Tag Archives: ego

What does “Getting out of your own way” actually mean?

It’s a phrase you’ll have come across fairly often if you read many self-help books or coaching blogs but in my experience it rarely comes with a translation into plain English.

I know I’ve been guilty of using it without an explanation myself, so I thought I’d take this opportunity of explaining what I mean when I use it.

And here’s the disclaimer – I can, of course, only speak from my own experience.

Your idea of what it means for you to get out of your own way may well be very different – and if what you read here doesn’t chime with your own experience, please join in the comments and let us know what it’s like for you.

There’s an old Chinese saying that I’m very fond of. It goes something like

The path is smooth, why do you throw rocks in your way?

and for me, that sums up the difference between life when I’ve got out of my own way, and life when I’m actively getting in my own way.

When I’m getting in my own way everything is a struggle.

I let the Saboteurs and Gremlins influence me and I doubt my own judgement. I talk myself out of ideas and I ignore my gut instinct. Everything starts to feel like a huge effort and if I’m not careful I can end up in a very dark place and feeling woefully out of control.

Not Nice At All.

Conversely, when I’ve got very firmly out of my own way life has a natural flow about it.

I have ideas and act on them and good things result. I follow my gut instinct and even better things result.”Coincidences” start to happen and undreamed of opportunities happen along. The Universe guides my hands and all is well.

And what’s the difference? Well for me it has to do with control, and specifically with letting my conscious mind or Ego take control.

When I’m going with the flow I’m acting on instinct. I know I can trust my gut instinct because it knows, for sure, the right things to do. I’ve called it The Universe before now and that has to do with it seeming to be connected with forces way beyond me in the way that apparently external things start to go right for me when I sit back and let The Universe take control.

When my Ego thinks it knows best is when things start to go wrong. That’s when the self-doubt kicks in and the Saboteurs come out to play and suddenly I’m stumbling over rocks that weren’t there before and everything goes to hell in a handcart.

So lack of control comes about from my Ego’s attempts to regain control from The Universe, and I end up the loser.

I’ve just been through a few weeks of being Ego-led and ended up dispirited, tired and unwell – but, as my dear friend Lisa said to me the other day, “at least when you’re ill it gives you the opportunity to think about what’s led you to this place!

And I can see that, as my Ego took over, so I stopped doing all the positive, nurturing rituals that were enabling me to keep put o my own way. My Ego decided I could do without them and persuaded me they weren’t necessary any more – one look in the mirror is all the proof I need that my Ego doesn’t know what it’s talking about (one is rarely so unattractive as when one has a heavy cold, I find…)

And why did my Ego step in?

Because it was feeling threatened. Again.

Because it knows that, for me to grow and develop and realise my potential, it needs to diminish and dwindle, and it doesn’t like that.

This kind of thing happens to all of us as we go through change – the habits and beliefs of the past can be like a ball and chain, holding us back and keeping us anchored in the ways of being that we’re trying to shake off.

We’re attracted to the familiar, even while we’re being tempted by the promise of more and better.

So while it’s frustrating I know that this past month is a normal part of the process.

I will shake off my ball and chain and I will get back out of my own way. It’s good to have had this reminder because it’s shown me that what was once a normal, comfortable, familiar way of being is now uncomfortable, unattractive and dispiriting.

I’m ready to clear the rocks from my path and stride back out onto my Journey again.

But first I’m going to have another Lemsip…..


My Alternative CV

My Lovely Daughter is Wise Beyond Her Years and I find her advice increasingly helpful. I went to chew over a problem with her this morning and we ended up talking about the importance of valuing the skills that we have.

No, let me be more precise – she ended up telling me that I am undervaluing myself and that I have, and make use of, a far greater skill set than I am currently acknowledging. (She also told me to stop giving my time away for free on the basis that I am not a charity and we need to eat. Good point, well made).

She has just put together what she calls my Alternative CV, which brings to the fore all of the skills she sees in me that she thinks I could do with bigging up. I was blown away when I read it and when I went to thank her we got to talking about what everyone else’s CVs would look like if they took the same approach.

Often we don’t put stuff on CVs because we think it will make us look unprofessional. That means we’re missing out a whole chunk of Good Stuff about ourselves – and why would we want to do that?

