a subtler and yet bigger issue at play when you do this. It ALL becomes about you personally! When you have to tell someone your rates it’s about you instead of what you will do for them. It’s hard enough to keep what we do from who we are internally without getting the money mixed up in there. And an even more fascinating thing that I learned in my many years as a CFO: Business Money and Personal Money have different perspectives and scale. They run on different criteria. Business is all about growing itself or Return on investment (ROI). My question was always “what is this expense going to get us as a company?” And under that was, “will thing be better?” and “will we be more profitable/successful?” Personal money decisions often have a more emotion-based component: “Will I feel better?” “Will I be safer, more secure?” “Will others like or appreciate me?” Can you see how murky and expensive it can be when we kludge these together? Those different criteria lead to different choices and result.
3). What happens when you keep the business and personal money separate, and treat them that way? I’m sure it’s no surprise to you that this option is the one I strongly suggest! I’ve been practicing it for much of my life, all of the times I was running a business—which has included not only my coaching practice, but an electronic payment processing start-up (doesn’t that just sound techie!) and a radio station. Keeping the money separate allowed me, among other things, to see the business as an ‘entity’ separate from me. I’ve always had these conversations with myself about: “What would the business want?” “What would it say?” “What would make it more solid, and effective?” Similar questions, yet from a different perspective than the Personal Money questions. By keeping it all separate you can see what each ‘entity’ has to tell you. You have clearer information, which will create more effective actions, and better results, both in your business and personal life.
Give it a try. See what new ways of thinking are available. Notice that once you get things separate between your business money and personal money—both in your accounting for them and in the way you think about them—you will be simultaneously more relaxed and in control. A result worth working toward, for sure!
Shell Tain, the Untangler
I’d love to hear about what you discover about your own business and personal money workings and ideas. Give me a call at 503-258-1630 or leave a comment.
No, it’s not an error. I said to talk ‘to’, not ‘about’ your relationships.
There’s this very interesting thing about all of our relationships. They are unique, each and every one. They have their own energy and spirit. Think about it. A different person brings out a different part of you, right? There are those you giggle and laugh with. There are those you talk with about serious things. There are those who you hardly talk with at all.
You probably have assumed it’s just the nature of where you and the other person connect that makes each relationship so unique. Here’s another idea. What if it’s the unique blend of the two of you together that creates the ‘energy‘ between you? Some particular combination at work?
Each relationship’s energy has its own unique personality. And you can actually talk to it to see what it has to say about the relationship and the people who are in it. It’s this wonderful concept I learned about, long ago, during my coaching training with CRRGlobal. The brilliance comes when you actually ask the ‘Relationship‘, or as they called it the Third Entity, what’s going on.
Yes, I’ll agree it sounds a bit wacky, and it works!
When I’m working with a couple, I will ask them to each embody and speak as if they were the Relationship itself. Often the Relationship has a new perspective on what is going on. It can often see the whole better than the individuals, while also seeing both sides.
The technique is pretty simple. One of you moves to a different place in the room, and speaks as if you actually were the ‘voice of the relationship‘. The only caveats are to speak in the first person, and let go of your perspective while you are speaking as the Relationship.
This is a useful and fascinating tool for all sorts of exploring. Of course is seems like—and is—a natural for ‘couples work’, and in that arena it works even if only one member of the couple isthere. They can be both their own voice, and the voice of the Relationship—and just to play a bit further they can also personify the voice of the other partner!
But wait, there’s more! (Not to sound too much like a bad late-night TV commercial.) There are many other places where you can use this process. A really obvious one in with your relationship with Money. What would Money say if it could talk? And what would the Relationship between Money and you say if it could talk?
Think of it as a bit of role play, and let your imagination fly with all sorts of options. It’s not only a playful thing, but a very simple way to give ourselves permission to explore other options and possibilities.
And just for fun, you might want to explore the idea of even bigger groups and systems having a unique Relationship voice or energy. For example, what about:
- Your family?
- Your neighborhood?
- You and your pet(s)?
