Power of the Mind and the Little Voices Inside Our Heads - International Coaching Federation
COVID-19 Resources for ICF Coaches

Power of the Mind and the Little Voices Inside Our Heads

Posted by Valerie Robert, ACC | September 18, 2018 | Comments (8)

Wai’s recent column inspired me to share a personal story and find direct relevant connections to our roles as coaches.

On July 29, I participated in the “Traversée du Lac.” This is a 1.8 km swim whereby we swim from one side of Switzerland’s Lake Geneva to the other side. It is not a race; this is not a contest; this is just an opportunity to swim safely in our beautiful lake, with no sailboats or motorboats around.

I usually do all my sports activities together with my husband, such as triathlons. We are not competitive, as we wait for one another, and we do this together for fun.

This time, my husband was injured, and he was not able to swim alongside me. For once, I decided to be more agile and to go alone. I felt I had done this before, so I probably could do it on my own this time.

After 100 meters, I started to hyperventilate; my breathing was very difficult. I have asthma, so I had to take this a bit seriously. I had to find a way to recover and I decided to breathe deeply and swim on my back.  And, this is when the voices started in my head:

You can do it,
You will never do it.
Take one step at a time.
Do not stop, just go and see if you can make it to the next big yellow buoyant.
Take your time, breath slowly.
If Frederic were with you this would be so much easier, so much fun.
What can go wrong?
You can take control of your actions.
Accept the situation.
Don’t be stupid, enjoy the moment, etc….

I was torn between stopping and continuing on. In the end, it took longer than expected, and I managed to finish the swim, in breaststrokes instead of a crawl. I did find a way to adapt and show some personal agility.

I am sure you are familiar with these little voices, which are there within your head, within our heads.

Now, you may wonder, how this is relevant to coaching.

In fact, later in the week, I attended the ICF Executive and Leadership Coaching Community of Practice, where Ron Carucci presented his views on building a healthy relationship between the coach and the client. He focused on the concept of narratives. He argues that we all have our personal narratives. We all have many stories. As a first step, we need to increase our awareness, accept our stories and be ready to changes them. This is all about adapting to the situation, showing flexibility. In the end, we have to modify our behaviors, sharpen our abilities, and adapt in order to be more successful.

This concept resonates a lot with me. This is partially what I experienced in the water. It was clear I had to change my narratives if I wanted to make it the other side of the lake.

In my view, our role as coach is to help our clients create self-awareness, to help them realize when the voices are coming, where they are coming from and encourage them to deal with them. We are here to help them reduce their internal self-inflicted interferences so that they get to their full potential.

After a coaching session, our clients have a personal action plan to help them achieve their goals. Back in their daily life, they are alone, confronted by their personal challenges.

Our role is to ensure they find the resources within themselves to adapt their behaviors and stop the interferences so that they are able to deal with these little voices coming from their personal narratives.

So next time, in a coaching session, you may want to explore, with your clients, the little voices they have inside their heads, and have them commit to reframing their personal narratives. This would be a great step to their personal success. And, hopefully, as I did, alone in the water, they are able to tame these little voices, to identify the narrative that works in that very situation. This is all about self-awareness and personal agility.

valerie robert headshot resized

Valerie Robert, ACC

Valerie Robert, ACC, has more than 30 years corporate experience in HR, Manufacturing, Sales and Marketing. She currently serves as the Chief HR Officer for the global company Nestlé Skin Health, and prior to that, she was the Chief Human Resources Officer for Archroma, where she led global HR and corporate communications. She has also served as HR VP for Firmenich’s global commercial divisions and corporate talent and as an HR director for Procter & Gamble (P&G). At P&G, she created the organization’s global coach-training curriculum and led the organization’s Global Executive Coaching Practice from its inception. Valerie holds an MBA from France’s EDHEC Business School and is a graduate of Harvard Business School’s Women on Boards program. She speaks fluent English and French. Valerie is a 2019 ICF Global Board Director.

The views and opinions expressed in guest posts featured on this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of the International Coach Federation (ICF). The publication of a guest post on the ICF Blog does not equate to an ICF endorsement or guarantee of the products or services provided by the author.

Comments (8)

  1. Valerie, I love your story and I’m glad you made it out safely. Each time we have a success like this, it is so important to write it down to recall when you reframed and succeeded. You inspired me to spend some time looking for my own stories where I successfully did the same to reinforce my agility and growth. Thank you.

  2. Mounia says:

    Love this article, the story and the sense behind it
    Thanks for sharing

  3. lyne@lift-teamcoaching.com says:

    Thank you, Valerie, for the great words about the stories we tell ourselves in the moment. I also have a new Bucket List item: to swim the Traversée du Lac!

  4. Leda says:

    Valerie, your story and message is encouraging. I love your approach to life and the way, how you deal with challenging situations. I had recently a similar experience and I thought I had less negative narrative until I dared to listen what is really going on in my head:).
    I miss our conversations and walks:).
    Warm regards, Leda

  5. Hello Leda, I also miss our conversations and our walks. Enjoy and take care

Leave a Reply

Not a member?

Sign up now to become a member and receive all of our wonderful benefits.

Learn more