The only advice you need: DON’T LISTEN TO ADVICE

I have a PhD, two masters, a bachelor’s, and a couple of certificates. I speak four languages, wrote two novels, ran my first half-marathon at 50, and left my home country at 44 to start a new life in the US.

Impressed? Please, don’t be – be compassionate.

All those things – accomplishments? – are but a product of the nasty voice in my head that has pushed me all my life. More, you need more. More, this isn’t enough, you’re not enough. You’ll be […] once you […].

In the coaching model I practice, co-active, we label those voices ‘saboteurs.’ They seem to help you at first, but in reality what they do is derail you from building what really matters to you.

My main saboteur, let me introduce you, is the Hyper-Achiever, showing up as Fairy-Me since 1980 something.

This is how she operates: Fairy-Me creates a picture of me in the future, being happy after having achieved something. Then she teases me: OMG, you’ll be amazing in your book-launch. All those readers who want to ask you questions. They’ll wait patiently in line for you to sign the copies they’ve gotten for themselves, their friends, daughter-in-laws, work-husbands. And you’ll smile back because, hey, you’ll be so happy that you’ve written this wonderful book.

Or when you’re crossing the finish line, the chronometer reading 1:49:39; and then you’ll go up to the results table and yes, first in your age group!

Or when you get up on the scale and, wow, only 14% of fat.

It seems like great motivation, doesn’t it? Wait, there’s more.

Then, day one: with the picture of success in my mind, I sit down to write my book. And, surprise!, it’s difficult, clunky. Messy. Words don’t come easily, ideas are mixed up, I don’t know where to start telling the story – what’s actually the story I want to tell? Do you even have a story?

I look up, and there she is, Fairy-Me. She looks disappointed. Her magic wand pointing to the floor, helpless, her shiny wings wilted. She shakes her head and whispers, “this is not your thing, obviously.” But then, a little sparkle in her eye, “…or is it?”

Now I’m wired. I roll up my sleeves and go out and look for every single piece of advice on writing, writer’s block, how to stop procrastinating, the seven habits of successful writers. And Fairy-Me goes, “good work! Learning how to do it before you start is exactly what you need.”

And I put all my energy in learning the how-to. And then, the self-doubt – maybe I should take a class, or join a writing group, or get another master’s, yeah, in creative writing…

Fairy-Me is happy. And, me? I’m blocked – not a single word written.

Until I finally give up. I acknowledge, you know what, Fairy-Me? You were right, I’m not a writer, and decide to follow another picture she created of me in the future, when I’m happy crossing the finish line, the chronometer reading… (Results, results, results!)

Now she’s all worked up! New goal, new opportunity – to push, to gain a badge. To quit.

And my true soul, gets a little more buried under layers of achievements. How awesome! A PhD, a first half-marathon at 50, another master’s, a relocation, one more certificate, another relocation. Small victories while my poet, my true nature, nears death.

But then I found co-active coaching. Training to become a co-active coach, I got hours of coaching by amazing people, co-active coaches in training, as I was. Using the model, they helped me spot my saboteurs and bring them into the open. And with a lot of work and introspection, I finally looked them in the eye and ask, what do you really want from me?

The answer made me laugh. My saboteurs said to me, “We only want you not to make mistakes. We want you to be safe.”

You know that’s a lie, right? Does a bird need a lecture on how to fly?

Photo by Johannes Plenio on

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