- The company you work for?
- Your country?
- Your church?
They all have their own unique personalities, don’t they? For me, somehow knowing and understanding that there is an overall unique Relationship ‘entity’ makes dealing with all the ups and downs easier! It makes it all less personal and more a “systems” thing, especially with those bigger entities. Happy exploring and role playing to you, your partners, and your Relationships!
Shell Tain, the Untangler
I’d love to hear about what you discovered it talking with your relationships. Give me a call at 503-258-1630 or leave a comment.
We all do it. We worry, fret, agonize, brood, and get into a dither. It’s a human thing to do. The question is: When is it actually effective? And when isn’t it?
One of the biggest stumbling blocks for most of is all that nattering in our heads. That critic voice saying “you should — you must — why haven’t you…” over and over again, in every way possible. And we get trapped in this land of defending, feeling ‘wrong‘, beating ourselves up, second guessing — you get the picture, right?
It’s hardwired in for us. It’s very, very old, and has to do with safety and security. There is a part of us that is obsessed with keeping us safe. It sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it? And it would be, except that Inner Critic in our heads has a very narrow and somewhat odd perspective about what is safe!
It defines safe as where you are in this moment. Frankly it doesn’t care about a bunch of things that make our lives challenging. Things like piles of debt, toxic relationships, being stuck in jobs we hate, etc. It’s fundamental criteria is that you are not currently in imminent danger — like literally on FIRE! Seems fairly safe to say our Inner Critic has some paranoia going on!
This critic voice in our heads is not a new thing. It’s been around as long as humans have. Monkey Mind, Gremlin, Sabatour… all sorts of names. And we coaches are all too familiar with it. It’s a big part of what keeps clients stuck. See, whenever we try something new or different there is a chance we will mess something up. Frankly, messing things up can be a very good thing because it leads to new ideas, possibilities, and results. And trying something new just freaks our Inner Critic out. It gets very activated and wants to reign you in, keep you safe, keep you right where you are in this moment!
It has a very simple and effective technique to get you off track: It distracts you. There are many ways it does that. A couple of classic ways are:
- It gets you into a ginormous discussion in your head.
- It lectures you on how bad, wrong, or stupid you are.
- It berates, belittles, and ‘bad dogs’ you.
It’s really effective. All this fretting on your part, fueled by the critic voice in your head, serves to distract you from any ‘new‘ idea and keep you right where you have always been!
Our Inner Critics are crafty. They know us really well. They know the tender spots. They will do anything to keep you safe—and again, they define safe as where you are right now.
There’s the real rub in this. You cannot change, improve, grow, or attain new goals without doing something different. T’aint possible. All that time you spend nattering in your head with your Inner Critic is just distracting and sidelining you. It’s not helpful, at all!
The most effective method I have found to stop the critic — and just in case you haven’t noticed, I think stopping it is a crucial thing to do — is to hold and think about it entirely differently. Instead of engaging with it at all, think of it as a signal that you are doing something new and different. Don’t try to calm the fear — instead rejoice and applaud that you are trying something new! In a bizarre way, your job is to rattle your critic, isn’t it? If you are just “drawing inside the lines” and “holding the status quo” nothing is going to change… NOTHING! So instead of joining your Inner Critic in its lecture, judgement, and finger wagging, how about you celebrate that you are doing something different? Revel in it a bit. Know that you can change and make choices. Thank the Inner Critic for the signal, while not falling into its distraction trap!
A good technique to distinguish between Inner Critic and something important for you to know or pay attention to is to ask yourself:
- Is this ‘conversation‘ in my head distracting me from what I’m trying to do, or to focus on?
- Is there a ‘tone‘ attached to the message I’m getting, like fear or shame? Your Inner Critic always has a tone. Your Inner Wisdom never has a tone.
See if you can’t say “Whoa there!” to all that worry, be kinder to yourself, and get more traction on your dreams!
Shell Tain, the Untangler
Need some help with this? Give me a call at 503-258-1630 or leave a comment. Happy spending!