What's stopping you from taking action? (and the 3-part system to test where the block is)
Updated: Sep 18, 2019
Preface: One thing about the self-help industry is that often this content gives us a temporary boost in the moment, but we often forget about it by the next day and we fall back into old patterns.
Before you read this article, think about an action or decision you want to implement. Perhaps something you’ve started only to go back to square one and your inner critic is making you feel like you’ve failed. Or you haven’t started yet because something is holding you back. If you think about something specific, then you will be able to apply this article not just conceptually, but also experientially and specifically to something you want to move forward with.
What if I fail? What if I succeed? What if people will judge me? What if they will think I’m crazy? What if they’ll think I’m showing off? What if I will no longer be loved or accepted?
Have these questions ever popped up in your head?
If like me, you grew up with a strong inner critic, making a decision that’s important to you – whether it’s weight loss, being more assertive at work, or "putting yourself out there" in your new business – can often feel paralysing. (I've been there, and as I'm building my business, it still happens sometimes!)
And when it comes to decision-making, we are taught to think about what’s “logical”. What makes sense.
Make a list of pros and cons.
A useful approach, but what you see time and time again is that even when we are resolute in our decisions, slowly (or sometimes quickly) we can slip back into old patterns. The inner conflict re-emerges. And so, we feel like we've failed.
Now, as a life coach, I am not in the business of helping my clients fail.
I am in the business of asking the hard questions so that you can explore what needs to happen for your actions to succeed. Not just to succeed, but also to feel empowered while doing it and to make sure it lasts long after you read this article.
This is why I want to introduce you to a simple, yet powerful tool that I use with my clients, to help you take action that won’t send your inner critic in overdrive, but instead feel empowered:
The Mind-Body-Heart System.
Think of our human experience as a whole formed of these three parts. Just like any mechanism or system, they need to work in synergy.
The Mind is our brain, our intellect, rational thinking, cognitive approach to challenges we face every day. Without our mind, we would be unable to perform simple tasks from tying our shoelaces or knowing not to cross the road when a car is approaching at speed, to more complex, strategic ones like deciding a company restructure.
Our Body is physical and its experiences are somatic. Our body is a powerful source of feedback. The migraine after a crappy day at work, the stomach ache before that job interview, or that time when we got stuck in the toilet cubicle being sick right before our first presentation in front of the executive team.
Our Heart represents our emotions. They're not tangible, but they influence all other parts of the system. Our emotions decide who we fall in love with. Whether we like or dislike someone. The passion and enthusiasm we put into our projects or our motivation towards action.
Because the three function as a system, it’s pointless to make decisions just from one part.
Yet, we often do it.
That firm commitment to lose 10 pounds by December often gets knocked down because “there were just so many birthday cakes this month!”
Or we decide that now is the time to start that new project we’ve been putting off, and then somehow “the universe conspires and makes us jump through hoops”.
Until we give up.
And the list goes on.
This is the best environment for our inner critic to turn up the volume and start screaming at us about failing and that we can never do something right.
I don’t want you to get to that point.
Real, long-lasting change happens when Mind, Body and Heart are working together.
If a part of us is in conflict with the decision (for example to be more assertive at work), it will find ways to compromise our efforts along the way. This is how procrastination, self-sabotage, and “shiny new object” syndrome (or “hey, let’s drop this and start a new and more exciting thing!”) start to appear.
This is why it’s important to listen to each part and the feedback they have for us.
It could happen that the feedback one part has for us is not what we want to hear.
One thing that’s important to mention here is that each part of our Mind-Body-Heart system is not here to make life difficult for us, but to help us. So listening to the feedback it has to offer us will enable us to uncover where our actions might be set back along the way.
We all have a default part as a preference. That is our comfort zone. If I hear you default to "what makes sense" and "what's logical", I know you're in Mind preference. So you might spend a lot of time thinking about your actions rationally. Then my goal is to help you to explore outside of your comfort zone and establish a connection with the other two parts of the system.
To connect with each part of the Mind-Body-Heart system, these are some powerful questions you can reflect on. This will help you uncover if one part isn't "on board" with your action:
- What thoughts come up as a counter-argument to this decision?
- What reassurance does my mind need to allow me to take this action?
- When have I previously taken what I see as a risk and still was successful?
- What actions/plan do I need to put in place to maximise the potential for success?
- What does my heart say?
- If there was no obstacle, what would I do?
- How do I feel about this decision/action?
- What emotions come up as I think about these things?
- What physical sensation do I feel when I think of this decision?
- Where is this sensation located in my body?
- What shape, colour, temperature, consistency is it?
- If I observe this shape from a distance and give it some time, what do I start to notice?
- What would it say to me if it could speak?
These are quite reflective questions and they are very powerful in helping you “test” if there is a part of the system that isn’t 100% congruent with the action, and might compromise your efforts at a later stage. In order to achieve that congruence, the part(s) that are not agreeing with our action need to be listened to.
I'd love to know from you:
What have these questions revealed for you?
Is there a part of you that comes into conflict with the others?
What do you need to offer that part, or what needs to change about the action so that every part feels like it’s working together towards the same goal?
And next time you experience an inner conflict when faced with a decision, what can you do to remember the Mind-Body-Heart System and to test your action in all three parts before you take it?
If you have an action, decision or project where your three parts of the system aren’t feeling 100% congruent, making you feel paralysed and fearful of failure, I’d love to have a virtual coffee with you to hear your story. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org