I don’t know about you, but I see a lot of articles about extinguishing the voices in our heads. A whole lot. I’m proposing a different take on those voices. What if we think about using those voices as strategic tools to carry us forward in our lives and our work?
This strategy occurred to me as I sat in my flower strewn, super comfy and cushy meditation chair that sits beside the corner window in my bedroom. I know. Comfy and cushy may not sound like a traditional meditation chair; it works for me. So I’m sitting there, struggling to focus enough to even start meditating and I heard a voice in my head saying “It’s okay. Start anyway.”
Choosing to believe
The voice belonged to one of my spiritual teachers, Ann. Years (decades) ago as I was struggling so hard – like Sisyphus pushing the rock up the hill hard – to still my mind enough to meditate, Ann told me to not worry about it. She suggested that I start by breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth and see what happened. So I did. I didn’t feel successful, but Ann told me it was a great start and I chose to believe her.
So when Ann’s voice popped up in my head, I listened. I didn’t just listen; I listened to it like it was Pharell singing Happy and embraced it to squelch my own voice telling me to give up. I found myself finally downloading the Insight Timer app to my iPhone and finding both a guided meditation and a timer to facilitate my meditating. And I’ve meditated at least 3 times a week since then. I choose Ann’s voice.
Then there are the times I’m working with a client or writing an article or blog post and hear a voice in my head that comes from a book I’ve read. I’m a prolific reader, as in multiple books a week, so the voices from the books I’ve read number in the thousands, at least. And that’s just the voices from the fiction that I read.
A literary voice
Currently, there’s a particular voice from a series of books I started reading this summer. I started reading them, then I devoured the whole series in two months. The historical fiction series, by Jacqueline Winspear, is about a nurse, Maisie Dobbs, who served in World War I and then became a detective between the wars. It’s a different point of view from many of the books that I read, mainly because it’s rooted in both World War I and the period leading up to World War II. Winspear’s depiction of the class changes affecting England after the first war are particularly affecting. Maisie’s mentor is a man who studied psychology and Eastern religions.
Here’s the thing, I’ve read literally hundreds of novels and nonfiction books about the two world wars. (Hmmm topic for another post? Definitely.) As I read this series, and was exposed over and over to the way that Maisie’s mentor trained her to work with her clients, my approach to my own clients shifted. Winspear’s descriptions of how Maisie prepared herself to meet with a client and how she interacted with the client resonated with me.
I think the deliberate techniques that Maisie applied to her clients highlighted some methods I could use to better reach my clients. I find myself listening better. I tune in even more to the non-verbal parts of our conversations. I even end our meetings differently.
A calming voice
Then, when I find myself pushing a client too hard, or I listen too loudly (yes, it’s a thing, bet you can imagine what it means), I can hear the descriptions of Maisie composing herself and gathering her energy to work more effectively and respectfully with her clients. Maisie’s voice in my head slows me down and helps me focus on what my client needs.
Then there’s this one voice. It belongs to my friend and mentor, Kyle. I’ve known Kyle for almost 20 years. She was a pioneering business owner when she got started back in the day. Her specialty is marketing. I met her at Mary & Martha’s Place, a feminist spiritual center in the Christian tradition. I was in charge of our annual fundraiser and Kyle donated her marketing expertise. The first time I met her, I was blown away by her vision, her presentation, just her.
We’ve kept in touch over the years, encouraging each other, and generally being in each others’ corners as our lives have evolved. Since Kyle is one of my best cheerleaders, she was one of the first people I talked to when I decided to become a coach. Shortly after we had our first marketing pow-wow, I came across a writing challenge from Seth Godin to write and share our work on social media.
I immediately thought of Kyle because she’s been writing for years – blog posts, memoirs, speeches. So I sent the link and information over to her. And that’s when it happened.
A kind voice for my lowest moments
The voice that I call up in my darkest moments. The one voice that can drown out the cacophony of the second-guessing chorus in my head.
Kyle responded, “Sure, I’d follow you anywhere!”
It blew me away. The person I consider one of my most influential mentors said she’d follow me anywhere. And I heard her.
So, when I just can’t do this work one more day, when I’m convinced that I just don’t have what it takes to succeed, that voice starts poking and prodding me. Over the years, I’ve exercised that voice so much that it’s as muscular and strong as an NFL linebacker.
“I’d follow you anywhere.” If Kyle would follow many anywhere, who am I to second guess her judgment?
We get to pick the voices in our head that we listen to. Let’s choose wisely.