The Devil on Your Shoulder

In my life, I’ve done a lot of work with the critic’s voice, learning techniques and getting quite good at transforming my inner critic to support and inform my forward progress (rather than criticize and impede it). I’ve gotten to the point where, these days, I rarely hear a critical voice in my head.

inner critic, devil on your shoulderAnd in that silence I’ve become aware of a different voice – I call him “the devil on my shoulder” or “rebel without a cause.” I grew up watching the old 1940’s Bugs Bunny cartoons on Saturday mornings. So, the image of the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other has stayed with me. But this is not the devil telling me to hurt someone or retaliate for some slight, real or imagined. No, my devil tells me to do things that are bad FOR ME. Does this sound familiar to you, or am I the only one?

My devil tells me not to exercise. Or go ahead and have that ice cream (even though in 2 hours I’ll be doubled over in pain from it.) He tells me it’s OK not to do my finances or deliver on my promises (like writing this newsletter, for example). And sometimes he just says, “Come on! Let’s be bad.” (Hence the “rebel without a cause” moniker – think James Dean.)

I’ve spent the last few months, first becoming painfully aware of how much this devil gets in my way of having the life I want, the body I want, the income I want. This devil actively advises me counter to my own best and highest interest. And about a month ago, I decided, I’ve had enough. It’s time for this devil to get the hell off my shoulder!

But how?

One thing I know, when dealing with procrastination, there is always an underlying issue.  And the only way to stop procrastinating is to deal with that!  So, I started working with the devil and I thought you might be interested in the techniques I used and the discoveries I made – in case you’ve got one on your shoulder!

The first technique I used was to talk to a dear friend who also has a background in NLP and ask for some support. We came up with a question for exploration:

What is the underlying belief that drives the devil?  What master does he serve?

And then I re-instituted writing morning pages. If you’re not familiar with morning pages, it’s an exercise from The Artist’s Way. I faithfully wrote morning pages for most of the 10 years I was ill, but have dropped the habit over the last few years.

So, every morning, I wrote. I didn’t right about the question, necessarily, because morning pages are 3 pages of whatever. You write for three pages – and you just write – whatever comes out of the pen. But I did remind myself of the question before I started writing. Just threw it out there. And then I wrote. I did this every morning for several weeks.

I discovered a few things along the way. I was reminded of what a tremendous stress reliever the morning pages are. I was reminded of how they cleared the space for me to have a more productive day. I started having and remembering more of my dreams and writing about them in the morning pages. Very little of this directly addressed the question or issue at hand. But I was clear I was working through something – because those dreams were wild!

And then one morning, while in the shower, I saw it. There were really two beliefs driving the devil. One was “I don’t want to become my Mother.” This surprised me, because my mother and I are quite close now. But, growing up I definitely had issues with Mom. We fought like cats and dogs. Mom was the super Mom of the 1970’s. She worked full time, she cooked dinner every night, and she did our laundry. All my friends loved her because she truly cared.

But what I saw was a woman overworked, always busy and tired, doing things for everyone else but never playing and very rarely getting anything for herself. And I didn’t want to be that way! In my tweens and teens especially, I very avidly did NOT want to be my Mother. As an adult, I’ve gotten over it, of course. I have tremendous respect for her strength and resiliency. In fact, I moved in with my parents, largely to support Mom as she cares for my father through his illness. And yet, that motivation, “I don’t want to turn into my Mother!” was driving the devil on my shoulder to give me all kinds of bad advice.

The other belief is even older. My family is a very high achieving family. Both of my brothers are genius smart. And I could never quite do as well in school as they did, no matter how hard I studied. I’m no slouch academically, but I just wasn’t on their level. And no matter how well I did, there was always another level to get to, another area to work on to excel at more. And so when I worked hard, I was always expected to work even harder.

So the second belief I uncovered is, “No matter how hard I work, I’ll never get to play and have fun.”  So, why work hard at all – what’s the point? And that’s what the devil is telling me – it doesn’t matter how hard you work, it will never be enough – so why not play now. Except that “play” in his mind equals doing things that are bad for me – eating candy, playing video games, being a “bad girl.”

And in a way, he’s right. Because no matter how much I accomplish today, there is always another project, more work, more stuff to do, right? So there’s never really a time when I’ve done all my homework and now I can go out and play.

How do I kick this devil to the curb?

Here’s what I decided – I need to play regularly – not when I’m done with my work or when I’ve been a good girl – but as part of my every day and every week life. And not play the way He says, but find ways every day to do things that feel good. For no other reason than that they feel good. And I need to take breaks intentionally and on purpose – even when there’s more work to be done. I need to find things that both are “good for me” and are fun and feel good.  So, I’ve begun to look for ways to do that.

How do you take good care of yourself? How do you make time to play and feel good? I’d love your ideas!


