By Jo Geraghty
You may think of the voice in your head as your thoughts and ideas, your personality or the real you.
Perhaps you don’t hear the voice in your head and are now having a conversation with yourself about which one of us is insane? You see! I caught it talking to you!
The truth is that we all have a physical self which is responsible for our actions and an inner voice or voices that acts as our guides and advisors on our actions. Mostly, we hear it as our own voice as it is now but it could equally be your voice as it was when you were a child or the voice of a parent, teacher etc.
Whether we are conscious of it or not the counsel of this guide directly affects our decisions and choices in life and many of our views, beliefs, personality traits and actions, or sometimes lack of, are influenced by the quality if its chatter and ultimately it will determine how successful we are in realising our goals.
The good news is; if we don’t like this guide any more we have the power to replace it! Those of you who are familiar with NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) will be aware that the human brain “deletes, distorts and generalises” the world around us.
This is normal and forms part of our learning process. For example, we only needed to learn what a chair was once, if you had to relearn what a chair was every time you saw a slightly different style of chair we would never progress – so we generalise that the object fits into the chair category.
This is very useful but you need to be wary that your Inner Voice may also generalise that “all your efforts are doomed to fail” or that “you will never be successful” Deleting information is also important for the Inner Voice. We are bombarded with so many pieces of data every second of the day that we automatically filter and only retain the most important pieces for our purposes.
We couldn’t possibly focus 100% on everything at the same time. Imagine becoming transfixed, as a child might, with a spider hanging from a web whilst driving … whilst your Inner Voice is telling you how amazing the intricate structure of the arachnid is. The number of traffic accidents would spiral out of control.
We also distort facts around what we see, hear and feel based our interpretation, of our knowledge and our previous experiences. No two people will have the same representation of an event or situation.
Creating mind prisons Once we get to adulthood we have created our own internal rules system, which is based on the teachings of our childhood and our life experiences so far. As these have developed during our most formative years they will tend to be deeply embedded and more difficult to change than ones formed in later life. If we never challenge it, this system could be the one that we live our entire life by.
Most of the rules are very useful and valid and are formed from the things that we “know” to be true. We know that “putting your hand in the fire means you will get burned and it will hurt” and we know that “jumping into deep water when you can’t swim could result in drowning”. These are good self protection rules that you should follow.
The difficulty arises when some of our “self protection rules” are actually preventing us from achieving the things that we desire in life. Ask yourself, what else do you know to be true and therefore forms part of your rules system? Which of these are now out of date and need to be refreshed?
For example; do you “know” that you’re useless at maths because a teacher told you so? Do you “know” that you’re unattractive because a partner mentioned it once too often? Do you “know” that you will never be successful because the media says that success is for other people? At the point where our internal self defense system prevents us from achieving our goals, we’ve created a mind prison.
You can have the most congruent goals with the most effective action plan but if your internal rules are acting as barriers, nothing positive can be accomplished. Like good detectives we spend time finding evidence to support what we ‘know” and provide proof and examples of why our Inner Voice is correct and should be trusted.
So, if we think;
1) We can’t lose weight because we tried recently and failed. Our Inner Voice will support this by saying something like: You’re fat, you’ll always be fat and diets don’t work
2) We won’t be able to get a new job or promotion. Our Inner Voice says: Stay where you are, it’s comfortable here, you’re not good at interviews, you’re not good enough for that promotion, you’ll get found out
3) A large % of businesses fail in the first year so we shouldn’t make ourselves another statistic by starting a new business. Our Inner Voice reinforces this with: You’re no better than those people. You don’t want to be branded a failure and lose money and face.
Finding the witnesses
Unfortunately the Inner Voice is even more accomplished at getting friends and family to join in the fight against ourselves. These are the people we know, love and trust, so surely their advice must be accurate. Beware of listening to the counsel of those closest to you as they may also be incarcerated by their own Inner Voice or may unintentionally want to keep you under mental lock and key.
Perhaps their insecurity will mean that their Inner Voice has a fear of your success. It worries about what will your success mean for them? Their Inner Voice wants to protect you as it remembers all the times that they have tried and failed and doesn’t want you to experience the same pain.
5 steps to getting out of jail free
People who are successful in life and achieve their goals, whether in work, their personal life or sport etc. are those who consciously (or unconsciously), make their Inner Voice work for them. If you are not one of the people for whom this comes naturally then you need to make a concerted effort to change your Inner Voice so that it works for you rather than you being led by it.
There are five keys steps to achieving this:
1) Listen to your Inner Voice I hope by now you’re convinced that you are constantly talking to yourself. I suggest that for one week you conduct an exercise of actively listening to what it is saying to you. The key is to listen carefully to what its saying, when it says it, and the exact words/tone of voice it uses. Is it your voice or someone else’s? When does it speak to you most? Does it say positive, encouraging things or is it negative? What does it say when things are going well? What does it say when things are going badly or you’re under stress or upset?
2) End the monologue – answer back! After you have been listening and noting – you will realise what it says to you when you do things well, make good decision and feel happy versus what it’s saying when things are seemingly going wrong. Once you’ve noticed where the negative voice kicks in you can start answering back. Start to challenge it. When it says something negative ask; “how do you know that to be true? What concrete evidence do you have?” If you can actually trace some of its examples back to concrete evidence, ask does this still hold true today? Do I have evidence of when that wasn’t true? What would I like it to say to me instead?
3) Changing the record The things that your Inner Voice says to you now are things that it has said to you over and over, hundreds of times before, and it has now formed a bad habit. To change this habit you will need to replace these negative expressions with positive ones which will help you. You will need to repeat and reinforce them often for it to take effect. Replace an example of failure with one of success. Replace a downbeat voice with negative expressions to a sound that picks you up. Set positive phrases to motivational music or a sexy actor’s voice that you would like to hear. Get them to say “You can do it!”, “Do it now”, “You’re winning” to get you moving in the right direction. What would you like your fan club to cheer you on with? Use examples of other people’s success to prove that it’s also possible for you.
4) Trusted advisors Surround yourself with people who are successful in the field that you’re in. If you want to be a great salesperson, find the best salesperson you know and talk to them about their motivation and decision making process and discover what their voices say? Who do they surround themselves with? What do their closest advisers say to them in times of doubt. The more people you speak to the more successful Inner Voice strategies you will illicit. Choose the ones that work for you and use them!
5) Operate in the success zone When you are really “in flow” and doing something well you will not be aware of the voices. You will naturally glide from one thought to the next without self doubt. Tasks will seem easy and effortless. Start to notice when this is the case and recognise the feeling of the Inner Voice being silenced and operating in the success zone. Don’t fight the silence but rather build on it to progress further. By following these five simple steps you can break free of the chains imposed by your Inner Voice and really start to use the internal you to help you achieve your goals.
About the Author: Jo Geraghty is managing Director of “Beyond the Ladder” and is one of the UK’s leading coaches for executives and entrepreneurs.
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