“If you think you can, you can. If you think you can’t, you’re right.”
~Henry Ford

Recently a client was facing a challenge at work, a “growth opportunity” if you will, a chance to lead a team through an intense project – and she knew she couldn’t handle it.

“I’m not good enough at managing,” she offered in one of our coaching sessions. “I don’t know enough about the technicalities of the project itself. Everyone else on the team is better equipped, more knowledgeable than me.”

I listened for a while as she listed the numerous reasons why she couldn’t succeed and how unable she was to lead the team to a strong finish. As a coach, it is a good part of my job to simply listen to my clients, so that they can talk things out and dump all the ideas in their head. But then I stopped her, nearly mid-sentence. “Just a curiosity,” I offered. “Why do you think your boss gave you this assignment, if there was no possible way you could succeed?” She paused, losing steam on her diatribe of failure. “And,” I continued, “even if it will be extremely hard for you to pull this off, and even if you might fail at it, how is it helping you to focus on your ultimate inability and to specifically list all the ways you’re not prepared for this challenge?”

The silence in our conversation was long, and nearly palpable. Finally my client spoke again. “I guess it’s not helping,” she shared. “I guess it’s not.”

We so often second (and third, and fourth) guess ourselves, sell ourselves short, and know beyond all doubt that we “can’t.” I’ve come to learn that this knowledge of inability only makes our task harder, only makes us less likely to succeed. Our mind is extremely powerful – it is truly a terrible thing to waste. We can use this power to support ourselves and strengthen us towards our goals, or we can use this power to hold ourselves back. It’s all in the way we think. I coached my client that day to find a way to envision her success (as well as to identify what support and information she might need to achieve that success). I coach my clients to thinking they can nearly every day – and with this approach, they so often can.

Where are you certain that you cannot succeed? How can you turn your thoughts around?
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The next time the voices inside you shout “you can’t do this,” thank them for sharing and announce to yourself and the world that you can. Then see what happens.

If you enjoyed this post, you can read more like it in our book, The Power of Thoughtful Leadership: 101 Minutes To Being the Leader You Want To Be, available on Amazon.

For help with turning your thoughts around, contact Robyn at rmcleod@chatsworthconsulting.com.

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