My eyes fly open and I’m electrified by an AMAZING new idea! Knowing that sleep is going to be impossible, I sneak into my office at 1:17 am, switch on the light, and feverishly begin scribbling my thoughts into an almost full “IDEAS NOTEBOOK.” About an hour later, my body signals that this is in fact the time to recharge, and I return to the soft warm bed for the rest of the night with a smile on my face.
The next morning, I rush into my office to survey the “brain child” that was born in the middle of the night, but somehow, the optimism and energy of a few hours before has suddenly disappeared and been replaced by:
But have you thought about…?
What will happen to … if you …?
What will … think/say if I …?
I’m left with a sweaty, anxious, defeated feeling that there’s simply NO WAY I will EVER be able to do what seemed so realistic at 1 am. If I’m not careful, I run the risk of becoming “creatively constipated!”
Where do these questions come from, and why do they have the power to throw the brakes on some of our coolest ideas? What we are dealing with here is the unavoidable process of critical thought, and although it’s not nearly as sexy as the step before, it is necessary in order for us to reach brave new goals on the basis of solid evidence and well-thought out strategies. The real problems arise when we allow the process of critical thought to get the upper hand, and our “inner critic” begins attacking us as a person instead of the idea itself. When critical questions turn destructive, we tend to shut down to isolate ourselves from the attack. This is the place that most courageous plans go to die! Destructive inner voices tell us:
“You’ll never be able to do that because you’re too … / not enough …”
“Everybody will know you are … if you do that!”
“How could you be so crazy as to think that you could …?”
“You’ll never be able to …”
“You’re always so …”
Turning the Tables
I get sweaty and anxious just thinking about these questions! When you feel the criticism “turn on you” and begin to shut you down, you can employ one (or more) of the following strategies:
Get your facts straight: The critical voices in our heads are oftentimes not stating facts, but merely OPINIONS. Is it TRUE that someone without a college degree will never be able to get a decent job? Is it TRUE that just because you’re a woman, you are going to be overlooked for that next promotion? Here, it can be helpful to ask the question, “WHO SAYS that … is going to happen?”
Look for evidence that doesn’t support your “story”: Find someone you know (or someone you’ve read about) that has achieved similar goals despite their handicaps or deficiencies. How did they do it, and what FACTS can you apply to your own situation? Ask yourself: “If they can do it, why can’t I?” “What resources do I have to get what I want DESPITE my shortcomings?”
Be cautious about giving authority: We place so much importance on the opinions and perceptions of others and how they will judge us, and we allow their ideas about us to keep us from doing bold things. Ask yourself: “Who’s opinion is TRULY important to me and WHY?” “Who truly loves and respects me even if I do something that ends up not working out?”
When we take the time to reflect on these questions, we will find that we’ve punched a lot of holes in the inner critic’s theories and suddenly, the thoughts that have been holding us back begin to lose their power. We can return to the constructive process of evaluating our ideas for feasibility and start making a plan to turn that idea into a reality!
If all of this reflecting feels a bit much for you to try and do on your own, feel free to contact me for a free initial coaching consultation. Together, we’ll dismantle the fear that’s been holding you back and get you on track to doing bold new things!