The Blog Library

A Tool for When Inspirational Quotes Stop Working

When I took therapy classes in grad school, I expected the professors to be more…I don’t know…touchy-feely? Inspirational?

It wasn’t like that at all. Most of them were extremely matter of fact. And I soon realized why – the point of most therapy methods isn’t to teach you what to think or feel. It’s to show a way to think, which can then change how you feel.

This is why I’m not going to give you an inspirational quote to repeat to yourself when you feel afraid or uncertain.

It’s not that that doesn’t ever work – it can! Inspiration is great! My home is plastered in quotes held up with washi tape.

It’s that inspiration doesn’t leave you anywhere to go when the quote stops working. Inspiration can be a bit like gasoline on a fire – it can produce an impressive whoosh of bright motivation, and sometimes that’s all you need. But if it flames out and you’re still sitting there – then what?

Today I want to give you a tool for when the quotes stop working.

In my previous post, I asked you to think of a time when you had a bold, creative idea – and the first thoughts that came to mind as you talked yourself out of it. Maybe something like:

  • I’d love to speak at conferences. But then I’d need to be the kind of person who has a shinier platform and shares personal things online.
  • I’m interested in running. But I’m not really ‘athletic.’ I don’t see myself spending weekends at big races.
  • I’d love to hire some people. But I don’t see myself running a company, I want to be home with my kids and not live a CEO life.

If you really want to do something, and you find yourself continually stuck, it’s probably not an issue of “I don’t know how.” Even if that’s what you tell yourself at first. Libraries, Google, and YouTube can almost always get you going there.

If you keep getting stuck, it’s most likely a mismatch between what you think the role requires, and the story you’ve told yourself about who you are.

Here’s how you start changing that. You begin with two simple steps. But note that I’ve said simple, not easy.

Step #1: Name the exact points of mismatch.

Your brain does not print out a tidy report of reasons why you’re avoiding something. There’s typically a swirling murk of discomfort when you come close to taking action, and this holds you in the land of “I need to research more first,” or, “I’ll try when this season is over.”

Wade into the murk with me. What is it about this new idea that doesn’t feel like ‘you’? Is there a value you think you’d have to change, or an undesirable trait you’re worried you’d become?

You might try filling these in:

  • I’ve thought about doing ________________, but then I would need to be __________.
  • People who ____________________ are like _________________.
  • I care about _______________, but if I did this, I’d need to care about ______________.

Step #2: Get curious about whether or not those second blanks are true.

Spend 15 minutes thinking like a lawyer. The prosecution asserts, “You can’t be a successful runner unless you’re a born athlete who loves big crowds and group races,” and shows a bunch of examples.

Can you find evidence that that isn’t always true?

Can you locate a few counter-examples? Are there Facebook groups or forums for proud introverted or non-naturally-athletic runners? Can you post on your own page “Hey hive mind! Anyone here who didn’t do sports growing up but became a runner?”

I’d never ask you to change a core value or pretend you’re someone you’re not. But if you’re going to make a life decision based on this, I’d suggest it’s worth 15 minutes of investigating whether it’s really true you’d need to go against your core values to take on this role.

This pattern can be applied widely:

If you think: “I want to grow my business. I see other people doing it, and they’re no ‘better’ than I am. But they became successful using marketing methods that would make me feel slimy. I can’t do that.”

Get curious: Which marketing method do you object to, and can you find anyone who became successful without using it at all? Is there someone who does use that method but does it with integrity? What other avenues are available? Who is good at using those? Can you ask in a group you belong to, “Hey, does anyone know someone who has successfully done X without having to use Y method?”

If you think: “There’s no way I could turn my little business into a bigger company. I want to be home with my kids, and bigger company owners are busy all the time.”

Get curious: What if we just double checked to make sure that successful company owners are always away from home and busy? What about this one? Or this one? Are there podcasts dedicated to avoiding that exact problem? Who have they interviewed? What other perspectives are out there?

Heads up: Gathering evidence does NOT mean making more research tasks to procrastinate. 😉

Set a timer for 15 minutes and start looking and asking around. I bet you’ll hit on your first piece of evidence within that time period.

I’m going to tell you how to use that evidence to change your inner story shortly.

P.S. Do me a favor and try out Step #1 and #2, even if on something silly, just for fun. (“I think I can’t make a nice dinner without making a huge mess and feeling stressed.”) Practicing on non-serious topics can give you courage to tackle bigger ones later.

Posted in


Keep reading:

Leave a Comment