“You need to get out of your own way Shane”.
These were the words from a mentor of mine many years ago when I was struggling with severe depression. At the time I thought they just didn’t understand me or my situation. But my God with hindsight, were they right.
At the time, I wasn’t fully aware of the extent to which my inner world was blocking my progress in and enjoyment of life. My inner voice had turned toxic and had completed a coup on the leadership of my inner organisation and the culture inside me was suffering intensely as a result.
I was a puppet to my thinking but at the time I didn’t see that and the truth was that I was delusional in thinking I was the puppeteer. But that’s the ultimate trick of your mind.
Fortunately, the penny eventually dropped and I saw, very clearly, that I was letting my inner voice dictate my potential – and that realisation turned out to be a game changer for me. And the more I explored my inner world, the more freedom I experienced from my inner voice and it’s limiting, and damaging, opinions.
At first I thought I was the only weirdo who had this experience and I kept it private. Then through my work with people over the last 20 years, I have realised that everyone, and I mean everyone, even the best of the best, struggle at times with their inner voice. They struggle in getting out of their own way.
This inner struggle shows up as stress, insecurity, self-doubt, guilt, fear, ego, over-confidence, and under-confidence to name a few beauties.
But it also shows up in simple things like:
- Not being able to ‘shut off’ your mind when you’re finished work
- Not feeling quite ‘on it’
- Knowing that you have more to give but you’re not sure what to do differently
In any business, it’s vital as the CEO to understand the various elements that make the organisation work. Sales, Marketing, Operations, Finance, People, R&D and so on. The same applies to your inner organisation. But how many truly understand what is going on inside them? Things like mood management, self-awareness, emotional quotient, listening, ego management, presencing and in particular our relationship with thinking.
When I was in the middle of my depression I had a moment of insight that changed everything for me. I realised that I didn’t have to believe what I was thinking. I didn’t have to believe what my inner voice was saying. This might sound ridiculous to you but it was transformational for me.
It was profound because it loosened the hold my thoughts had on me. I could ‘let them go’ more easily. Thoughts of doubt, stress and insecurity could just move through me like clouds. Experiencing this was a game changer for me because it also revealed a massive blind-spot, one that I have seen most people have and it’s this:
The true extent to which our thinking affects our feeling and behaviour, regardless of circumstances.
I don’t think it takes much reflection to realise a universal truth for human beings: The quality of everything we do depends on the quality of our thinking. The key word here is everything. Not the odd thing or a few things… everything. Our work, our health, our relationships, our bank accounts.
So what affects the quality of our thinking?
The conventional view is additive i.e. we should take in more information to learn about our minds and this will help improve our thinking. Or if I visualise my ideal future enough or repeat success affirmations thousands of times, I will program my mind to succeed. This was the path I followed for many years, and with some success to be fair. Except there was a problem.
I found that this approach has a ceiling and worse than that, it doesn’t do anything for our ability to enjoy life. In fact, in many cases it builds your ego and disconnects your from the real you, the people you care about and indeed life itself.
I have been exploring a different approach for the past 5 years and the simplest way to describe it is to say that it’s more subtractive i.e. it’s more about taking away the false conditioning and limitations that hold us back in various ways. In essence it’s about relaxing the hold our inner voice has on us and genuinely understanding how to get out of our own way.
This might sound crazy but if you realised the quality of the CEOs and leaders I work with who are intently focused on this area because it gives them and their organisations a real edge, you’d probably be very curious.
The key to getting out of your own way is easy to write on a page and simple to say but not so easy in practice. The central point is that we need to create a gap between our thinking and the part of us that is aware of our thinking.
For me I see my inner voice as a character – a friend who has relentless opinions but most of those opinions are wrong and very often judgemental, cynical and fearful. So I take everything they say with a grain of salt.
So who am I then? I’m exploring that. And I think I’ll be exploring it for the rest of my life because my potential is unlimited. The more I explore, the more I see the benefit of this approach because it allows me to move into a flow state more and more. And that brings with it more creativity, resilience and clarity – everything that is needed for the world we are in today.
Creating a gap between your own awareness and your inner voice is profound because it frees up your most valuable commodity – your attention. High performance in any field is about the level of engagement you can bring to an activity. The activator of engagement is your attention.
The challenge is that our inner voice is very sneaky. It often has a covert operation in place in the shadows of our minds, lurking in the background influencing our beliefs, our moods, our limitations and our ability to strive for great.
Recent Gallup research is showing that over 60% of people are on the edge of burnout – included in this % are many who would consider themselves high performers. But it’s clearly not sustainable so surely we need to re-think our approach to what we ‘think’ is high performance?
Getting out of your own way really means getting out of the way of your mind, and that, not more information, is the future of high performance.
My new program, Sustainable High Performance is a 3 day workshop designed to help ambitious people ‘get out of their own way’ more often. Details here. https://academy.shanecradock.com/courses/6lhusucw