Last year, my friend Nicole started training for her first triathlon. At 42, she was pretty fit; she went to the gym and attended the occasional spin class, but she wasn’t really triathlon-level fit.
Not to be deterred, Nicole threw herself headlong into her training. She was at the gym every day at 6 am, swimming laps or pounding the treadmill. And while the physical aspect of her training was grueling, Nicole struggled more with the psychological aspect.
* “What if I injure myself? I better not go full out in the pool today.”
* “Who am I kidding? I’m going to be competing against people half my age who’ve done this before.
* “My swimming form is terrible. Am I going to embarrass myself?
We were talking about this over lunch when I was reminded of a concept I learned from mentors Bill Adams and Bob Anderson (Check out their new book Mastering Leadership.)
When we’re trying to master something – our company’s financial future, managing a dream team, a triathlon – we tend to focus on the ‘outer game.’ We focus on our profit margins, our quarterly sales, or how fast we can run 6.2 miles.
It’s our ‘inner game’ – our consciousness and the voice inside our heads – that really determines success. I’ve worked with thousands of executives, and the one common denominator that I see in successful CEOs is that they manage their inner dialogue.
And I knew my friend could use the same tactic to blow past her competitors.
If you want that ‘outer game’ success, here are three ways you can manage your ‘inner game.’
1. Tune into your inner dialogue
You can’t manage your internal dialogue if you’re not aware of it. What stories are you telling yourself? Are you making choices from a place of anxiety? Is your biggest concern ‘playing it safe’? Do you get hung up on what other people might think?
Make a conscious decision to note mental chatter. If it helps, literally write it down.
2. Decide if your internal dialogue is outcome-creating or anxiety-containing
As outlined in Mastering Leadership, there are two “operating systems” that I see leaders working within: Reactive (anxiety-containing) or Creative (outcome-creating). The latter is by far a more powerful and effective system to achieve success.
The Reactive system generates momentum by focusing on a problem we need to fix and generating an emotional reaction of anxiety. We then “react” to lessen our anxiety – i.e. take some form of action that will relieve the anxious feelings.
We may see some temporary results, but the whole system is predicated on our attempts to contain anxiety, which unconsciously means we tie the situation to our own identity and self-worth! On some level, we believe that we are our problems, and if we don’t solve them, we’re failures.
But if we switch to an outcome-creating dialogue, life and work become exponentially easier. The Creative system generates momentum by focusing on what we want to create, not what we want to avoid.
Its primary driver is a clear vision of what we want to create, and when we connect to that vision, it results in an emotional reaction of passion or excitement (as opposed to anxiety).
Having clear vision coupled with passion drives us to take powerful actions that move us closer to our goals. Ultimately, it’s an energy “unleashing” or upward spiral cycle.
The clearer the vision, the more passion drives action, and the closer we get to our goals, which drives more excitement.
If you are feeling anxiety, you’re not in an outcome-creating cycle, and therefore the results will be limited.
3. Now move towards a more outcome-creating mindset
When you stay focused on your vision, it’s easier – and more enjoyable – to move towards your goal. All your hard work is coming from a place of excitement and engagement, not fear or insecurity.
In the case of my triathlete friend, she needed to move from her anxiety about potential failures during the race, to the vision of success she wanted to achieve – the proverbial “crossing the finish” line vision.
I had her imagine what it would be like to reach her goal: what would it look like? how would she feel? why does it matter to her? Through these types of questions, she got her attention off the anxiety and onto the passion she would feel through working towards this goal.
When you can make choices from a place of outcome-creating, you’ll see exponential results. Truly, it’s an energy-unleashing, upward spiral.
Do you find yourself falling back into an anxiety-containing mindset? Stop, clear your head, and get connected to a vision of what you WANT vs. what you don’t want. Play out the vision you have for success in your head until you are feeling a sense of passion and excitement about the possibility of achieving it.
Then take one action that leads you closer to that goal. Baby steps lead to breakthroughs, and each action will pull you closer to your vision.
With a bit of coaching and nudging, my triathlete friend was able to move past her hang-ups. She got excited about swimming faster and lifting more, letting go of ideas about her competitors. Once she changed that inner dialogue, running a triathlon was easy business.
Running your business and finding success can be as simple as a shift in mindset and I have data from thousands of leaders to prove it. Want to know more? Then contact us.