So here, for your delectation, is my Alternative CV as written by My Lovely Daughter.

Catherine (Cathy) Dean

Colour In Your Thinking Coach


Mother, 1990-present Key Responsibilities

  • Setting timetables and agendas
  • Conflict resolution
  • Managing a budget
  • Active Listening
  • Basic healthcare
  • Basic Environmental Protection
  • Diplomacy
  • Creative thinking
  • Project management
  • Delegation of tasks
  • Working with children and young people

Businesswoman, 2009- present Key Responsibilities

  • Managing accounts and a budget
  • Advertising, including managing online public relations campaign
  • Time Management
  • Resource allocation
  • Self-Motivating, and Team Leading
  • Presenting information and ideas
  • Using new Software to improve Business performance
  • Writing and maintaining daily blog, including responding to watchers

Coach, mid 2000’s-present Key Responsibilities

  • Active Listening,
  • Utilising many different personality-type tests to aid people to gain a greater understanding of themselves and their interactions.
  • Evaluating critically and constructively interpersonal problems faced by clients
  • Enabling clients to reach their own solutions
  • Devising innovative new methods to help clients set and achieve their own goals
  • Increasing client well-being, productivity, and quality of life dramatically.
  • Maintaining strong relationships of trust and understanding
  • Creating safe spaces within which clients can work
  • Remaining non-judgemental, and allowing the client to set their own values

Published Writer and Watercolour Artist Key Responsibilities

  • Devising innovative concepts and developing them
  • Commanding language creatively, including the creation of Carollian-type nonsense, to create strong impressions in the mind of the reader.
  • Successfully communicating complex and intuitive concepts through the written word
  • Developing a sense of line, and colour in order to create a personal watercolour style.
  • Observing object, character, and thought to create watercolour images, fiction, and also useful self-help information.
  • Employing knowledge of foreign language and language structures to create comfortable and highly expressive writing and presentation style.
  • Understanding colour, and utilising this understanding in other pursuits.


  • Starting own business and having a successful first year in a difficult economic climate,
  • Maintaining relationships with husband, children, and friends during difficult times,
  • Managing a family successfully, with minimal conflict, including bringing up two well-adjusted and successful children,
  • Developing a keen sense of diplomacy and excellent conflict resolution skills,
  • Synthesising knowledge accrued in all areas of life and applying them sensitively elsewhere,
  • Successfully earning higher certificates in coaching,
  • Persevering with the dream of being a self-employed coach, and realising that dream,
  • Remaining upbeat and committed in the face of difficulty,
  • Becoming, despite self-doubt, a highly skilled communicator through many media, capable of expressing and analysing ideas in a fluid and lucid manner,
  • Remaining committed to the goal of helping people, and being willing to take risks to achieve that goal,
  • Understanding how to give, and receive, constructive criticism,
  • Remaining open to learning, while gaining an ever increasing understanding of people.

Impressive, eh?

What would you put on yours?

The Battle for Good and Evil

Me: I say Ego, could we have a little chat

Ego: Tra-la-la-la-la-la holly….fa la la la la la la a la

Me: Ego, I know you can hear me…

Ego: It’s Christmas time, there’s no need to be afraid.  At Christ…ooh look, more chocolate!!

Me: Yes, enough thank you, I neither need  nor want any more chocolate, I want to talk to you

Ego: Sorry, far too busy planning our outfit for New Year’s Eve, shall you wear the red velvet or the purple, do you think?

Me: EGO! SIT!!

Ego: Sigh….go on then, what is it?

Me: First of all, I want to say how much I admire your skill and dexterity

Ego: Eh?

Me: Well you’ve managed to pull the wool over my eyes for the best part of a month now and I’ve only just realised it in the last few days

Ego: Don’t know what you’re talking about. Sugared almond? Crystallised ginger?

Me: Thank you, no. And stop changing the subject. You know perfectly well what I’m talking about. You took one look at my decision to stop “doing” and start “being” and you jumped right into the gap, didn’t you?

Ego: Did I?

Me: Yes – you and your pal Mr Can’t B. Arsed.

