Did you know that you have a strategy for how you do everything?
You may not know this but I once had pretty severe test anxiety. I was always a pretty good English student when I was in high school but then I went to college and I failed my first English class.
We had a grammar test we had to take weekly and I failed it each and every time.
In fact, I got worse with each subsequent week.
I knew I had to pass to pass the class. It didn’t matter how well I did on the other tests, or how well I wrote. Passing that test was a requirement.
So, I thought about it a lot.
I pictured myself taking it and how nervous and anxious I would feel.
I imagined red marks on the wrong answers and big red F at the top of the page.
I saw my mind going blank. I told myself I couldn’t learn grammar, that I was stupid, that everyone else would pass.
My hands would get all sweaty.
My guts would tie in knots.
That was my strategy to fail my grammar test and eventually my first English class. It worked really well too although that wasn’t the outcome I wanted.
And the key is, it all happened beneath the surface of my total awareness. All except the resounding sense of anxiety, fear and dread of taking tests.
Don’t worry, I later found a class that didn’t require a grammar test and I got an A. But I had already left that first experience with a strategy for test anxiety that because I did not know I had the strategy, it took a really long time to overcome.So, why is it important to know about strategies?
Because normally they run unconscious in the background creating all kinds of behavior.
Sometimes we label that behavior with words, as I did, like anxiety, which then limits what’s possible. Test anxiety created a box around what I thought was possible. I ran my test anxiety strategy for a long time and eventually, I became anxious going into classrooms, which impacted my college experience. It created new labels I gave myself and those labels created limits. It impacted my self esteem and what I thought was possible.
Now I know different. I can unpack my strategies, learn how I do them and make changes not only in how I label and respond to them but the meaning they have and whether I run them or not. To be honest, just having the awareness changes everything.
Some strategies can be helpful but others, like my test anxiety aren’t. Imagine if you overspend and could identify your shopping strategy. Or maybe you want to spend more time being creative and finish your novel or paint that painting but you find you always put it last on your list. There’s a strategy there keeping you from taking action.
This is one of the powers of coaching; unpacking unconscious strategies that are impacting your behavior and leading you away from what you consciously want for your life.