There’s often a disconnect between what we want and where we find ourselves in this journey called life. 

Maybe you come up with an idea of something to try or to learn, but you find yourself quickly dismissing it or finding reasons to rationalize why it would never work.  We often mistakenly perceive these things as a lack of motivation.  “I guess I just didn’t want it enough.  But when I find the right thing, I’ll know it because I’ll suddenly be motivated and filled with an intense passion!”

Wrong.  Motivation doesn’t just fly out of the air when you find the right thing.  There is no right thing by the way.  Cultivating motivation and passion has a lot more to do with what voices you’re letting speak inside that crazy thing called your head, rather than the specific thing that you’re focused on.

In my experience as a coach, folks typically are stuck for one of two reasons.  The answer lies in the source of the stuckness, and whether it has to do with an outer block or an inner block. 

What is an outer block?

An outer block is an external constraint or barrier that gets in the way of a person achieving their goal.  It’s something that needs to be planned for, managed, and actively worked.  Let’s say I’m thinking of making a career transition, and I want to move into finance.  Education will obviously be a barrier to me achieving this goal if I know nothing about numbers.  So identifying a course or a program to enroll in, using time management skills to plan for this course, budgeting for this course will be key. 

Outer blocks are relatively straightforward and easy to coach.  The problem is that most of us suffer from inner blocks when there is a disconnect from where we currently are to where we want to be, when we feel stuck or are lacking motivation.

The sinister world of the inner block and the inner critic

In my time as a coach, I’ve never met a client (including myself) who didn’t suffer from inner blocks and the curse of the inner critic.  An inner block is a deep-seated belief that who we are and what we are just isn’t good enough and will never be enough. 

We all have an inner critic.  Mine’s name is Gertie.  Here she is:

Gertie loves to fly around my head at warp speed and bump into things.  She squeals with glee as she yells, “You don’t work hard enough Shelley!”  Deep down Gertie knows that I’m lazy and I’ll never do what it takes to finish that new initiative or project. 

That online leadership academy I’ve been thinking about building and piloting – What a silly pipe dream!  And then I start thinking to myself, “Well, maybe it wasn’t that important after all.  Maybe I just didn’t want it that bad.”

Or maybe I do, and I just allowed myself to get derailed because the inner critic is sounding off in my brain.

Or maybe she tries a different tactic.  The inner critic is great at shape shifting. And tells me I don’t know enough about leadership development to pull it off.  She’s in my head right now as I type.  I just came out of a session with some senior leaders, and I wonder how effective it really was.  They were quiet, the conversation wasn’t flowing as well as it normally does, it was tough to get them talking and sharing.  Some of them were questioning the content and digging their heels in, and I felt off my game in terms of handling the challenges, which got me thinking, “Do I even know what I’m doing?”  Gertie loves moments like this.  She uses them to remind me of how little I know.  But the difference is that I know she’s there and I’m not going to let her rain on my parade.  At least not today.

Where the inner critic strikes

The inner critic doesn’t just stick to work projects.  Its reach is as far and as wide as your imagination:

  • Your body (It’s too…; It’s not…; I need to…)
  • Your role in your family or other roles
  • Your ability to navigate relationships and friendships
  • Your likability
  • Your level of success
  • Your addictions (food, spending, drinking, drugging…)
  • Your decisions (I should have…)
  • Past failure (Why did I…)

It’s worth thinking of the types of situations that tend to bring the inner critic up for you.  Awareness brings insight.  Then we can choose how we want to respond instead of getting sucked into what I often refer to as the inner critic shame spiral.

No one is immune to the curse of the inner critic.  The key is to recognize it with loving kindness and compassion.  “I hear you Gertie, and I know you’re just trying to keep me safe.  I’m going to do it anyway.  I got this.  You don’t have to worry about me anymore.”  After it, it is a defense mechanism that’s just doing it’s very best to keep you safe and keep you from failing.  The problem is it’s outgrown its usefulness. 

 Coaching questions for thought:

  • What is my inner critic currently telling me?
  • What is the specific message it keeps repeating that keeps me from moving forward and getting excited about something?
  • What is that voice costing me?  Lost opportunities?  Happiness and joy in the present?  Endless regret?
  • What would happen if I stopped listening to it?

Shelley Pernot is a leadership coach who is passionate about helping her clients discover their strengths and talents and step into their greatness.  Reach out to me here for a free consultation to learn more about the coaching process and how it may benefit you!