Mr Can’t B. Arsed: Did someone call? ‘Fraid I can’t do anything at the moment, I’ve just eaten my own body weight in Turkish Delight and I’m feeling a bit sticky. Could you just roll me up in another blanket and put the Poirot Box-Set on again?

Me: Now listen you two. You have been helpful to me, to some extent, and I know that’s really what you want, isn’t it.

Ego/Mr C.B.A: Er…yes, yes of course…

Me: You’ve led me very kindly onto the sofa, you’ve snuggled me up with endless cups of tea and old films, you passed me plates of cakes and you’ve very effectively helped me to withdraw from all that frantic and formless doing that I was getting lost in, so Thank You.

Ego: Welcome, I’m sure

Mr C.B.A: There’s a “but” coming, I can feel it….stuff a biscuit in her mouth, quick…

Me: NO MORE BISCUITS!!! You’re right, there is a “but” coming…Thank You for helping me to step back from all the doing, BUT your real skill has lain in blind-siding me to what the “being” was supposed to be all about, hasn’t it. Just “being” isn’t about vegetating and getting fat and putting everything off till some mythical tomorrow that never comes. It’s not about letting whole days drift by having done absolutely nothing productive. The odd day doing that is glorious, yes – but it’s glorious because it’s a treat. When it becomes the norm it’s not a treat at all, it’s just laziness. And you two, of all people, know that I already see myself as unbelievably lazy so encouraging me to be even lazier is NOT HELPFUL!!!

Ego: Don’t shout dear, it makes your nostrils flair unattractively. And you’ll wake Mr C.B.A up. And we were only trying to help….

Me: Yes, but WHO were you trying to help in letting me give in to my inner slug?

Ego: Well you…obviously…

Me: Really?

Ego:…well, all of us, obviously, I mean we’re all different bits of you aren’t we…

Me: Don’t forget I sussed you out a while back. Think carefully before you answer…

Ego: Oh all right, I was trying to help myself! I want things to stay the way they’ve always been! We’ve managed to get you to the age of 46 without ever really having to put much effort into anything! You never had to try hard to do well at school and when there were subjects you didn’t like or found difficult, you could drop them! We encouraged you to chicken out of going to University because it was scary and seemed like hard work and we’ve managed to help you keep that attitude going to just about everything till pretty recently. If it’s looked like it might be difficult or scary we’ve convinced you that you didn’t want to do it and you could get by just by concentrating on the stuff that didn’t take much of an effort.

Mr Can’t B. Arsed: Yeah, and now you’ve gone and changed all that and you keep wanting to TALK to us and tell us we’re doing the wrong things and we just want things to be the way they always have been!

Me: Yes, I know you do. And I understand, really I do. But they can’t be like they used to be and I don’t WANT them to be like they used to be. There is so much more I can be and so much more I can give, but it takes effort and it means breaking through barriers of fear. I don’t want, any more, to give in when things get a bit challenging.

Ego: But we do, and we’re stronger. There’s more of us than there are of you, and we’ve been doing pretty well over the past couple of months, a bit at a time. We’ve done some pretty nifty sabotaging, if I do say so myself, and fortified as we now are on mince pies and cake, I’m pretty sure it won’t take us long before this little rebellion subsides. Glass of Sherry?

The Universe: Aren’t you forgetting something?

Ego/Mr C.B.A: Oh that’s not fair, who invited you?

Me: I did of course. It may have looked as if I was giving in to your temptations but the Universe and I have been having some quiet chats over the past couple of days. We’ve been making plans…

Ego: Ha! Well they won’t last long, your plans never do! You’ll come up with a different one tomorrow and another one the day after that so that in the end nothing will come of any of them!

Me: Only if I let you in on the planning. Without you there insinuating that there’s always a better idea to be had, or another way of doing things, or that this idea might be not quite right, I can plan and execute that plan really rather well.

Ego: Only trying to help, as I’ve said before, don’t want you making mistakes, do we?

Me: I know that, but there has to come a point at which I take an action and follow it through. Constantly planning and never doing is FAR more of a mistake than making a decision, following up and learning from anything that might not have gone very well so I can make it better next time, can’t you see that?

