Tag Archives: self-talk

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…..


Fighting the Resistance

Well,who’d have thought it? Ever since I issued that public safety announcement about The Saboteurs last week they’ve been mounting a really, really heavy bombardment against me, with Procrastination and Mr Can’t B. Arsed at the forefront.

So I thought I’d write about their dirty little campaign and flush them out of the shadows as that usually makes them back off. I don’t know whether they’ll be up for an interview (they’ve all been very tight-lipped since I upset Guilt the other day), but luckily I have The Universe here with me, so we’re going to talk ABOUT them not TO them, as that’s all they deserve.

Me: So, Universe, thanks for joining me again, what’s your view of the current situation?

Universe: Well obviously I can see it all, from every angle. I am, after all, infinite in both time and space…

Me: And a bit of a smartarse. That’s not really what I meant…

Universe: Well as I believe you yourself have said before, it is important to be clear about what you mean so that you are easily understood…

Me: Have you joined The Saboteurs by any chance?

Universe: Hehehe…no no, sorry, it’s the coming of Spring, makes me a bit giddy you know. Now, what was the question again?

Me: What do you make of my current difficulties with The Saboteurs?

Universe: Never mind what I make of it, what do you make of it?

Me: Oh Lord, here we go…. OK well what I make of it is that it’s a giant pain in the arse and I’m fed up of it.

Universe: And why is that?

Me: Because I want to Get On and Be Productive and not be lured into doing my usual thing of deflecting myself just as I’m about to hit the finishing stretch.

Universe: Oh. Is that what you normally do?

Me: Oh yes. I know I’m not a Completer-Finisher and I drive myself potty by not finishing what I’ve started. I used to put it down to the old “Bored now, what’s next?” thing that comes with my MBTI profile as an ENFP but I know it’s more than that. It’s something to do with fear of failure, and fear of success – so if I never actually finish anything then I’m never going to know whether it’s a failure or a success.

Universe: And what else is it to do with?

Me: Um…well, I’ve realised that even though I think of myself as lazy I do need to be doing something – and when I’m at a stage where I’ve done all I can and I have to wait for the results, that seems to be where The Saboteurs creep up on me. Ooh – that’s a newish thought.

Universe: Go on? Why do you say “newish”?

Me: Well I guess it’s not new at all actually – what’s new is putting that together with the idea that that’s how I’ve always got in my own way before. I do what needs to be done and then I sabotage all that effort by fannying around and changing things and making life difficult for other people (sorry Eli!) rather than sitting back and doing something else and trusting that The Universe WIll Provide.

Universe: Hallelujah!

Me: Yes – last month I had my most successful month ever because I sat back and let you get on with things. This month I’m finding that REALLY difficult and it’s because I’ve let The Saboteurs get a foothold. And one of the things they’ve done is to distract me from the huge amount of work I’ve actually done.

Universe: How have they done that?

Me: Well I’m now in the waiting period where I’ve handed over what needs to be done next to other people and OH GOD does that make me twitchy, so my Inner Control Freak wants to come out to play. And since she can’t play with the stuff I’ve handed over she wants to go and make mischief elsewhere, so she’s urging on The Saboteurs.

Universe: And how is she doing that?

Me: By constantly telling me that I’m being lazy and not doing the things I “should” be doing because I’m not at my desk 8 hours a day and working myself into the ground. And by then inviting in Procrastination and Mr Can’t B Arsed to give me the complete opposite messages to that – that I’m supposed to be doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING at the moment and everything on my list is just trivia that can be put off indefinitely.

University: And where is the truth of the situation?

Me: The truth is that I could polish off the stuff on my list in about an hour and it would be useful work that needs to be done – and just because it doesn’t have a deadline, that doesn’t make it trivia. I do like a deadline. The truth is also that I neither SHOULD nor WANT nor NEED to be at my desk for 8 hours a day every day, and I’m going to keep reminding myself of that one.

University: OK, so you have a head full of conflicting messages and a view of yourself as someone who is lazy and a control freak and always deflects herself when things start to get good. Is that a helpful message to be giving yourself?

