Not long ago, a client came to me all bent out of shape. “I just can’t seem to get my act together,” she complained. “I keep trying to get moving toward my goals. But for some reason, I just keep sabotaging my own efforts. I get started okay, but then I always find some inane reason to bail. It’s like I’ve become my own worst enemy! What’s the matter with me?”

Her experience is not unique. Whether the goal is to write a book, get more organized or lose 10 pounds, it seems we often find our progress stalled by an internal tug of war between what we deeply desire and what we end up choosing. It’s like we’re fighting against ourselves … and we’re at a loss to explain why. So when that internal battle heats up inside you, just who is doing the fighting?

As Christians, our tendency is to automatically place the blame on our “flesh” or on Satan for our internal struggles. And certainly both of those forces can and do actively resist the deep desire of the Spirit in our lives. But they aren’t the only players. There’s also a chorus of other voices inside you, and unlike the voice of your flesh or the whispers of Satan, these other voices need to be heard and respected — especially when you’re trying to make a major change in your life. To successfully attain a new goal, everybody on your “inner team” needs to be onboard.

OK, before I totally freak you out, let me assure you that I’m not suggesting that we should all be hearing mystical “voices” in our heads that tell us what to do. But think about it:  When you are debating an issue in your mind, with whom are you actually arguing? The fact is that God has created us with this wondrous ability to look at ourselves and the issues we face from a variety of perspectives at the same time. Have you ever heard someone say, “Well, my heart says yes, but my head says no.” Two voices, inside, debating. Both of them are you. But as long as they are not in agreement, you can’t move forward.

So let’s come back to the goal of losing 10 pounds, just as an example. Your mind (voice #1) tells you it will be good for you to lose 10 pounds, and it’s what you should want. Your heart (voice #2) agrees in principle, but it doesn’t like the way your mind is trying to make the whole thing into a huge unpleasant trial. “Losing weight is hard work!” says the mind. “It takes discipline. You’ve got to get on a program, deny your hunger and just stick with it until you see results!” Your heart categorically rejects this approach. “I don’t want to feel like I’m being punished,” says your heart. “Why can’t losing weight be fun?” Your mind laughs at this ridiculous notion, and refuses to tolerate any more gibberish from your heart. So you ignore your heart, and you start your plan. And — predictably — the whole thing breaks down in no time at all. Why? Because your heart never really bought in.

It’s not always just heart vs. head, either. Sometimes it’s body vs. mind. Sometimes it’s spirit vs. heart. We are threefold beings, and every facet of your internal identity — heart, mind and body — must be heard and their support enlisted in pursuing your goal before you can really move forward toward with integrity. How do you that? Actually, it’s easier than you might suspect.

First, clarify the goal you want to move toward. For example, “losing 10 pounds” or “getting my office organized and keeping it that way” or “learning to play the guitar” all work fine.

Then, invite each “voice” within you to take a turn sharing its perspective on the proposed goal. If that sounds quirky (and I admit, it does), then try approaching the exploration using questions like these:

  • If your heart could speak, what would it say about your goal of losing 10 pounds?

  • What does your heart want your mind and body to understand about this process of losing 10 pounds?

  • What would it take for your heart to say “yes” to the goal of losing 10 pounds?

Repeat the interview process for your mind and your body, being careful to let each voice be fully heard before moving on. Finally, create a plan for achieving your goal that incorporates the needs and desires of all the players on your inner team. For example, if your heart doesn’t want the process to feel like torture, then create an exercise program that’s based more on having fun than on counting calories. In a similar way, if your mind needs to see measurable progress, then agree to keep a written record of what you eat, or of your weight each week. And if your body is telling you it needs to take it slow, then design a plan that moves slowly so as not to overtax your system.

When considering any goal, of course, you must be careful to listen for and heed the voice of God’s Spirit, first and foremost, above all the other “voices” within you. But with His Spirit supporting you and with your heart, mind and body in alignment around your goal, you will succeed.

 

Michael D. Warden is a Professional Co-Active Coach, nationally trained through the  Coaches Training Institute in San Rafael, CA, and a member of the  International Coach Federation. Michael’s clients’ one common trait is their passion to live a bigger life — to discover what they're here for, and boldly go after that vision with confidence and authenticity. Find more on his life and work at www.michaelwarden.com.