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It’s Olympic season and the amazing achievements of Olympic athletes cause us to pause and consider how we could be more like Olympians in our own lives. What is your life’s “Olympian” endeavor? Where are your talents and expertise the strongest? Where can you improve? How can you perform at your highest standards day in day out?

In my new co-authored Harvard Health book: Organize Your Emotions, Optimize Your Life, I propose a new model of the human psyche that can be described as an adult version of the Oscar-winning animated movie Inside Out, positing that the human psyche has nine internal life forces sculpted by evolution, speaking as our inner “voices,” with distinct needs, agendas and emotions.

We know now that multiplicity of mind is natural and normal, but how do we identify and corral the nine members of our inner team, listen to them each individually, and coach them and ourselves to perform at their/our best? Let’s take an inner roll call – meet and converse with our nine inner family members:

Autonomy
If I believe that the endeavor is aligned with our values and passions, that I have a good deal of control over our choices along the way, and it is taking me where I want to go in the future, I’m all in. You can count on me to breathe my full life force into this team effort. And it’s a big life force!  

Confidence
I certainly have self-doubts (that’s an understatement…). I wonder often whether our ambition exceeds our abilities. I hate to admit it, but I am prone to procrastinate when I doubt we have what it takes. However… if the whole team is on board, learning and getting better every day, I will do everything I can to make sure we develop the competence and confidence we need.

Standard Setter
It’s me who is setting the standard of being an “Olympian.” I am sure to not let up on the pressure to get there. I don’t hold back criticism when we fall short. Call me Ms./Mr. Perseverance! However, I can push us and others too hard and for too long sometimes. I need to learn to balance pushing with pulling back to rejuvenate and reflect, letting go when needed.

Curious Adventurer
One thing we need for peak performance is to stay open and curious to internal and external signs. The world is constantly changing. Our inner team is too, all nine of us. We need to welcome and embrace surprises. I’m the voice of resilience, quickly bouncing back with: What is interesting about this? What is there to learn from this? How can we be agile, adjusting and adapting quickly?

Creative                    
I have untapped creative resources to help us navigate around all of the challenges, and there are many. Call on me more for bright, new ideas, even on how to have fun and enjoy the journey. Give me some downtime and good sleep and I’ll do even better.

Relational               
I can’t do this alone! The best outcome is for me to help others to succeed while serving my interests in succeeding. Let’s play as a team and succeed as a team. Remember the African proverb: If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together.

Executive Manager
Give me time every day to plan and get organized; then give me a good night’s sleep so that I can stay on top of all of the to-dos the next day. I perform best by alternating intense mental effort with mind wandering or rest. And I need exercise and good nutrition to stay energized, clear and calm.

Body Regulator        
I’m happy to take one for the team, and push beyond physical limits, now and then. But…we need to pace ourselves so that we don’t burn out or get too mentally and physically exhausted. I know how to chill, to recover. Just listen to my messages to relax and get some balance (headaches, stomach aches, you know what I mean….). Then I’ll tell you how.

Meaning Maker         
Regular checking in to reflect on the higher purpose of the endeavor will inspire and uplift the whole team. I can also deliver the wisdom of the moment and moments of peace and equanimity. Inspiration and peace sure feel good!

More on the inner family...

 

About the Author

Margaret Moore

Margaret Moore is the co-director of the McLean/Harvard Medical School Institute of Coaching.

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