Me: No. And I can see what you’re doing here, by the way…

Universe: Well good, I should hate to think you couldn’t see your own techniques being used against you! So, my next question is…

Me: What would be a more helpful way of looking at myself and my situation? OK. Um…OK. I am someone who is able to produce quality work in a very short space of time, leaving me with plenty of free time to use as I please. I have a trusted team around me who take care of the stuff I can’t do and the most productive way for me to help them is to keep out of the way while they are working. I can choose to see things through to the end if I want to and I can see the difference between handing off a piece of work to the next part of the process, and giving up on it and spoiling it. I have actually had a very productive few weeks and this will become apparent to the rest of the world over the next few days. So now is the time for me to hold my nerve and be kind to myself – I have worked hard and now it’s time to rest and enjoy the opportunities coming my way.

Universe: And how does that feel?

Me: More in control. And more confident. And actually as I run through in my head all the things I’ve done recently and the stretches I’ve made and so on I can see that I haven’t been lazy at all and I haven’t allowed myself to get in my own way. So actually The Saboteurs haven’t been winning, they’ve just been telling me they’ve been winning. HA!

Universe: How Interesting! Fancy them telling lies!!

Me: Yes, who’d have thought it?! OK, so, I have at most an hour’s worth of stuff to do, and then the rest of the day is mine to play with. Thank you Universe, I think we’re back on track now 🙂

Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right

That’s a quote from Henry Ford and it neatly sums up what I want to talk about today.

I could equally have chosen to quote the Little Engine That Could, whose mantra when faced with something difficult was

“I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. I know I can!

Or I could have been boring and used the title “Affirmations: how they work and why you should have some” but I don’t like boring.

Having said that, this post is going to be all about Affirmations, how they work and why you might find them useful, so now that I’ve sucked you into my web, let’s get cracking.

Oh by the way – ths one goes on a bit, so you might want to make a cup of tea first and maybe get some custard creams…..

Affirmations (or InCANtations or Enchantments of Statements of Positive Thinking or whatever else you might see them called) are sentences that we coaches like to encourage you to repeat to yourself over and over to change your habitual mindset.

These sentences are always in the positive sense and describe some facet of who/how you are in positive terms. Here are a few I’ve picked at random from the books I happen to have beside me at the moment:

  • My existence is a blessing
  • I deserve to be Rich and Happy
  • I value what I do and who I am
  • I am powerful and I am loving and I have nothing to fear

(and thank you to Nick Williams, Tim Brownson, Susan Jeffers and Barbara Stanny from whose books I lifted them)

We suggest that you use Affirmations because we all know how powerful they can be in helping to change your mindset and get you to where you want to be in life.

Here’s what I mean:

Let’s say you’ve always been hopeless with money and you want to get a grip on things. The message you’re currently giving yourself is

I’m hopeless with money

and whether you realise it or not, your behaviour around money will be a direct consequence of that message, which you’ve probably been telling yourself for years. You do what people who are hopeless with money do and the consequences of that spill out over lots of other aspects of your life.

So now let’s imagine that you want this to stop. You could create an Affirmation that says something along the lines of

I enjoy learning to mange my money effectively

or simply

I am good at managing my money“.

OK, it’s not true right now and your resistance will be screaming at you to make sure you know that, but you’re going to ignore that and press on.

Every day, you make a point of writing and/or repeating that sentence to yourself as often as you can stand. Within a very short space of time you will notice that your attitude to yourself and your dealings with money have started to change.

So you’ll want to keep on repeating your Affirmation and maybe add another one to it, maybe along the lines of

I enjoy watching my savings grow” or

I am taking action to pay off my debts“.

And so it will continue, until one day you wake up and realise you have transformed into someone with a healthy bank balance and an appreciation of how to manage their money effectively.

It’s powerful stuff, and it works.

The things is though, I’m not always convinced that we do enough to explain why Affirmations are so powerful, and the process that is likely to go on for you when you first come across them.

