I’m not going to pretend that I’ve got my shizz together. (Any life coaches that tell you they do are full of poo.) Plans go awry. Circumstances change. Curveballs are hurled. Goals fall by the wayside.
Life is messy. And none of us is exempt.
That being said, it’s so easy to forget that everyone deals with the unexpected and the resulting derailment. It’s so easy to think that you’re the only one who’s gotten off track. To believe that inner dialogue that says everyone on your Facebook feed has their poop in a group.
Let me be the voice that tells you it’s totally normal to fall short of your goals at some point. (And also that your Facebook feed is not filled with superhuman overachievers.)
The way you respond to that pesky inner voice can mean the difference between quitting or hitting your goal.
Do you decide you’re a failure and that the goal is no longer worth pursuing? That other people can handle the goal, but you are somehow inadequate to do the same? That it’s easier to maintain the status quo than to push yourself toward your meaningful goal?
Or do you acknowledge you’re not quite where you want to be right now and figure out how to get back on track? Tell yourself that outside forces have kept you from your ideal path? Shrug it off and keep moving ahead -- who cares how you go about accomplishing your goal?
Regardless of your initial (or usual) response, you intuitively know that the latter type of thinking results in a more productive outcome.
Why then is your first reaction to beat yourself up?
Because you are your harshest critic.
Sometimes having a stern inner critic can be helpful in motivating you to work harder. It can remind you that sometimes burning the midnight oil is required to get ahead. Or that skipping your long run this weekend is a non-starter if you want to run that upcoming half marathon.
But untamed, that voice can turn into an inner mean girl the likes of Regina George.
Here’s what you can try when you find yourself the victim of some brutal self-bullying.
I wish I had a way to silence the negativity. I really do. But Debbie Downer thinking will never go away entirely.
The reality is that our brains are wired to protect us. So by sabotaging our daring plans, our brains get to avoid change and bask in the safe (read: boring) status quo. Back in caveman days, this wiring was critical to survival.
Not so much anymore. So when the negative thoughts start swirling, you need to find a way to disconnect before you get sucked in.
Close your eyes and take five really long, deep cleansing breaths.
Step outside for a brisk walk.
Blast your favorite pump up song.
Only you can know what works best for you. The point is that you create a break between you and the negative self talk.
(Beware the common pitfall of beating yourself up for beating yourself up. Seriously. Kinda defeats the purpose, so try not to go there.)
Be Your Own Bestie
Pretend that one of your dearest friends has come to you with your exact situation. What would you tell her? (Or him. I’m just not up for writing -- or having you read -- “him/her” over and over. Am I right?)
I’m guessing you’d be supportive, sympathetic and compassionate.
You’d tell her that she’s a strong, smart woman who is beyond capable of reaching her goal. That any setbacks are temporary, not a reason to throw in the proverbial towel. And that you’re there for her in whatever capacity she needs. Because you know all she needs is some loving support and a little pep talk.
See that? I’m just reminding you of what you already know. The only leap you need to take is talking to yourself the same way.
This can be as simple as an imaginary conversation in your head. Instead of you telling the story of your situation, have it be someone else telling it to you. Listen to what you have to say to her.
If that’s too much of a stretch, you can try writing a letter to a “friend” who’s in the same situation as yours. After you’re done, read it back to yourself.
I also recommend saving any such letters so you can read them whenever the inner bully rears its head. Rinse and repeat.
Make It Fun
What is your ultimate motivator? Fun office supplies? New shoes? Spa day? Sushi date? Whatever it is, use it to get you back on track.
While accomplishing your goal is the ultimate reward, sometimes you need mini rewards along the way.
For example, I love exercise apparel. Yoga pants, lycra sports tops, stretchy hoodies. It’s weird.
What I don’t love is exercising. But when I was starting to get serious about working out several years ago, I promised myself a new piece of workout clothing each week if I worked out four times in a seven day period.
Holy shnikes did that hit my sweet spot! I have a pretty awesome (and extensive) workout wardrobe now. And I achieved my goal of getting back in shape, losing 20 pounds and feeling better all around. (Plus, I could no longer use “not having enough workout gear” as an excuse for not exercising.)
The key here is really knowing your love language, so to speak. Whatever it is that gets you super excited, use that as added motivation en route to meeting your ultimate goal.
Really what I’m telling you here is to be gentle with yourself. Striving for goals that are big and bold is not easy. That’s what makes achieving them so damn sweet. But you don’t need to beat yourself up along the way for any missteps.
Trust the journey.
More importantly, trust yourself.
This post first appeared on Ms. JD as part of my year-long column as a Writer in Residence, "The JD's Life Coach". Ms. JD is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to the success of women in law school and the legal profession.