Have you ever put other people on a pedestal, discounting your own intuition and following their advice rather than your own feelings?
Have you ever assumed that others know more than you about your own business, family, health, life? It’s easily done, isn’t it? Especially when they come with white coats and clipboards and awards and letters after their names and big numbers in their bank accounts.
But perhaps we place excessive amounts of faith in these people. Increasingly I’ve been having my plethora of ‘they-know-better-than-me’ balloons punctured. I blow them up with thoughts like, ‘what do I know?’ and ‘they’ll be able to help me!’ and then find the air leaking out of the balloon when I discover that they don’t exactly know either. They are always doing their best but no-one knows with certainty what is going to work for someone else. At best, others are offering educated guesses.
Billions of dollars are spent in the personal development industry every year, and a big chunk of it goes to coaches. I have no desire to criticise this industry because coaches provide a very valuable service – especially if they are skilled listeners, skilled at strategising, good sounding boards/providers of accountability – but I do want to offer an important check: I want to share with you a reminder I’ve been giving myself to not put others above me; to listen to my own judgement and intuitions and feelings rather than assuming others know better and consequently disconnecting my own inner voice.
My last blog post was about ‘shoulding’ on ourselves. I was giving the poor old ‘should’ a little acknowledgement, a little honouring, because I think we often don’t listen deeply enough to its message. I’ve finally taken action on a long-time should (tidy up my office) and the energy it is freeing up is significant. Granted, the statement feels better as a ‘could’ than a ‘should’ but just paying attention to ‘should’ and responding/taking action immediately transforms the feeling.
I reckon that our Inner Coach is pretty clued in and wise, and if we listen to her/his voice, we might not need to spend quite as much money and time chasing our tails and being confused by others’ perspectives on our business or our health or our relationships. Because ultimately we know best. We know our bodies, we know our values, we know our abilities, we know what sparks us up and what drains us. We actually do have all the answers within, if we would just listen, tune in, pay attention.
This is quite important to me because as a child I put my mother on a pretty high pedestal. She was into meditation and healing and I thought she knew everything. I literally thought that if she was on a plane, that plane wouldn’t crash. When she meditated, she had a sign on the door saying, ‘Please respect my appointment with God’, and I kind of thought that she was in there having a one-on-one with God.
Naturally I figured that any advice she had to offer would be absolutely correct and wise, and so I disconnected my own inner voice and went to her for answers. It was a late, slow and painful process to disconnect from her advice and reconnect to my intuition when, in my twenties, I finally woke up to what I had been doing.
Ever since then, I’ve been on a journey to trust myself. I teach it in my Writing Mastery course – self-trust is one of the key principles behind Overcoming Writer’s Block – and I practised this self-trust when I birthed my twin daughters at home. And now I’m learning to apply it in my business.
I’ve been around the mulberry bush several times with different coaches over the last few years. They are all well-meaning and offer great insights, perspectives and feedback, but I’ve had so many experiences now where I’ve ‘wasted time’ pursuing an angle that wasn’t aligned or productive that I’m beginning to hear the pennies dropping.
Our inner dialogue and feelings can actually be reliable. I remember attending one meeting that resulted in me signing up for a several thousand-dollar membership and feeling so sick right after I had done so, that I literally thought I was going to throw up. I decided to trust my body and withdrew my membership, and instantly felt better. What I later learnt from those who did go ahead with the membership confirmed my decision and confirmed the wisdom of my bodily response.
Other times it’s been my little ‘yes but’ voice that has provided the warning I need. When I was a young struggling mum, I would occasionally share how I felt with a trusted ‘other’ that I felt as if I was failing as a mother, and I’d always be reassured that I was doing a great job and it wasn’t easy, and that was all very nice and encouraging but I was effectively being encouraged to deny my inner voice. That inner voice was expressing doubts about what I was doing and often I really needed to listen to those doubts and change my behaviour. What I actually needed, back then, was for someone to really deeply listen and acknowledge how I was actually feeling so that I could hear the message I was trying to give myself and take appropriate action.
Likewise in business. Over the years I’ve had a stream of coaches and advisors side-stepping my nasty little confessions about myself as if they were smelly turds and rushing to remind me of principles I already knew, when actually what we ‘should’ have been doing was stopping to thoroughly investigate the ‘negative thoughts’ and delve more deeply into their messages for me.
NLP teaches that there are three ‘legs’ for success:
1) Know Your Outcome
2) Have Sensory Acuity (i.e. notice what’s going on around you and within you)
3) Have Behavioural Flexibility (i.e. if what you’re doing isn’t working, change).
It’s possible that these three steps are all we really need on the coaching journey. In the past coaches have taken me off my track because I assumed they knew better than me and I followed blindly, or because we allowed me to fritter the session away on related but not primary issues.
Perhaps all that is needed is to get very clear on our outcome, on what we want to achieve, and then to develop the skills to keep ourselves on track. A coach can certainly help with that, but we do have all the answers we need within ourselves. After all, it’s our pot of gold and our journey.
A year or so ago a prominent speaker made the throwaway comment, ‘You have everything already. Why are you here?’ He went on to persuasively sell his wares but I had been stopped in my tracks. Why was I there? Why was I, yet again, putting someone else’s advice above mine when, as the mystics have told us for aeons, the answers lie within?
I honestly have no intention of discounting coaches. I think they offer a very valuable service and several people are fulfilling this important role in my life right now. I just want to remind myself and you (if the cap fits) to trust yourself, listen within, honour your own feelings and guidance. The truth always lies at the point of balance: a combination of self and other. But use your inner knowing as the final arbiter.