To my mind the best Affirmations are the ones you create for yourself as they will be in your words and will therefore mean more to you.

Ones such as those above are helpful suggestions for where to start if you find the blank page at all intimidating – for example, I have personalised “I value what I do and who I am” and turned it into “Everything I do shows how much I respect and value myself” because that works better for me.

There’s power in choosing your own words because your Affrmation will feel more personal.

I have a list of about 10 affirmations that I write out every morning. If for any reason I miss a day, I make sure to write that day’s affirmations out the next morning – so on Mondays I generally write the whole set out 3 times because my weekend routine is different to my weekday routine.

There’s power in repetition – the more you do something the more familiar it becomes and the more it starts to feel natural.

I have a special notebook that I keep just for my affirmations and if I get a day where I feel a bit low or lacking in motivation, I go to the start of that notebook and read right through it until I get to the affirmations I wrote that morning. I can see how they’ve evolved and how some have disappeared and been replaced by others. By the time I get to the end I feel enthused and remotivated and ready to get on with doing my thing.

There’s power in watching your own progression from one way of being to another.

As time has gone on my thinking has changed to reflect my Affirmations. This is the hardest thing to convey to other people and creating and using Affirmations is somewhere I notice resistance coming from a lot of my clients.

And I can understand that – I had a lot of resistance to the idea myself for a long time.

I was an Affirmation Dabbler.

I copied out lists of Affirmations from other people’s books and stuck them on my wall, like they said, and then never looked at them again.

I created my own, highfalutin Affirmations and said them out loud to myself ten times a day for 3 days – and then gave up because I felt stupid and “they weren’t working”.

And then I got it.

I realised that other people’s Affirmations weren’t going to work for me, I needed to create my own.

I realised that I needed to overcome my resistance to the whole idea and just trust that it would work.

And I realised that I needed to make connecting with my Affirmations a daily ritual and do it whether I felt like it or not (and thank you, Eli, for flicking on my light-switch about rituals!)

The most common objection I hear from clients when I start working with them on Affirmations is

But I can’t say that, it’s not true!”

Oh, how I can relate to that! When I first started in business, a number of people suggested to me that I should repeat to myself, over and over again, something along the lines of “I am wealthy beyond measure and have plenty of clients“.

Boy did I resist that! Every time I tried to say it to myself my head was instantly filled with voices saying “LIAR!

Now I can see that there were other Affirmations it would have been more useful for me to have used at that stage, such as “Every day I take time to learn more about how to run a business” – if I’d done that then I might have spent less time flailing and more time getting to grips with stuff!

So now I’ve got it, and my Affirmations are working for me and they are part of the process of getting out of my own way and allowing the Universe (hello, Universe!) to guide me, here are my Top Tips Around Affirmations:

1. Expect to encounter resistance to the process from within. Creating and using Affirmations is a way of changing your thought patterns and your thought patterns aren’t going to like it. They will send your ego charging into battle armed with all sorts of reasons why this is a stupid idea and it won’t work and you’re lying to yourself etc etc etc. Acknowledge that this is part of the process, and carry on regardless.

2. Create Affirmations that reflect the way you WANT to think and feel about yourself. Ignore the resistance and carry on regardless.

3. State your Affirmations in the present tense, so that you’re describing yourself as you WANT to be as if that’s who/how you are now. Ignore the resistance and carry on regardless.

4. Steer clear of Affirmations that are phrased negatively.  Say you’re trying to get out of bad eating habits. Your intital thought might be to give yourself an Affirmation along the lines of “I don’t binge eat” – DON’T GO THERE!!! That’s like telling yourself not to think of a pink elephant juggling  purple bananas – all you’ll be able to think of is pink elephants juggling bananas! A more useful Affirmation here would be “I enjoy eating healthily” because it focusses on a positive way of being you. Ignore the resistance and carry on regardless.

5. Get the Affirmation habit – repeat and repeat and repeat. I find writing them down on a daily basis works for me, you may prefer to record them and play them to yourself or simply repeat them out loud – find what works for you, and stick to it. Ignore the resistance and carry on regardless.

