Having a coach or a mentor can be very useful indeed. In fact, it doesn’t really matter how well we are doing in life we would all benefit from having a coach or a mentor to work with – a respected and trusted individual to whom we can talk, a skilled helper with whom we can share our deepest desires, concerns, aspirations and goals, an experienced expert who can give us the feedback, advice and guidance we need.

Think of the world’s greatest athletes and sports performers – they all have a coach, don’t they? Consider of a moment the most accomplished and successful business leaders and entrepreneurs in the world – do these individuals have a coach or a mentor to look up to? You bet they do!

Having a mentor or a coach can be very useful indeed – but the fact of the matter is the mentor or coach we hire can’t be there for us all day every day. There will be times, in other words, when we need to be able to get by without a coach. This is when your inner coach comes into play. In fact, I would go so far as to say that, although it’s critically important to have a coach the most important coach you will ever have in the one that exists inside your head – your INNER COACH!

We talk to ourselves all the time – the self-talk, or internal chatter that goes on within our heads is critically important. Our self-talk can be helpful and beneficial or not; we can talk ourselves up or we can talk ourselves down. Either way the way we talk to ourselves is hugely influential – it can boost our self-confidence, self-belief and self-esteem, it can encourage and motivate us, it can praise us, compliment us and reward us, it can be kind and compassionate towards us. Our self-talk, however can also be negative, pessimistic and hurtful. It can be spiteful, cruel and hurtful. Our self-talk can berate us and tell us off.

Personifying our self-talk can help us, not only to understand it’s role but can enable us to create the kind of self-talk we want. For example, let’s imagine for a moment that your self-talk is the voice of your inner coach. This inner coach could be a scary PE teacher constantly criticising you, telling you off and putting you down or your inner coach could be kind, friendly, and compassionate – someone who is positive, optimistic, encouraging and motivating, someone you can talk to knowing they will listen attentively offering practical advice, appropriate guidance and words of wisdom when you need them.

What kind of an inner coach do you have – one who is always putting you down because he is never satisfied with your performance or one who is kind, encouraging and motivational? If your inner coach is like a scary PE teacher then you need to sack him and hire a coach who has your back, someone who will cheer you on from the side-lines, someone who will be honest and straightforward, someone you can respect, admire and trust.

Your inner coach is a part of who you are – he’s an extension of how you see yourself. You wouldn’t create and internalise a cruel, punitive inner coach if you genuinely liked, trusted and respected yourself. The constant berating and telling off that goes on inside your head is the result of having low self-esteem, low self-belief and a general lack of social confidence. You want to do well but as soon as you think of doing something brave, exciting, challenging and new – something that could radically improve the quality of your life that bitter and twisted inner coach inside your head immediately jumps up and starts criticising you with statements such as; “Who do you think you are? Do you really think you could do that? Come on, you couldn’t possibly do it and do you know why? Because your rubbish that’s why, your useless, you’re a loser!” The cruel, inner coach within you just wants to ridicule, belittle and discourage you and he does this because he’s a bully, a dictator and like all dictators he trades in propaganda and propaganda as you know is information that is biased and misleading – it’s biased towards what the dictator wants you to know, not what’s true.

Just because your inner coach says you’re hopeless, useless, and a complete waste of space and oxygen doesn’t mean you are – that’s just what your inner coach thinks. And moreover, what your inner coach thinks is just what your inner thinks and thoughts aren’t facts.

This cruel, inner coach will obviously hold you back and stop you achieving your full potential so best to get rid of him and employ an inner coach who is kind and supportive rather than an inner critic who is always putting you down. And it’s up to you to create this coach and you can do this through paying attention to your self-talk. You can make sure your making statements that support and help you such as; ‘I can and I will do this.’ ‘If someone else can do it so can I’ and ‘I may not do it now but I can learn to do it soon’ and so on.

You also need to pay attention to the questions you ask yourself. For example, asking unhelpful, unbeneficial questions leads to unhelpful, unbeneficial answers. For example, unhelpful, unbeneficial questions such as; ‘Why am I so stupid?’ ‘What is wrong with me?’ and ‘Why I am always screwing up?’ will lead to unhelpful, unbeneficial answers such as; ‘Because I’m a complete idiot … I’m helpless and useless … I’m incompetent, that’s why.’ And answers such as these, as you can see are of no value whatsoever.

So, you need to get into the habit of asking yourself better questions because asking helpful, beneficial questions leads to helpful, beneficial answers. This, after all is one of the benefits of hiring a coach – good coaches ask good questions and it’s partly through the asking of good questions that good coaches are able to facilitate change within the client. The kind of helpful, beneficial questions you can ask yourself might be; ‘What might I learn from this?’ ‘What is good about this situation?’ ‘What needs to happen for me to improve?’ ‘Who can help me?’ ‘What options are open to me?’ ‘What could I do to improve the situation?’ And so on. One of the benefits of asking empowering questions such as these of ourselves is they encourage us to take responsibility for ourselves – in other words we start to hold ourselves accountable for our lives rather then relying on others to help us out.

When we truly accept, choose and take responsibility for our thoughts, feelings and behaviours our motivation, commitment, self-belief and confidence grows and we start to get better results in life. When we are told what to do, when others take responsibility for us we become disempowered and helpless.

Let’s say I tell you to do something and you follow my advice and fail – your likely then to blame me for your misfortune. You may say something along the lines of; ‘I did actually what you said and it didn’t work. Its all your fault!’ As you can see – refusing to take responsibility leads to blaming others when things go wrong. The victimology this leads to is extremely disempowering. Let’s say for argument sake I said to you; ‘There is a cute girl over there – go and ask her for her ‘phone number.’ You do so. You ask her for her ‘phone number but she rejects you. You come back telling me of your experience.

Now, let’s say we change the dynamics a little and I say; ‘I need you to challenge yourself in some way. It’s up to you what to do. What are you willing to do?’ And you decide to start a conversation with a girl. You choose a cute girl walking down the street – you stop her, introduce yourself and ask her if she knows of a good coffee shop close by. She starts to tell you but you stop her and admit that you don’t really want a coffee – that was just an excuse to stop her and talk to her because you thought she was really cute and you couldn’t let her go by without saying something to her. It just so happens you exchange numbers and agree to meet up for a coffee next week. You see, the reason why this encounter was a success is because you took responsibility for your actions rather then being told what to do.

Asking good questions of yourself is encouraging and motivational, it creates choice and encourages responsibility. Asking good questions is one of the cornerstones of great coaching including great inner coaching.