S.P.E.C.I.A.L. Step 1: Starting Point Assessment – Where Are You NOW?

Artists MBA, Professional ProgramOnce they’ve set a goal, most people make the mistake of jumping right into action doing the stuff they think they should.  But how can you successfully plan for a journey without knowing where you’re starting from?

In any journey from Point A to Point B – identifying Point A (your starting point) will enable you to chart the quickest, easiest and most likely path to success.

Most people don’t want to “waste time” evaluating where they ARE and what they’ve ACCOMPLISHED.  They want to focus all their energy on where they aren’t and what they don’t yet have!

This is a huge error from both a tactical standpoint and from a Law of Attraction standpoint.  Because remember, what you focus on expands.  If you are focusing on lack, you will soon lack more.

The Starting Point assessment is the 1st Step in the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. Roadmap to Success.  In this class, you will discover:

  • Why you MUST start from the starting point
  • How to assess your starting point in a useful way
  • Several useful tips to start assessing your starting point

When my private clients take these actions in pursuit of their goals they always feel more powerful and able to pursue their goals.  This is a surprisingly empowering process.

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Welcome to the Success eCourse

Dear ,

Welcome and thank you for making a commitment to yourself and your own success! You will be receiving one email each week for the next 10 weeks. Please add Success-Solutions [at] to your address book, to be sure you receive the Solutions to your Challenges.

Because people have trouble with long emails and because of all the spam filters out there, your emails will not have the full text of the challenge and solution, but will have a link that you can either click on or cut and paste into a browser window. This link will take you to a post with the Solution to your Challenge of the week. You can print out that page, bookmark it or just read it online right then and there (my recommendation)!
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Solution #1: Time Management

What it feels like:
I need more time!! I need a 48 hour day to get it all done!

  • You have so much to do and never enough time to do it.
  • When you finally manage some time to work on your creative career, there is so much to do: practice your craft, create new work/product, look for and book gigs, email, social media, follow-up on contacts and opportunities – you just don’t know where to start!  So you don’t start.  Or you do something else.
  • You are doing your best to get through that long list of To Do’s and the next thing you know the phone is ringing, you’ve got email, and the day has flown by and you’re frustrated at what didn’t get done!
  • You feel like all you do is put out the fires, jumping on the most urgent stuff – but you never seem to get to the things you really want to do – the creative project that has been buzzing around your brain for months, even years.

This is probably the key issue of our generation.  We have all these tools and technologies, but instead of saving us time (as we were promised) they have taken over our lives.  On top of that, you’re juggling a day job because your income from your creativity doesn’t support you financially.  And so, in effect you have 2 full time jobs – your day job and your creative job and you’d like to also have a life and perhaps sleep occasionally.

Success Solution:

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Solution #2: How to Create Success in the Arts and Entertainment Industry

What it feels like:
This business is so complicated, ever-changing, and such a mystery. Where’s my How-To Manual for Success?

  • How do I get myself seen, heard, read and most importantly HIRED by the right people?
  • What about all the dangers and pitfalls I keep hearing about?
  • Other people have succeeded in this business, how the heck did they do it?
  • I’ve been struggling on my own for so long. It feels like I’ve tried everything and nothing seems to work for me.  It’s completely dependent on luck and I don’t have luck!
  • I have to sacrifice my ethics and beliefs in order to make it in this Big Bad Business.

The bad news is that there is no “How-To” Manual for success in the Arts and Entertainment Industry.  And anyone who tells you that they have the one true method for creating success is lying to you – and probably trying to sell you that magic bullet for a hefty price.

But does that mean you can’t have success?  ABSOLUTELY NOT!  It means you have to apply your creativity to creating your own unique How-To Manual for success.  And there are some tried and true methods for “How-To” create your unique path to a prosperous career doing what you love.

Success Solution:

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Solution #3: Lack of Support for Your Dreams

What it feels like:

I feel like I’m always working alone and everyone and everything around me is telling me I’ll never make it.

  • You’re surrounded by people and messages that your art is not a Real Job.
  • Your family/friends don’t seem to take your ambitions seriously.
  • You don’t know how to get taken seriously in the business.
  • You don’t know how to find compatible colleagues for collaboration and sharing ideas as well as support.  The people you find just never seem to work out.
  • You know you need a reliable support team to help you with the business end of your creative career.  But you can’t seem to find them and so you end up trying to do it all yourself.

Maintaining your belief in yourself feels like an enormous burden and your inner critic is reflected all around you. Every step forward feels very hard and heavy and your progress feels like one step forward and two steps back. Each time you feel like you’re making progress something breaks or goes wrong and the voice in your head is like, “See? I’m never gonna make it!”

