Ever had a time when you really want to make something happen, and however hard you try you don’t seem to get any closer to a result that you are happy with? And while you are trying to focus, little voices pop into your head saying things like ‘you’re stupid – how on earth do you think you’re going to make that happen’, or ‘ you can’t have what you really want’, or ‘it’s a great idea but you’re not capable of that’, or ‘they’ll find out that you’re a fraud’.
These little voices are in place to protect you from pain. I call these ‘barking dogs’, because just like a dog they make a lot of noise (it can be quite deafening at times). They are the guardians of your comfort zone. These barking dogs appear when you are considering stepping outside your comfort zone, like you do when taking on a new project or growing in some way. If you pay attention to them, they will keep you in a safe place. Just like a guard dog, they are always alert to the possibility of you being hurt. They stop you going beyond where you have been before – who in their right mind would want the humiliation and embarrassment when it all goes horribly wrong?
That’s great in one way, because who wants pain? The downside is that if you always take the ‘survival level’ path by staying inside your comfort zone, you will never grow and get what you really want, because growth does not exist within your comfort zone.
An example of this for me was in approaching people ‘cold’ and talking to them about my business. The pack of barking dogs in my head used to say ‘they don’t want to listen to you, they’re busy and will get angry with you for interrupting, and anyway, what you have to say isn’t worth listening to’. All I could hear was a sound like a stray dogs home – just lots of loud noise. These particular barking dogs protected me from putting myself in a situation where people might get angry at the interruption, and ultimately reject me as a person. The net result was I would stop myself talking to people and growing my business, just so that I didn’t have to feel the pain, embarrassment and humiliation of rejection.
So what can you do about these barking dogs? Listen to the noise, and distinguish what each dog is saying. It’s a bit like listening to your favourite band, where you try and distinguish what the drummer or the lead guitar is playing. Really get clear about what each dog in the overall cacophony is saying – make them become individual.
I know my own barking dogs so well now that I can count about three or four regular players who appear when I am feeling exposed. I know what each one has to say individually. Once I have distinguished which ones are present I can deal with them. Just like a dog that is barking at the doorbell because the postman is trying to deliver a parcel, I thank the barking dog for protecting me, but tell him that I don’t need his protection right now – ‘go back and sit in your basket’. He has done his job in trying to protect me by barking, but he has not stopped me stepping outside my comfort zone, and moving towards what I really want.
For me, a very large part of gaining great results through coaching is about working with people outside their comfort zones. I help people achieve what’s important to them, and this nearly always involves taking people beyond what their barking dogs are saying, so that they can fulfil on their commitment.
What barking dogs stop you achieving your ambitions? What things repeatedly sabotage your plans? Let me know and I’ll compile a top five for the newsletter.