It could be as small as writing a blog post.
Or as grand as writing the Great American Novel.
You believe you have what it takes.
To develop an amazing ad campaign.
To start a new business.
To learn how to jump really big horses over even bigger fences.
Yet, you don’t do it.
You never even start.
It’s those damned voices in your head, isn’t it?
Those voices mess with me all the time. They’ve been there almost all my life.
Maybe you have voices, too. I’d be surprised if you didn’t.
For example: In one of my posts at the beginning of the new year, I mentioned that I am enrolled in the Writing Studio at Stanford University. My ultimate dream is to write fiction – stories, books, screenplays.
I’ve actually wanted to do this all my life. But those voices held me back.
What makes you think you have enough imagination to write interesting stories?
Writing is hard. Very hard. You’d have to have to started writing when you were four years old if you were ever going to be a real writer.
There are so many other people depending on you – you’ll be abandoning them, and your work, if you try to spend time writing.
Don’t forget, you have that client strategy to outline, the dog to walk, the laundry to do.
And on and on.
Here’s the big news: Those voices are never going away. Never.
But now, I have a different perspective on exactly what these voices are trying to do.
For nearly fifty years, I perceived the voices as being the devil on my shoulder, entities trying to make me feel bad about myself, give me anxiety, and stop me from doing anything worthwhile. I spent a great deal of energy fighting them tooth and nail, arguing with them for hours on end about how awful they were.
Suddenly, last summer, I had an epiphany.
These voices aren’t trying to sabotage me. In their own, twisted way, they’re trying to protect me.
None of us wants to be hurt or abandoned or to feel like a failure. Therefore, the voices act as a cranial “executive board,” saying things to us to prevent us from harm.
You want to write? You really need an MFA to get anything published.
You want to open a cupcake shop? Yes, you make cupcakes to die for. But all of the business knowledge that goes with it is impossible to learn.
You want to train your employees by creating a new program and handbook? Do you know how much time that takes? You don’t have that much time. And what makes you think you can make your employees be as good a salesperson as you are?
[Insert your own voices here.]
Every morning, when I walk the dog (we do a lot of walking, with everything I have in my head to pore through), I have a meeting with the executive board inside my head. I picture the boardroom and address individual board members by name.
“Wanda Worry, I think you’re projecting a little too far into the future by obsessing about getting published, when I only have seven chapters of my book written. What I want you to do is turn that worry into focus, to help me get that next scene written in my three-hour writing session today.”
“Polly Panic, you have no need to get your undies in a bunch over the fact that I have two client conference calls this afternoon. You know me – have I ever been late? No. I have the day all planned.”
“Ingrid Intellect, you know full well that I’m pretty smart, and what I don’t know I learn pretty damned quick. People think it’s amazing, the number of personal and professional challenges I’ve stood up to, so I know I’ve got the right stuff. You’re either with me, or I’m going to have to fire you.”
Laugh if you will, but for me, it works. I close each morning’s session by giving them a pep talk, aimed at turning them from doubters into muses. I then walk out the door and lock it behind me.
In the beginning, it used to take 30 minutes to have this daily talk inside my head. Now, it takes less than five.
I think the voices are beginning to listen.
What would happen to your dreams if, instead of thinking of the voices as evil beings, you perceived them instead as being whacky relatives who love you and are really just trying to protect you?
Can you stand up to them? They’re not doing it on purpose, after all. They just don’t know any better.
Think about it. Have daily board meetings with them. Explain how it’s gonna be from here on out.
I’m willing to be that if you do, it won’t be long before you’re training some kick-ass employees, opening that cupcake shop, or flying over hedges astride the greatest horse the world ever saw.