Marcie Stern, MHA, RLC is a successful speaker and author of So Long Inner Critic, Hello Inner Champion: 25 Tips to Master Your Mindset. I asked her to share her insights about how leaders could improve their inner lives to affect their outer performance. Her guest blog follows:
As a leader, you may be your own worst enemy and critic. Science tells us that we have about 60,000 thoughts each day and of those, about 95% are habitual–that is, we unconsciously think the same thoughts over and over again. What makes this relevant to the topic of inner critic is that of those 95% habitual thoughts, 80% of them tend to be negative. This means we potentially have 45,000 negative thoughts each day. Dr. Daniel Amen–a world-renowned psychiatrist and brain imaging specialist calls them Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs).
Inner critic thoughts represent that negative commentary that runs automatically without our being conscious of its existence. At work, it may sound like the following:
“I’m not doing enough – I have to work harder/longer hours to stay in the game and be relevant.”
“When will they figure out I really don’t know what I’m doing?”
“My boss (or colleagues) are unsupportive and want to sabotage my success.”
And some behaviors that result from inner critic thoughts at work can include disengagement, defensiveness, ineffective delegation, second-guessing yourself, or steamrolling.
Take a moment and ask yourself, “What is the one primary inner critic thought that holds me back as a leader?” Don’t be surprised if it’s difficult to identify the inner critic thought. To help, consider those situations or people that may trigger an inner critic thought or negative attitude. For example, consider times when you:
- Felt defensive after receiving constructive feedback,
- Spoke too assertively when you felt your ideas were not heard or accepted,
- Did not speak assertively enough because you perceive superiors to be more knowledgeable, or
- Felt particularly frustrated with your inability to be perfect.
Dial back to identify the trigger – the event that sparked the feeling and then decide what the ultimate inner critic thought was in those situations. The Inner Critic Cycle diagramed below shows how such situations trigger a thought which translates into a general attitude followed by a corresponding action or behavior.
And because 95% of our thoughts are habitual, so too are our behaviors. You have a conditioned response to certain situations or people in your life. You may not be able to change the situation, but you certainly have control over the way in which you interpret the situation and then respond to it.
If changing your thoughts sounds easy, it isn’t. But if we feed our brains with new and empowering words and emotions then, over time, we will believe them and act in a way that aligns with those beliefs. Use the following 5-step process to help turn your inner critic into your inner champion.
1. Log and keep track of what your inner critic says (and the situations and/or people that trigger it).
2. Write a key inner critic phrase or belief on one side of an index card.
3. On the backside of that index card, write something else you can say to yourself to counter that belief.
4. Practice saying and thinking the counter words whenever you hear or notice the inner critic voice.
5. Visualize the words being active in your life. Know what it looks like, feels like and sounds like to fully adopt this new way of thinking and the benefits of doing so.
The above process will only work effectively if you execute it repeatedly. It can take a minimum of 30-60 days to break the inner critic cycle and create new brain pathways such that your inner champion thoughts become as natural to you as your current inner critic cycle.
Having a supportive environment (people and physical space) will help you translate this process into action. As Mark Sanborn said in his book Up, Down, or Sideways, “Success isn’t based on what we know, believe, or intend; it’s a result of what we consistently do.”
What potential are you leaving on the table? How could you be a more effective, influential, productive and successful leader if you translated your inner critic thoughts into inner champion thoughts? Get out of your own way, master your mindset, and be the success you know is within your reach.
The above process is just one of several techniques to translate your inner critic thoughts into inner champion thoughts. To access 25 tips and create a plan to support your success, you are invited to read So Long Inner Critic, Hello Inner Champion: 25 Tips to Master Your Mindset.