After writing ‘The One Habit’, I start retracing my process of change to find the origin. I realized that the change happened in my mind first. I started winning over the little voice in my head.
In my whole life, I’ve never encountered anyone as harsh, blunt, and inconsiderate as my little voice. Precise like a Swiss watch, it always shows up at the worst time possible.
However, as long as you don’t challenge yourself, this voice will be loving and caring. No matter how bad your behavior is, this voice will always tell you ‘you’re doing good’. I will refer to this voice as ‘the easy voice’.
Besides this voice, there is another one, more critic. It meant to wake you up when you’re not using your potential. It can make you feel guilty. I will refer to this voice as ‘the tough voice’.
A battle takes place in everyone’s mind, as soon as we are faced with a challenge. This battle is between two sides, the easy way and the tough way. The two voices will try their very best to persuade you to one side.
Much like the Cherokee story of the two wolves, the voice that will win is the one you feed. Whether you succeed at overcoming the challenge you face or not will largely depend on which voice you listen to.
The wise man or woman are the ones who acknowledge the loving voice and embrace the truth behind the critic’s one.
The change happens when you walk away from the loving voice and embrace the truth behind the critic’s one.
Here you will learn:
- How the voices work.
- What happens when you listen to each one of them.
- How to win over the little voice that holds you back.
By the end of this article, you will have enough understanding and tools to make your inner speech supportive of your goals.
The Two Voices in Your Head
Have you ever experienced a split in your mind? What happens when you are pumped about your next challenge, your new year resolution, or a good habit you want to implement? A conversation, a debate, or an argument take place in your mind.
Below, you will find examples of what you might hear in your head:
|The Easy Voice||The Tough Voice|
|What if you fail? |
Not good enough
Take it easy
Play it safe
Keep doing the same
We have time
|What if you succeed? |
You have it
Every second count
As you can already notice, the easy voice is not always loving. It tries to hold you back when you want to challenge yourself.
1- The Easy Voice
At first, the easy voice sounds like a friend. It’s doesn’t want you to go through pain. It wants you to stay in your comfort zone, safe from any failure.
But, it’s not a friend. A true friend would never try to hold you back or discourage you from achieving your best.
The easy voice, more than anyone on earth, has an advantage over you: it knows your secrets, your fears, and your insecurities. It will never hesitate to use them against you. It will create doubt in you until you take the comfortable path.
The easy voice and propaganda have some common characteristics. They:
- Manipulate the individual so he adopts certain ideas and behaviors.
- Present an issue in a biased manner as if it was an absolute truth
- Give the wrong impression that the individual thought for himself and came up with his judgment.
2- The Tough Voice
The tough voice is promising you blood, sweat, and tears. It’s telling you: it’s not going to be fun. You’ll have to do things you don’t want to do to reach your goals.
You will have to wake up at 4 or 5 am to seize the day, read the book, or work on that side project even if you are tired…
What happens next is some people get scared of the amount of effort required to get where they want to go. It’s a painful journey. Along the way, you might meet failure and self-doubt.
But if you never take this tough road, you will never know your potential.
What happens when we listen to the easy voice?
The easy voice resists any change. The inability of many people to positively change their lives doesn’t come without a price.
In his book “The War of Art”, Steven Pressfield describes what resistance feels like. Once we agreed with the easy voice, we can go through 3 consecutive phases:
1- The first, unhappiness. We are bored. Guilt kicks in. We are disgusted. We hate ourselves and our lives.
2- The second, no one wants to feel this way. It becomes unbearable. So we are on the look for coping mechanisms. The vices start showing up: distractions, overeating, alcohol, drugs, gambling, adultery…
3- The last, it’s the critical phase. It can be depression or aggression, crime or self-destruction.
As you can see, the price of following the easy voice can be costly.
I can relate to this pattern. My comfort zone protected me from everything. I should have all reasons to be happy. But I wasn’t. Never challenging myself was a death sentence.
So why many people follow this path? It doesn’t worth it.
Maybe, it’s even worse to take the tough road. Is that true?
What happens when we listen to the tough voice?
What’s the downside of following the tough voice?
You’ll have to push yourself and work hard. You’ll have to face yourself and remove the lies.
There is always a risk of failure, but mostly undertaking a challenge won’t kill you. Success is a poor teacher. The most valuable lessons about yourself can be only learned with failure. This is just part of the process of your better life.
Along the road, they will be fear, self-doubt, despair, rejection, and criticism. You’ll take a few blows. But the end of it, there is greatness. It is you living at your full potential. There’s self-satisfaction given only to the one who does the effort consistently.
Seeking discomfort has a price: doing the work every day; no matter what.