6. Ignore the resistance and carry on regardless.

I’d love to know what works for you and if you have any examples of how using Affirmations has had a positive impact on you, please share them here.



What are you worth?

I’ve been thinking a lot about Value of late. Not Values, our core set of beliefs that shape how we are in the world, but Value, in terms of how much Value we place on ourselves as individuals.

We all have, deep in our hearts, an idea of our own worth. Often we decided this at an early age and pretty much at the subconscious level and sometimes, as we go through life, we meet people who have a profound impact on our own sense of self-worth.

Although our idea of our own worth is very often held subconsciously, it’s easy for other people to work it out because we telegraph it out to the world pretty much constantly.

We make it clear to people by how we allow ourselves to be treated.

The mother whose teenage children are rude and dismissive of her has, somehow, made it clear to them that it’s acceptable to treat her that way.

The wife or girlfriend whose partner disrespects her and takes her for granted accepts that behaviour because, at some level, that’s what she thinks she deserves.

The employee with no ambition who’s prepared to be passed over, ignored and bullied invites that behaviour because that’s what he expects and what he feels he deserves.

Conversely, parents who treat their children with respect and set firm boundaries get respect and affection in return.

Partners who hold each other in mutual esteem and believe themselves to be equals have a much more fulfilling, nurturing relationship as a result.

And people who understand the true value of the work that they do are valued in return by their employers and customers.

So how do you become aware of the messages you’re sending out about your own worth, and how do you change if you’ve set your own value too low?

Here are some ideas.

1. For a week or so, note down everything anybody says to or about you and how you responded. You won’t be able to capture everything, obviously, but do the best you can. At the end of the week take a good hard look at what you’ve written and see what you notice.

  • what are the messages about yourself that you’re getting from others?
  • what are the messages about yourself that you’re giving out to others?
  • what are the messages you’re unwilling to hear?
  • what are the messages that “sound right”?
  • what does this tell you about your sense of self worth?

You may find this exercise impossible to do – if that’s the case, be aware that it’s often the people with the lowest sense of self-worth that struggle with this. They tend to be afraid of hearing positive things because they can’t believe them, and afraid of hearing (even more) negative things because then their low opinion of themselves will be confirmed.

2. Think back as far as you can remember and come up with the first memory you have of an incident that showed you how much (or how little) you were valued as a child. What was this message, and how does it affect you today?

3. Who do you have in your life that truly values you and wants only the best for you? What would they say to you if you were to show them this blog?

4. And who do you have in your life that may profess to truly value you and want only the best for you, but who constantly undermines you? What would they say if you were to show them this blog?

5. What would have to happen for you to spend more time with the people in question 3, and less time with the people in question 4?

6. Ask the people in question 3 to help you write your Alternative CV. Be sure to include all the good things they tell you about yourself.

7. Every day, repeat out loud the following phrase and feel your spirits soar:

“I am a valuable human being and I am worthy of love and respect”


A Confession and an Apology

People, I need to ‘fess up.

I’ve let myself down and I’ve let down people who have helped me out.

I’ve let fear and embarrassment and guilt and shame rule my decisions in a particular area of my life whilst professing (and, indeed, doing) things completely differently in other areas of my life.

In the past couple of weeks things have come to a head and I’ve drifted down into the Dark Places of Wibble, spending too much time not getting out of my jammies, making excuses not to go out, avoiding people and mentally (and sometimes physically) crawling back under the duvet to avoid it all.

But my self-knowledge wouldn’t let me get away with it entirely and was still forcing me to look at The Problem, even though all I was actually doing was glancing very quickly and then looking at something WAY more pretty in the other direction.

Then yesterday 2 people who have helped me out and been supportive and very generous with their time got in touch and all of a sudden I knew I couldn’t ignore it any more.

And this is my confession (and no, this isn’t the part where I confess to something silly and minor).

I’ve let my finances get into a desperate state. Cheques are bouncing and payments are being returned. I’ve let myself down and I’ve let down people who I admire and respect. I’ve known it was on the cards and I’ve fiddled around the edges but never sat down and made adult decisions about what to do.

