As a personal life coach I work with many creative, intelligent, skilled, and passionate people who, despite having clearly defined goals, are not achieving the success of which they are truly capable. It’s not that they fear failure; it’s not that they don’t have the know-how. It’s because they unconsciously find a way to sabotage themselves. They don’t allow themselves to succeed. Unable to give themselves permission to value themselves, they cannot achieve the success they deserve.
One of my life coaching clients, a young and vibrant entrepreneur in his mid-thirties, started coaching with me because he wanted to take his business to the next level. He told me that for the last couple of years his business had remained stagnant and he felt himself procrastinating to make decisions needed to grow his business. I asked him what would stop a smart and creative young man from achieving the success he really wanted. “I don’t know,” he replied. “But sometimes I feel that achieving success means that I’m selfish, and I feel really guilty about that.” When I inquired more about his feeling of guilt, he mentioned that a voice in his head kept telling him that he should just be happy with where he was, that he didn’t need any more than what he had already.
I think we all have such voices talking to us. Like bullies, they try to intimidate us and keep us from achieving the success we want. They tell us that if we want too much for ourselves we’re self-centered or selfish, or that one day others will find out that we’re not that good, or that success is for others but not us. When we listen to these voices, and it’s hard not to, things can get pretty dark inside our heads. In personal coaching we sometimes refer to these little voices that hold us back as our “gremlins.” Recognizing these little creatures for what they are is a first step toward taming them. A playful, yet effective way we can deal with them is to personify our gremlin by giving it a name, some characteristics, and perhaps a personality.
I’ve always had this little voice—this little gremlin—in my head that I call Peter Perfect. He is a smart and witty creature who always tells me that unless I can do something perfectly, I shouldn’t do it. But instead of hoping that one day he would go away, I have come to understand that in recognizing Peter Perfect for what he is, I diminish his power to run my life and hold me back.
In order to succeed in life you must first give yourself permission to succeed. This means you have to develop a positive inner dialogue that is congruent with your true intentions. To determine whether your inner thoughts are supporting or limiting you, you want to ask yourself, “Would I say the same words to a friend, a family member, or colleague who needs my support?”