On a scale, it is obvious for me today that the benefits of discomfort outweigh the ones of comfort. But it took me time to learn. Hopefully, you will deal with your easy voice better than I did.
Let’s see now how you can make ‘winning over the little voice in your head’ possible.
How can we deal successfully with the easy voice and embrace the tough one?
1- Don’t wait to feel confident
Change is not easy and often requires sustained effort and energy over prolonged periods. That’s why we want to build better habits that last.
Habits help you make the easy voice irrelevant. You cut the time of internal negotiation and turn into autopilot mode. But you’ll need a lot of energy at the beginning to create motion and then stick to the process.
Unfortunately, many people want to overcome their fear first before starting anything challenging. It doesn’t work this way. Fear will always be there.
Dan Sullivan, founder and president of Strategic Coach, has observed the following: when entrepreneurs experience any kind of breakthrough in results, they’ve gone through a four-step process. It allows them to avoid paralysis and take action before feeling confident.
The process is called The 4 C’s Formula. By repeating the process, the entrepreneurs create breakthroughs and increase their confidence. I find this system applicable to anything that challenges us. You don’t need to be an entrepreneur to use it.
The first C is Commitment: you make consistent efforts to move forward even if you have no proof that your commitment will pay off.
The second C is Courage: to make the breakthrough, you need a period of courage. You’re moving into unknown territory and it feels awful.
The third C is Capability: the combination of commitment and courage builds your capability.
The fourth C is Confidence: It feels good to be confident. But it comes last. It’s the reward you get for making the breakthrough, for your consistent effort.
This is another reason to build better habits: it gives you the evidence that you’re making progress. You start with a tiny habit and you build up from there. The small wins you get by being committed help you go through this period of courage to gain capability and confidence.
2- Be the hero of your story
As a rule of thumb, never accept a story about yourself that makes you weak. You don’t need voices that sabotage you and put you down.
Your voices are supposed to be on your side. In everyday life, you will never tolerate being surrounded by people who don’t support you. Same with your voices.
The easy voice might have some truth in it, but it’s always exaggerated. Let it bring what it has to say. Don’t walk away from it. You can do it in front of a mirror. No one will know about it. All you can write down all the negative and replace it with the exact opposite. This can be your new script.
You are the hero of your movie. Your story should be something like this:
You are a character who has a problem. You’re looking for a guide to help you solve the problem – it can be a person you know, a book that you read, a video that you watch. The guide gives you a plan – clear steps to solve your problem and reach your goals. Then the guide challenges you to take action. He knows that the period of courage feels awful. He’s been there before. So he gives you full support. With the combination of commitment and courage, you become capable and gain confidence. That helps you avoid failure and your story ends up in success.
This is a movie I would enjoy watching. People who love you will like it. And you will be proud of this movie.
3- Use propaganda against yourself
The most recent example of propaganda that comes to mind is from the documentary ‘One Child Nation’. It’s about the extreme population control measure that made it illegal for couples to have more than one child. China’s One Child Policy lasted from 1978 to 2015. Newborns were abandoned, adopted, or killed; women were forced to sterilizations and abortions, and millions of girls disappeared. One of the reasons this policy lasted for 35 years is propaganda. The population was surrounded by messages praising the policy. The message was in televised performances, cartoons, movies, or even printed in cups and matchboxes.
If propaganda can be used for something evil, it can also be used for something good.
During my study years, I used to rely only on motivation. So I would be excited about a challenging goal at the beginning. But after a while, my motivation goes away and I would forget why I started in the first place. When the easy voice kicks in, I find myself unprepared; with no arguments to support my goals. The easy voice wins; I lose.
My experience taught me to not trust my motivation, neither my memory. From the fridge to my desk, you’ll find my goals displayed, the things that inspire me, and the proof of the smallest accomplishment printed (like my participation in a speech contest).
I talk about what I want to achieve or the person I want to become to people surrounding me: my wife, family, friends, and colleagues. My goals are not a secret project no one knows about them. I say it out loud and it holds me accountable.
This is what I mean by using propaganda against yourself: you are continuously exposed to your goals and talk about them. Your environment reinforces your ideas and helps you adopt the right habits.
When the easy voice shows up, everything I need to defend myself is visible and ready to use. A confrontation with this voice doesn’t even last a second. This is the way of the warrior: he never goes to the battlefield naked.
Every human is a mix of strengths and weaknesses. Being able to recognize both of them is important. The problem begins when we side completely towards our weaknesses. The 2 voices have their utility – one is reminding you to give everything you’re capable of; the other one is testing the degree of your resolve. Mastering your inner speech is critical to build better habits that last and reach your objectives. Winning over the little voice in your head is the only acceptable outcome.