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Blog Short #3: Your Inner Coach

Welcome to Monday Blog Shorts – ideas to make even Monday a good day! Every Monday I share a short article with you about a strategy you can use, or new facts or info that informs you, or a new idea that inspires you . My wish is to give you something to think about in the week ahead. Let’s dig in!

When you pursue a goal or try to achieve something, your success is dependent to a large degree on your inner coach. Your inner coach is the voice that orchestrates and facilitates what happens. That voice either encourages, inspires, and activates you, or it derails and discourages you, and brings you to a halt.

Although your success will depend to some degree on your process, it’s your inner coach that makes or breaks you, and often, you’re not even aware of what your inner coach is telling you or how it affects your trajectory.

Let’s review the effective inner coach versus the ineffective inner coach, and then it’s up to you to see where yours fits in, and make changes depending on what you find.

It’s always fun to start with the ineffective inner coach because most of us are quite familiar with this guy. Here’s what he’s like:

  1. He’s all about outcomes. The end goal is what’s important. It’s like football. You either score a touchdown or you don’t and there’s no in between. If you score, you’re a roaring success and if you don’t, you’re a dismal failure. It’s an all-or-nothing proposition.
  2. He doesn’t pay much attention to process. He doesn’t build skills, break things down in small components, take pleasure in small successes along the way, or feel good about incremental changes and improvements. He’s always focused on the end result and he exerts a lot of pressure to get there fast. Very fast!
  3. He maintains accountability through fear. He’s the coach on the sideline that appears to be frothing at the mouth while he’s in his player’s face screaming and yelling. He denigrates, demeans, personalizes, insults, criticizes, and intimidates. Sometimes he’s downright scary!

On the flip side, sometimes this inner coach is very permissive and doesn’t hold anyone accountable, including himself. He lets his players slide both on and off the field.

Sometimes he vacillates back and forth. One minute he’s overbearing, intimidating, hostile and critical, and the next he’s permissive, neglectful and not invested.

Now let’s look at our effective inner coach.

  1. This guy has the growth mindset. He works toward outcomes, but he’s more focused on growth and improvement. He values effort, meeting challenges and overcoming obstacles, evaluation and learning, and determination. Work ethic is more important than performance.
  2. He focuses on process and building systems for success. He’s concerned about the method to achieve a goal more than the achievement itself. He focuses on creating a system to accomplish small, doable tasks that lead to the larger goal. His focus is on strategies, scheduling, skill-building, discipline, and learning. He sees success as an outcome of adhering to systematic activity and consistent practice.
  3. He keeps his players accountable through support and firmness at the same time. He loves his players, values them, knows their talents and weaknesses and knows how to exploit the talents while working on the weaknesses. He’s firm, doesn’t allow inattentiveness, procrastination, or avoidance, but keeps his players accountable through encouragement and respect. He cheers them on, empathizes with them, and seeks to understand them and help them succeed.
  4. He never insults or makes personal attacks. His criticism is constructive and instructive, and is meant to help make improvements. He has the right balance between encouragement and setting limits. He doesn’t operate out of unbridled emotions or anger, but he also isn’t permissiveness.

If your inner coach is more like the first one, try these changes:

  • Use self-talk that appreciates, values, and is kind. Be your own cheerleader, just as you would with someone you were coaching. Have faith that you can reach the goals you are pursuing.
  • Be accountable to yourself also. Be firm without devaluation.
  • Phrases to avoid are:
    • I don’t deserve to succeed.
    • I suck at this.
    • I’m not good enough and I never will be.
    • I don’t know how to do anything right.
    • No one else has faith in me, so why should I.
    • It’s too hard. What was I thinking?
    • I’ve never had good models, so no wonder.
  • Take pleasure in every small step you take, and build on it. Use words of encouragement.
  • Measure progress by improvements and making small changes.
  • When you fall off the horse, get right back on. Stay determined, but allow for setbacks.
  • Use mistakes as learning experiences rather than failures. Affirm that:
    • You can handle challenges
    • Mistakes are unavoidable and actually help you succeed in the long run
    • You are valuable and deserve every opportunity available to you
    • You are a work in progress
    • You deserve respect from others as well as from yourself
    • Obstacles are just that. Things to work around. Challenges are normal and necessary.
    • What you don’t know, you can learn.
    • Help is available. Ask!

The bottom line is that a harsh, unforgiving inner coach will impede and maybe even sabotage your success. This voice also eats up a lot of emotional energy that drains you, saps your resolve, and makes you want to give up or give in.

In some cases, hanging on to the bad inner coach is a defense against meeting expectations and succeeding. If you beat yourself up enough, then you can feel vindicated in not succeeding. After all, you can just say to yourself, “I’m a screw up,” and be done with it.

I’d prefer Stuart Smalley’s inner voice which says:

“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.”

If you’ve never heard of Stuart Smalley, look him up on YouTube and enjoy a clip from an old Saturday Night Live. The episode with Michael Jordan was the best and the funniest. Here’s the link if you wanna watch.

That’s it for this week! Have a great week, and keep that inner voice in check.

All my best,


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