Your inner critic

In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.
Theodore Roosevelt
1858 – 1919

I was recently working with a businesswoman in the New Orleans area; she’s been having problems adapting to all the changes occurring in her industry. Her business imports products from Europe and sells them throughout the US. Well, the Chinese have started making competing products that are higher in quality and lower in cost. So her company is in a very bad position.

Now, her business didn’t dry up overnight. It’s been in a slow but steady decline over the past three years. Now it’s in the final stages of decline, where the business is no longer viable. I’ve suggested a number of different approaches she could take, but she has never been able to commit to a plan of action.

During one strategy session, I kept pressing to find the roadblock that was keeping her from moving forward with some alternate plan. After much soul searching, she said, “Every time I think about trying one of your ideas, I get all excited about it, and then I start to think that it won’t work for me.”

It turns out that she was talking herself out of even trying. She was giving up before she had tried anything.

It’s easy for anyone to see that she’s only hurting herself by listening to her inner voice. But please don’t think that her behavior is unusual. We all have an inner critic that constantly tells us we can’t accomplish some goal, that we shouldn’t even try. Of the people I mentor, one of the biggest obstacles I see is the inner voice that keeps people from trying.

What’s the solution? The first thing is to recognize when you’re letting your inner critic rule your life. Also realize that, in most cases, you’re much better off trying something that might not work than not trying at all. If what you try doesn’t work the first time, you can always make adjustments to the plan. If you don’t try anything, you give up control.

Like Roosevelt said, doing nothing often dooms you to the most undesirable outcome. Instead of listening to the inner voice that predicts failure, override it with your own voice. Adopt the position that it’s better to try and fail than never to have tried.

I only regret, in my chilled age, certain occasions and possibilities I didn’t embrace.
Henry James
1843 – 1916

Copyright © 2009 John Chancellor

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