And the people around you (especially family) are telling you to stop fantasizing and get a real job. Or, even worse, they encourage you, but you don’t believe them. It may even look like the people around you are actively undermining and sabotaging your dreams.

Success Solution:

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Solution #4: Money and Finances

What it feels like:

I’m useless when it comes to money. Where does it all go?

  • How do I budget money when I don’t know from week to week how much I’ll bring in?
  • How do I know when I’m making enough money from my art to quit my day job?
  • When I start thinking about dealing with money my mind turns to mush and I’d rather do just about anything other than deal with this.
  • Money is a total mystery to me – Where’s Merlin when I need him?
  • Or, you think, if only I had more money, all my problems would disappear.

For many people in the Art and Entertainment Industry, it’s also not about working with a monthly salary, but the uncertainty and the irregularity of a free-lancer’s income. Going from gig to gig, commission to commission or even private student to private student, it seems impossible to create a sustainable living doing what you love.

Success Solution:

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Solution #5: Organization

What it feels like:

I’m so disorganized! My desk is such a mess! I can never find what I need.

  • Your space feels messy, cluttered and stifling
  • You waste a lot of time hunting for things you can’t find.
  • You have a tough time keeping track of your many ideas and projects.
  • You don’t have good systems in place for keeping track of and following up on contacts, or for keeping track of money.
  • So you forget things, miss opportunities and feel like you’ll never get on top of it all.
  • And – you’re just too busy spend the time getting organized!

This challenge, like time management is also a place where people feel a lot of shame. Perhaps as a child, your mother yelled at you to clean up your room, over and over. I know mine did. But it’s a rare parent that actually teaches their child HOW – how to organize in a way that suits your personality, your lifestyle and your innate tendencies.

Even when you get your space organized it doesn’t last, because you organized it from some external idea of what organized should be, rather than working within your own habits. In order to maintain it, you are required to create an entire set of new behaviors and that’s really hard to do without a lot of help and support.

Success Solution:

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Solution #6: Lack of Consistency and Sustainability

What it feels like:
There is no consistency to my success. I start marketing, then I get too busy to market and then opportunities begin to dry up and so I get back to marketing….

  • You make a commitment to working on your career and you’re good for a few days or weeks, but then it all seems to fall apart.
  • You can’t seem to stay focused over the long term.
  • You finally figure out how to get motivated and into action and you start getting results, but then it all becomes overwhelming and you either make yourself sick, drop the ball on opportunities or you are bewildered by why the opportunities just seem to have disappeared.

What I’ve discovered working with my private clients on this challenge is that while it shows up as one thing, when we break down what exactly is happening, it can have several different causes.

In my experience, the most common causes of this experience are:

  • A lack of systems and people to support the increased activity,
  • Accepting any and all opportunities for fear that saying no to any one opportunity means saying no to all opportunities (or worse, that there will be no other opportunities)
  • A lack of understanding of your own energy and balance requirements
  • Fear (which I will address in Challenge 7).

Success Solution:

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Solution #7: Fear of Success or Failure

What it feels like:

You can’t seem to get past the first big hurdle – FEAR – It grips you like a cold metal fist in your gut.

It feels like a vicious circle and you just don’t know how to break free.

  • You’re afraid to say what you really want, because what if you achieve it and find out it’s not what you want?
  • You try to put yourself out there, but every time you freeze and stumble and terrified you might look foolish.
  • You’ve got a very loud “What IF?” gremlin in your head predicting everything that can go wrong and he paralyzes you.
  • You take the action – you do what you fear – but it’s like pulling teeth, EVERY TIME.  And you’re exhausted.
  • You do all the right things, meet all the right people, but underneath it all, you don’t believe you could possibly succeed and you feel like a fraud – you live in fear that they’ll find out what a fraud you really are. And somehow, things just don’t work out.

Fear has many faces and can often be well disguised. Sometimes it looks like procrastination or avoidance. Sometimes it looks like perfectionism.  But the motivating factor for the behavior (or lack of behavior) is the same – FEAR.

You avoid making that phone call, taking the action, writing the song, pursuing the opportunity with the excuse – “Now just isn’t the right time” or “I have other priorities.”

But the truth is –  IT’S JUST FEAR.

And so you avoid making the call, because you can fool yourself that the opportunity is still waiting and still could be a yes. But actually, you’re already saying no to the opportunity. You’re saying no by taking NO ACTION.

Or you work on something for hours and hours when it was done well enough in the first 15 minutes. You have to make it absolutely perfect. Because if it’s not ABSOLUTELY PERFECT, then __________ (fill in your worst nightmare). But really you avoid finishing, because then you’ll have to take the action that really scares you.

And so, you can stay safe in your striving for perfection and tell yourself that you’re working really hard. But actually, you’re staying safe and not really moving towards your goals.

Success Solution:

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