In a coaching partnership, the conversations are all the opposites.
Here are five common messages I hear from my clients’ “gremlins”—frequently delivered in the first-person:
- “You’re not that good/smart/disciplined/loveable/etc.”
- “ You’re too old/young”
- “You’ve always been a bad listener/impatient/sloppy with money/etc.–it’s just the way you are”
- “You can’t make a change in your career now—think of your parents’ dreams for you/your mortgage/your years of education, etc.”
- “This is just too big of a challenge for you. You’ll fail/be embarrassed/do something disastrous/etc.”
As loud and convincing as critical voices can be, they are not nearly as big and compelling as your soul’s truest, highest best voice—and if you’re a person of faith, they’re not as big as God’s either (This of course means my belief is that good theology = good psychology.) As a coach, I am always listening for your voice and calling out the critical voices when I hear them.
Here’s what I ask my clients to do with their critical voices: What can you do to tease them apart from your truest and highest voice? Some of my clients get playful and give those voices something else to do, some other place to be.
One of my clients is a pilot. A good one. She’s so good that her company gave her a new aircraft to fly. That’s when her critical voice got busy (see message #5). First I asked her a series of questions to which she had to truthfully answer “yes” (Have you logged hundreds of hours? Is your training up-to-date? Good reviews? Is flying fun? . . .) Then I asked her, “What do you want to say to that voice?” My smart, successful, motivated client thought for a moment and then, with a combination of authority and mischief, she said, “There’s an old airplane on the far side of the field that no one ever flies. When I’m getting ready for a flight in the new aircraft, I’m going to tell that gremlin to go sit in it, maybe make airplane noises. I can’t have him going up with me.”
Like this pilot, you may have to repeat the instructions frequently at first, but that critical voice in your head will comply, especially as you learn to listen for life's own true and voice.