Inside our minds is a judgment table, filled with people who have had an impact upon us—positive and negative. They observe what we do. They scrutinize how we perform. They see the effect we have on others. They rack our successes and failures. Then, eventually, they pass a judgment. These voices are simple to trace. They are the internalization of the voices of people who were once outside of us. When a parent judges a failure or values a win, we hear it. When a favorite coach or teacher shows disappointment or approval, we register it. When an a colleague we respect seeks to shun or include us, we feel it. When a boss demonstrates annoyance or acceptance, we take note. We absorb the tones and moods of disdain and indifference or of assistance and warmth from across periods of our life when we were vulnerable—which is any time intense learning occurred (childhood, our first jobs, big changes in our career, etc.). Sometimes, a voice is positive and encouraging us to do the extra work to achieve a goal. More often, the inner voice is not kind at all. It is defeatist and negative, anxious and shaming. It does not represent anything like our best insights or most mature capabilities.
Part of what coaching offers us is a chance to improve how we both view and judge ourselves so that we can arrive at a fairer evaluation. This process helps us temper the voices we hear within. It can involve learning—in a conscious, deliberate way—to speak to ourselves in a way the coach spoke to us over many sessions. In the face of challenges, we can ask ourselves, ‘And what would they say now?’ After we have heard the coach’s curious, constructive, and supportive voice enough—in the midst of stressful times—such an approach to better performance will (with practice and mindfulness) come to feel like a more natural response. What is learned can, with practice, become second nature. Eventually, our thoughts will start to shift.
This blog post is part of a series related to The Little Book of Coaching pending publication.