Ego: Well, but…..but….are you saying I’ve been making you make mistakes? Leading you towards failure?

Me: Yes – and I’ve chosen to let you, time and time again. But now it must stop. Please.

Ego: Oh. Right. I think I need to go away and think about all this. Can we talk about this some more tomorrow?

Me: Yes, of course we can.

The Universe: Atta girl.


A Conversation With My Ego (who’s been feeling left out…)

So, yesterday I was having conversations with my Gremlins, and then last night I had a conversation with a client’s Gremlins – it was simultaneously weird, hilarious and profound and led to an amazing breakthrough for my client, who went to places they never thought possible and couldn’t stop giggling at the bizarre nature of the session.

I find myself stepping ever further away from the traditional concept of coaching and into a whole other space that, as yet, I don’t have a label for.

I think this has led to some of the confusion I’ve been experiencing of late because if I’m not “a coach”, then what am I? Teacher feels nearer to what I am but it’s not quite there and it has all sorts of overtones to do with school that I don’t like.

It’s certainly been worrying my Ego, because  a lot of yesterday’s head space was taken up with my Ego getting really quite cross and jittery about being left out of the conversation with my Gremlins.

So here’s our conversation – I don’t know where it’s going to go because so far I haven’t got further than acknowledging that it wants to talk, so this will be illuminating for all of us!

Me: OK Ego, what’s up?

Ego: Well first off, you’re breaking the rules!

Me: What rules?

Ego: Oh don’t be so naive. You know perfectly well that you’re supposed to think that I’m you and that all the stuff I make you think and do and say is really coming from you and that there’s no difference between us. But now you’ve broken the rules and IT’S NOT FAIR!!! This is NOT what I signed up for!

Me: Oh, well, clearly you’re put out and I’m sorry about that, but I can’t pretend I don’t know about you any more, can I?

Ego: It’s those flippin’ books you’ve been reading. I keep trying to distract you by sending in the Gremlins but you don’t want to listen to me any more. I thought I was back in control when you did your Creating the Impossible thing and you got all hooked up on making loads of money, but you sussed me in the end didn’t you?

Me: I’m afraid so, yes. It seems that the real me doesn’t want what you want any more.

Ego: But WHY? Why wouldn’t you want lots of money and a big house and world-wide fame and all of those lovely things? Lots of other people want them, why can’t you be normal?

Me: Define normal.

Ego: Oh stop being so smart. You know what I mean. All your life I’ve done my level best to steer you away from stepping outside societal conventions – I kept you in the Civil Service for 25 years. for God’s sake, and now you’re throwing it all back in my face!

Me: Well the thing is, I want something different.

Ego: But WHY?! I am SO frustrated with you!!! What do you want? You’re going to turn into someone everyone else thinks is a complete weirdo – if I let you have your way you’ll be sitting cross-legged in a yurt all day, smelling of incense and knitting your own lentils! I don’t want you to be a weirdo, I want you to be ordinary!

Me: But that’s just the trouble. I’m not ordinary – no-one is ordinary. And staying ordinary for all these years has been slowly killing me and eating away at me. I want to be free to explore who I really am and what my purpose really is. I don’t want to be frightened of my purpose and my potential any more and I want to reveal my gifts and my spirituality in a way that helps others to reveal theirs.

Ego: But no..but…no…but…just NO! You have to have a place in society which means you have to fit in, so you need a label that people can read and understand and you need to fit in and behave and want what everyone else wants. That’s how society works.

Me: And maybe that’s what’s wrong with society?

Ego: Eh?

Me: Well, so many people are conforming to what Society wants and expects of them. Society only functions if the majority of people do as they’re told, don’t ask questions and fit the labels they’re given. If enough people were to get in touch with who they really are, and started to shape their lives around their spiritual needs and their purpose and potential, then there would be a lot more happy people around and Society would change as a result. Society is, after all, just people. It’s not an entity in itself.

Ego: Well but …we can’t have that!

Me: Why not?

Ego: Well…because…because…civilisation as we know it would collapse!

Me: Western civilisation might change, and maybe for the better. What would be so wrong about having a Society made up of people who recognise who they are and what their purpose is, who live lives based around love rather than fear, and who understand the importance of living in harmony with themselves and their environment?

