As often happens in my life, several seemingly unrelated things have found an intersection this week.
I’ve been taking a new certification course for my coaching practice. Aptly named, ‘Playing Big’, we are learning how to help our clients recognize and deal with their Inner Critic (saboteur) and to ‘play big’ in their lives. In the learning of how we can use this skill with others, we are first looking at how it shows up in our own lives.
The first key piece of learning for us in the course was to learn how to recognize our own Inner Critic. More importantly for me, I learned about the role of the Inner Critic. Tara Mohr, the creator of this course and our instructor, says that we all have a part inside us that is called the Safety Instinct. The job of the Safety Instinct is simply to keep us safe. In this day and age, safety is much more about emotional safety than about physical safety. The Inner Critic is the voice of this Safety Instinct. The Inner Critic will say anything to us to make us keep the status quo. Anything. Even lies. It simply is trying to keep us from trying new things that could cause us emotional danger; embarrassment, shame, discomfort, loss of friendships, damage to our reputation or any other of the myriad of things that we would naturally like to avoid. However, the Inner Critic does not distinguish between our well thought out ideas for change, and true reckless, emotionally dangerous change. In the mind of the Inner Critic, all change must be avoided.
In our course, we are fortunate to have participants from all over the world and it has been interesting to discover that many of my classmates have mentioned that they seem to have many different critic voices that want to ‘help’ them out. The more I have thought about this the more I understand that this is also true for me. Thus, a couple of weeks ago I decided to call my group of critics ‘The Board’ or ‘The Committee’. It seems that when I want to make a change, my Board has a meeting to talk to me about all of the possible things that could go wrong. Each member of the board brings their own perspective. One member, the longest serving member, reminds me of what happened some long time ago and reminds me not to put myself in that situation again! Another member, the fiscally responsible one, reminds me that my money could be used in a better way somewhere else. Another one, the ‘world peace’ advocate, lets me know how my idea might upset someone. And on and on they go, around the Board table. This of course is their job; to trouble shoot, to notice places where I might get hurt and to stop me from doing it!
Luckily, I have a sense of humour and I was able to see how my upcoming workshop with The Board of Education, and my personal Board of Inner Critics had come to a shared intersection on my road of life. The good news is that there is hope for both.
In terms of the real-life Board, their actual job is to carefully think about each policy they may be charged with writing and to make sure they think of all of the possible ways that it might fail. By doing this they ensure that they set themselves up for the highest possible chance of writing policy that enhances the quality of education of the students they are charged with serving. The danger to them is getting bogged down so deeply in the possible pitfalls that they become paralyzed and never make progress. It can be scary to know that members of the public are waiting in the wings, ready to scrutinize and criticize. And yet, it is imperative, once all possible angles have been examined, to move forward with the business of the Board. After getting to know this group, I am confident that they will move well beyond pointing out the dangers of new ideas and that they will find a way to use their combined voices to embrace change, to become innovators and to take their places as leaders in their school division.
In terms of The Board in my head, I have learned that they are not going away. When I agreed to create this workshop, my Board became quite noisy. They reminded me of the many reasons that doing this job was a bad idea. Luckily, I have learned not to let this group of Board members in my head, lead me. Instead, when I am doing something new, I do the thinking myself. Then, knowing the Board will call an emergency meeting, I plan for that. Knowing that they simply want to ‘protect’ me, I take them on a tour of my ‘hallway of ideas’. We walk down the imaginary hallway together. I open one door after the next, revealing to them all the components of my exciting plan. Then I can assure them that I have thought of solutions to all of their worries and that they can go back to the Board Room until I need them again. I’m grateful for my Board of Critics. They serve the valuable function of helping me minimize the chance of disaster. However, I am more grateful that I now realize that their fears are not my fears, their wishes for my life are not my wishes and their dreams are not my dreams. I also know that I can choose to notice them, reassure them and then become the leader of my own life. I do not plan on letting them lead me.
I challenge you to get to know your own Board. Learn to recognize their voices and more importantly learn to differentiate their worried voices from your own strong voice. Find out what fears they have for you and figure out a way to set their minds at ease so that you can become all that you were meant to be.
This week my inquiry for you is, ‘Which member of my board is speaking now?’ Then thank him/her for watching out for you, reassure him/her, and ‘Play Big’!
Book a coaching session with Elizabeth to help learn how to identify and deal with the members of your personal Board. Elizabeth provides leadership coaching for individuals and for groups. She also facilitates custom workshops for teams, groups and businesses.