Inner Critics copy

Making mistakes.  Screwing up. Failing. Missing the mark. Whatever you want to call it, most of us aren’t very good at dealing with it. While we fear rejection or punishment from the outside world, its the internal critics that are the harshest.

I’m taking a class based based on the book Positive Intelligence: Why Only 20% of Teams and Individuals Achieve Their True Potential.  Last week author and program creator, Shirzad Chamine, offered us a powerful way of working with failure.  Here’s how it goes:

At the beginning of each day, you set your intention or choose a focus for the day.  At the end of the day, do two things:

1.  Celebrate the ways in which you honored your intention or focus. Spend time reviewing the positive impact you had. Feel the feelings associated with succeeding in this way. Enjoy the flood of positivity.

2. Identify one small way you could have honored it more…  [TIME OUT…… it is at this point that we usually engage the inner critic to evaluate how poorly we’ve done and how miserable we really are at whatever we intended to do.  The criticisms run on and on, usually resulting in disappointment, shame and general unhappiness. So, don’t do that.  Instead try THIS…]  …and visualize having actually honored your intention in that small way.  Engage all of your senses and imagine the scene as clearly as you can, allowing yourself to feel the emotional impact of the positive vision. Enjoy the flood of positivity.

Shirzad points to studies that show the brain’s inability to distinguish between real events and imagined events. There are many implications here:

  • You are actively creating new neural pathways — hey, it’s science! 😀
  • You are strengthening your ability to imagine — a key to engaging your creativity
  • You are generating feelings of wellbeing, happiness, joy — states of positivity that influence your health (mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical)
  • You turn failure into an ally and bypass your inner critic — hallelujah for that!

More good news: this takes only 10 seconds! However, I like to spend at least 30 seconds on it so don’t feel like you must limit yourself here.

It works with anything — not just your intention or focus for the day.  For example, let’s say you have a petty argument with a loved one. You’re about to have a “shame hangover” …but you stop. Pivot. Harness the failure by visualizing a different, positive experience with that person.  In this vision, you are being the person you really want to be.

Try it right now. Bring to mind one recent action or failing. Something you didn’t do as well as you had hoped or planned. It can be something small. Now, imagine having handled it in the best way possible. See and feel your success.  Make it more realistic by engaging all of your senses…feel the temperature of the air, smell the aromas, hear the sounds, etc.

Pretty sweet, yes?

Of course, there might be actions you want to take to mitigate any damage from your mistake. As long as it is not an emergency situation, take any additional action after trying this technique.