Voices in your head

PUBLISHED: 08:01 08 March 2011

When Michael Carroll famously won £9.7m on the National Lottery in November 2002, he was a 19-year- old bin-man. Wikipedia further records: “He spent his multi-million fortune on things such as illegal drugs, gambling and thousands of prostitutes over the next few years before going back to the £42 a week in jobseeker’s allowance he had been earning before. He expressed no regrets.”

In a recent televised update he seemed happy to be “back to reality” earning £70 per day as an employed painter. His mother stated they 
were so happy before the win, implying they have not been happy since.

I find Michael Carroll’s story very sad from the viewpoint of what he could have made of his life. Are you saying to yourself: “Rubbish, £9.7m should have gone to me, I would have handled it perfectly”? Interestingly that voice in your head may be as problematic for you as I suspect it was for Michael Carroll.

Firstly, are we agreed that we all have a voice in our heads? You 
may actually have several. One 
may tell you “Don’t eat that 
chocolate cake, you’ll get fat”. Another may say “Yes but I deserve it after the day I’ve just had. Let’s gorge!”

Perhaps Michael Carroll’s inner voice was telling him he did not deserve riches beyond his wildest dreams. It would have guided his behaviour as surely as yours did when you looked at that cake. Similar concept, different scale. Interestingly, his mother seems to be illustrating that we can also have a voice deciding what other people should or should not do. Before you dismiss that, how many times have you said “I wouldn’t do that if I were them”? You are projecting your personal values into someone else’s life. How conceited is that to consider you are a paragon of virtue?

Perhaps I am a minority voice in feeling sorry for Michael Carroll and his family. For you to extract benefit from his unfortunate experiences, here is your six-step plan:

1. Become aware of your inner voice/s.

2. Recognise how it regulates and directs your life.

3. Consider whether the ‘advice’ it gives is relevant. Is it setting you standards that are unrealistically high or low – for you or for others?

4. Is the advice current or outdated? I encounter many adults who still sulk or stamp their feet at work to get their way. It has worked since they were a child, why change it?

5. Is it saying how others, as well as you, should behave?

6. Challenge your voice and consciously choose to ignore or follow it – to ensure good results.

Perhaps Michael Carroll could by now be a waste management tycoon and public benefactor. Why should your life not be similarly transformed by controlling your inner voice? Remember, you cannot change other people with your ‘advice’, focus instead on improving yourself.

Chris Liles is a business mentor.

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