Sometimes, after a situation has clearly been resolved, there can still be residual emotions hanging on in our bodies and minds. Creating an internal coach for yourself can help you clean up mental emotional debris after a difficult situation, so you can be fully present and centered in whatever comes next.
Let me explain what I mean: I was outside playing lacrosse with my daughter the other day. We both were having fun, running around catching the ball, and then one of those mental-emotional gridlock moments reared its ugly head.
The ball gets thrown into the bushes. Who’s gonna’ get it?
It always amazes me how ‘not lazy’ both of us were chasing down all kinds of balls for the last half hour, but here we are having it out about who should go into the woods and grab an overthrown ball not 20 yards away! I think the argument lasted for about 10 minutes, which means we probably could’ve gotten the ball at least 20 times in that time. Needless to say, the argument ended with the ball staying in its new home (the woods) and us not playing anymore.
Within about 15 minutes of giving each other “the silent treatment” we both apologized to each other, went out and got the ball together, and played for another five minutes, before having to go. After dropping my daughter off at her friend’s house, I was in a pretty crappy mood, and I couldn’t figure out why. It was the weekend and I was meeting a friend for a run, but you would have thought with the way I was feeling I was going to go carry large bags of wet cement for two hours. I couldn’t figure out what I was angry about, which in turn…was making me more angry.
Then it hit me.
I was still replaying the memory of arguing about the lacrosse ball with my daughter in my mind.
The situation had been over for at least a good hour, and yet I was still replaying it like a bad sitcom on TV late at night where I’m just too lazy to get up and change the channel! I start to beat myself up a bit for letting this non-helpful memory replay in my head for as long as I have, before finally calling my internal coach. An internal coach is an image, a voice, or even more importantly, the ‘feel’ of a person that you create in your mind. It’s best to base your internal coach on someone real that you truly trust and admire (walks the talk) and is someone you believe has your back and thinks a lot of you. But this person isn’t going to shy away from ‘telling it to you straight.’ They wouldn’t sugar-coat what you need to hear, they just won’t say it in a way that would leave you feeling like crap about yourself. (See my blog “Listen to Your Coach.”).
I imagine myself standing on a pitcher’s mound. My internal coach comes out on the field after more than a couple players (self-critical thoughts) have rocked my confidence…
“Clear your mental-emotional mechanism.” he says rather matter-of-factly.
I know from experience this means it’s time to for me to do one of two things (or both):
1. Change my perspective
2. Change my actions
Both have the ability to stop negative self-talk, build self-confidence, and help me create the feelings I want. My internal coach starts in with the questions…
You had an argument with Sarah when you were playing lacrosse, and did you resolve the situation?
Did you both apologize to one another, get the ball together, and end up playing in good spirits for another 5 minutes?
Do you feel there is any unfinished business you need to deal with in this situation?
Are you looking forward to your run?
Yes, I am!
How about a little opera music to get you in the –
Kidding! (My coach is sarcastic, shocking) How about some AC/DC, or really anything from your classic rock play-list…
I am already feeling differently! Once I turn on the tunes my mind is completely absorbed in the energy of where I am at the moment and looking a bit into the future at the fantastic run I’m about to take. ‘Reviewing’ with my internal coach took all of about two minutes, far less time (and energy) than the actual argument, or replaying it! And now I feel refreshed, energized, and confident that I can handle any difficult situations that come up for me.
Developing your internal coach may seem awkward at first. Yet, if you think about it, we all have an amazingly vivid internal critic, one who doesn’t pull punches as they throw unhelpful and hurtful criticism and judgement at us. If we don’t have an internal coach to off-set this voice, usually the loudest voice speaking (or the only one in this situation) is the one that you believe! This is why it’s so important to spend time building your internal coach.
It is immensely powerful to practice visualizing your internal coach to have the voice, mannerisms, and the feel of someone you know and trust. When I find myself going after myself (becoming my own worst critic) or even just need a bit of a boost or pep talk to get myself going, hearing, visualizing, and feeling the full presence of my internal coach quite literally inspires me. It helps me in the moment to be my best self. Instead of self-talk that is harmful to my efforts, the vital information and wisdom that my internal coach imparts on me feels like a combination of something they would say, and information I already know. These ‘pep talks’ boost my energy and help me think more clearly, so I can re-center myself and be ready for whatever comes my way!
Do you have a good relationship with your internal coach? How have you built it? How has it helped you? I’d love to hear how you use your internal coach in your life.