And so yesterday, after I’d written my Big Brave Blog and addressed my fears around admitting to any sort of Spirituality, I flumped spectacularly and descended into a fog of self-recrimination, helplessness, dependence and general horrible “bleeeeuuurgh”.

I tried to mediate and couldn’t get in the zone. I couldn’t bear to leave the house. I switched my computer off so I wouldn’t have to confront the awful truths that lie therein.

I clung to My Lovely Husband like a life raft when he came home from work. He was, of course, wonderful. He gave me tea and cuddles and he asked me what The Colourful Coach would do in this situation. I said she’d grow some balls. We left it that.

I woke up this morning with new balls firmly in place. I decided the only way I was going to feel better was to get out into the world and stop wallowing, so I did. After a FABULOUS meeting which I’m still processing, I went straight to the bank and explained that I was in a mess and needed help now, before I chickened out again.

And (thank you Universe) my bank manager was free. For an hour and a half, right when I needed him. And he was lovely. Understanding, firm, adult and sympathetic. Full of wise counsel.

We now have a plan. I have taken the actions he advised, and I have admitted my sins and shortcomings to those that I owe money to.

As ever, the worry and fear and guilt and shame and all the other CRAP that I’ve been burying myself in were far, FAR worse than the simple act of taking control and responsibility back where it belongs, with me.

And though I have long known this to be true, still sometimes it takes me a while to break out of the spiral of denial.

We kid ourselves that not changing is more comfortable than changing; that carrying on with our old patterns is OK even if our whole life has changed around us, because we’ve done OK like that so far; that there’s “too much” change going on so it’s OK not to do this bit.

We even cling on to patterns that we know to be self-destructive, and to self-talk that we know to be unhelpful. So despite knowing all the theory about this stuff, and despite seeing the difference it makes to my clients when they change their patterns and self-talk, I’ve allowed myself to carry on with unhelpful patterns, habits and thoughts about money and my relationship to it.

This is deeply ingrained stuff and it’s going to take a while to get sorted out, both with the bank and in my head. But you know what?

I can handle it.

I forgive myself for making a mess of things.

I forgive myself for not being perfect.

And look – the sky hasn’t fallen in! I haven’t been told I’m a naughty girl! I haven’t had my business taken away from me and I haven’t been told I have to go and get a “proper job”. I live to fight another day.

And I feel much better than I did this time yesterday.

So I apologise to those I have let down, including myself. I will do better from now on.

What’s Your Label?

I’ve been thinking about labels as a result of conversations with some of my clients. We all use labels to describe ourselves and those around us – it’s a useful form of shorthand. But how helpful are our labels, and where do they come from?

It starts in childhood, especially if you have siblings. If you were labelled “the quiet one” or “the good one” or “the difficult one” that will inform how you see yourself, and how you will subsequently behave.

As you get older, your classmates will label you, and it will be very difficult for you to move away from that label while you know them. I remember one boy who was very short when we met in our first year at Senior School. He was noticeably smaller than the rest of the class and so there was inevitably a lot of teasing around his height. This went on for years until, one day, someone looked at him properly for the first time in years and realised that he was actually quite tall – and, as he pointed out when they expressed surprise, had been growing steadily for years!

What label do you give yourself? Do you define yourself by your job (I’m a teacher/lawyer/accountant/publisher)? Or by your association with another person (I’m a widower/divorcee/mother)? How helpful is that label in describing who you really are?

I know someone who uses a different label with everyone he meets, and his labels are based around the things he enjoys doing, and the emotions he’s feeling. So he might one day choose to introduce himself as “John Smith, and I like real ales” and the next day as “John Smith, and today I feel like having an adventure”.

Imagine giving yourself the freedom to celebrate all the exquisite facets of yourself like that – what kind of wonderful conversations might you prompt with the people you meet, and what kind of positive self-image might you build up for yourself?

So – lovely to meet you, I’m Cathy and I’m excited about what the future has in store. Tell me about yourself…