The art of emotional mastery is a lifelong process! Self-regulation is defined as “a system of conscious personal management that involves the process of guiding one’s own thoughts, behaviors and feelings to reach goals” (thanks, Wikipedia).

Unfortunately it’s something few of us are taught, or conscious of, yet can be a practical and even crucial skill in our daily lives and relationships!

It can mean the difference between a promotion or being fired, between celebrating years of (mostly) happy union or a painful divorce.

The great news is that we can constantly improve our ability to respond (vs react) to heated, perplexing or even disturbing discussions!

“Is this work ever finished??!” I hear you ask… Probably not, though in my experience it gets a lot easier. Plus, I’m constantly looking for ways to make the learning curve less serious and more fun and which you can benefit from!

One of the more challenging issues many of my clients struggle with, is taming the inner critic. You know, that voice in your head that is constantly giving its unsolicited opinion on your behaviors, decisions, mistakes, etc?

Often, when I’m just waking up and still horizontal, I have this habit of reviewing my prior day. It’s at this moment that my inner critic will sometimes pop in, giving it’s rather critical opinion on where I screwed up, how I was being too selfish or lazy. etc. (I’m telling you, this guy can be brutal at times!)

As you can imagine, this can lead me down an unhealthy path to more negative thoughts, which can lead to negative actions, eg. no motivation to exercise, or eating comfort food to feel better or snapping at a colleague, store clerk or yelling profanities at my computer. (This of course gives my inner critic even more juicy content to judge me on and the cycle continues.) Here’s a short video of me inviting participants at the WIN conference in Athens to take control of their inner critic (click the image to play):

Now I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t take inventory, assess what’s working or what needs to be improved. Though I’m a firm believer that using a gentle, kinder self reflection approach can lead to healthier thoughts, healthier actions and bring us closer to the goals we want to achieve with less pain and suffering along the way.

“When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.”

Winston Churchill

So here is a very simple, fun and easy approach to those moments when our inner critic is on overdrive. It comes from improvisation theatre techniques that are used to develop collaborative skills, strength emotional intelligence etc. I discovered it last month while attending the AIN conference. Click here.

It’s called “New Choice” and this is how it works:

Whenever you catch yourself thinking an unproductive, unloving, negative thought about yourself or someone else, say to yourself out loud “New choice!” and choose a new thought, however silly or playful it may sound.

The goal is to break the harsh, negative thought process and bring it lightness and fun. Often this more positive energy will motivate or inspire you to change your behavior without the brow beating from the inner critic.

Example 1:

“geez Amy, you’re being so lazy”
“New Choice”
“geez Amy, you’re such a Zen master”
“New Choice”
“geez Amy, that is a great sloth impersonation”
(Repeat as many times as you like)

Example 2:

“Amy, why do you always want everything your way???”
“New Choice”
“Amy, you should get people to hire you to create their perfect days!”
“New Choice”
“Amy, you just love to create heaven on earth!”

Good luck and happy Partnering!