Ego: Well, but,but,well…see! You’re turning into a Hippie!

Me: Look, I understand that you’re nervous. I understand that I’m breaking all the contracts we’ve had going between us for all these years and I understand that it’s really difficult for you to get your (my?) head around. But I can’t go on as I did before. I understand new and different things now and I’ve set out on The Great Adventure of my life. I’m asking you to change you’re ideas if you want to come along with me. Can you do that?

Ego: Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah

Clearly it’s going to take some time for my Ego to get used to this new way of being, for both of us.

In the meantime, maybe I can distract it by having it come up with as many different labels for who I am and what I do as possible?

Defining Success

Last week I went to a really interesting session about Success, run by Anne Thompson from Change Potential .

I’m still thinking about it now, and 2 things in particular keep coming to the front.

The first is around what success actually means for me, and the second is around something that Anne called my Success Contract.

First let’s look at what Success really means.

The Collins English Dictionary defines success as follows:

1. the favourable outcome of something attempted
2. the attainment of wealth, fame, etc.
3. an action, performance, etc., that is characterized by success
4. a person or thing that is successful

…which is OK but quite wide. Anne wanted us to think about how we measure success for ourselves – what do we have to be doing, thinking, feeling etc for us to know that we are being successful? We had to come up with the answers to these 3 questions – what would your answers be?

  • How do I measure success for me?
  • What do I love?
  • What is important, precious and real?

Then she asked us to name the most successful person we could think of – and Chris Evans instantly popped into my mind because to me, he’s the absolute model of someone who knows himself, warts and all, has discovered humility and grace and is now grateful for all the good things in his life. He’s made mistakes and learned from them and doesn’t flinch from admitting to them – but he’s older, wiser and content now.

I think he’s a fantastic role-model of success, but who’s yours?

Now we get on to the Success Contract, and for me this was the high-point of the session. Anne introduced us to this concept with the idea that the Success Contract is something that we agreed with our ego way back and quite probably unconsciously.While it stays in our unconscious we may not be aware of it but we’ll be limiting the success we allow ourselves to ensure that it stays in line with this Contract. Far better then, to bring the Contract out into the open and check to see whether it’s fit for purpose.

And if it’s not, rip it up and write a new one!

Here are Anne’s questions and my instinctive answers – what would yours be?

  • What success am I allowed? Only what you can have without “showing off”
  • How much success do I deserve? Not a fat lot, you’re nothing special
  • How hard do I have to work to achieve success? Harder than you’ve ever worked in your whole life – success doesn’t come easy you know!
  • How much pain do I have to go through in order to be successful? There’s no success without sweat – you won’t appreciate it if you don’t have to work for it!
  • What will I have to pay to be successful? Peace of mind, security, sleep…
  • How much am I willing to sacrifice to have success? Um…
  • How perfect do I have to be in order to be successful? Well completely perfect, of course! But you’re not, so you never will be.
  • Do I have to do it all by myself in order for it to be a success? Yes! No…yes…no…maybe…


Do I need to tell you how much of a revelation that was? All that old conditioning, just sitting there waving at me, waiting for me to notice it.

So, was my Success Contract fit for purpose? Um……no.

Has it proven easy to write a newer, more positive one? Um……no, actually. I’m still working on that.

Here’s what I’d LIKE it to say:

  • What success am I allowed? Whatever comes my way
  • How much success do I deserve? As much as I want
  • How hard do I have to work to achieve success? As hard as I choose to
  • How much pain do I have to go through in order to be successful? Who says there has to be any pain involved?
  • What will I have to pay to be successful? Who says I have to pay?
  • How much am I willing to sacrifice to have success? Why do I have to sacrifice anything?
  • How perfect do I have to be in order to be successful? I don’t have to be perfect – all that I am is good enough
  • Do I have to do it all by myself in order for it to be a success? Of course not

I’m going to keep reminding myself that that’s what I’d LIKE it to say, until the time comes when I can believe that that’s what it DOES say – or until I find some even better answers.

How has your Success Contract been serving you or holding you back? And what would your ideal answers be?