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The Coaching Diaries – Distraction

Anna is great at what she does. She works hard, putting in long hours and dedication – longer than she would like or is sustainable long term, but for now that’s just how this sector goes. She doesn’t want to change what she does, she just wants to change who it’s for. Anna longs to set up her own company, forge her own direction, showcase her own work.

“I know I can do it,” she says, “but I can’t take the step.” She wants to believe in herself, trust her talents and work ethic, take a stand for her dreams, but at every turn one big fear looms large and keeps her trapped: of not having the money to pay her bills. It’s held her back for too long and now she wants to move forward. “I just don’t know how,” she says.

Fear can be a sly thing. On the face of it Anna’s is clearly defined, but as we try to delve in we run into problems. We get sidetracked, drawn into other streams of thought, other worries. We go back to it and lose the connection between us, the phone line fading in and out. It’s only when I realise that we keep failing actually to talk about the fear that I notice the pattern of distraction.

It happens internally too, Anna says. When she’s frustrated with a job, she gets caught up in the idea that she just needs a new one, different people, a different place, until she recognises her old mental traps and remembers what she’s really longing for. Even the theme that her fear has coalesced around is a distraction. There’s no particular reason why bills have become a focal point; she’s never had a problem and if she did it would be a matter of honour more than destitution. They provide a potent snare to stop any action in its tracks, though. As soon as the thought arises she’s defensive, adamant, ready to argue her case. “I’m not going to ask for money from anyone else,” she says. “I’d never do that.” Diversion is a powerful tactic.

It’s only once we’ve acknowledged all of this, refused to get sidetracked, that we manage finally to keep our focus on the fear. It’s still hard to pin down, but at least now we’ve got its shape-shifting in our sights. We leave the session with a challenge for Anna to stay with it, to learn more, to notice the distraction tactics without being swept up by them. Fear has to be seen before it can be dismantled.


Our fears can be cunning. They’re trying to keep us safe, with persuasive rationale for how best to do that. The problem is, they’re simplistic solutions to a complex world. In shielding us from possible disaster from endeavour, they expose us to certain failure from inaction. What’s more, we regret dreams unfulfilled, potential unexplored, far more than our ‘failures’ when they’re actually encountered. We know that really, hence the need for the additional tactic of distraction, to trap us into mental loops and keep us from adventuring. What is it keeping you from?


Produced with full client permission, names changed.

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