My Secret Weapon

In this episode I talk about my secret weapon. The most effective tool I have for helping my clients create a change in how they feel when they perform and therefore how they perform....

Podcast 30 Title

The Courageous Performer Podcast

My Secret Weapon

If you would like to learn how to let go and perform brilliantly, so that you can feel confident (even without being able to guarantee the outcome!) then go to to find out how to work with me.

Read the episode transcript here:


Hi, I'm Hattie Voelcker from Find Your True Voice, and today's podcast is going to be a little longer than my usual micro podcast because I want to tell you about something that transformed my life.



If you've been listening to me for a while, or seeing me on YouTube, or working with me, you'll know what I mean when I say SMOG words. Now, some of you won't know what I mean, when I say SMOG words. So let me explain. There are words I call SMOG words, and these are should, must, ought, got to hence SMOG. But there are also have to, need to, and various other things that you might find you say to yourself, and I call them words of obligation and shame. Because as my godmother pointed out to me, if I tell you, "I should clean the kitchen," there is an implicit, "but" in that sentence, "I should clean the kitchen, but I'm not going to," we kind of understand that, although I'm telling you, I should do it, there's a really good chance I'm not going to do it for one reason or another.



Yet, these are the words we tend to use when we feel something's really important and we're trying to get ourselves to do something. So what is that about? Well, it's about a number of factors, but primarily, I think this is because these are words we use when we feel obligated do something, or feel vulnerable about doing something, feel like we're under pressure to do something we either don't want to do or are feeling anxious or nervous about doing or worried about messing up.



So me saying I should tidy my kitchen, let's take that example. The reason I'm saying that is because there's almost a sense of shame for me around the fact that my kitchen is so often in a bad state, and if I had people coming round, I would be ashamed. And my mother would be ashamed of me for having made such, or not tidied it, made such a mess of it, not to keep my house clean and tidy. That's at least how I feel about it.



So I use the word "should," because there's part of me that thinks by using the word "should," or actually my favourite one of these words is actually "need". So I really need to do this. My hope that is that by using that word, I will be giving myself a boot up the backside to get it done.



The reality is, if I tell myself I ought to do something I should I mean, I've got to, it makes the task feel so much heavier, to me, that it actually goes out on my list. In terms of the things I want to do, so it becomes less likely that I'm going to do it. And more likely that I'm going to avoid doing it hence the butt. I don't know if you suffer the same thing, have a think about if there's anything you feel you need to do, you've got to do you ought to do you should do all of those words. Is there anything you ought to do? For example, the singers I work with talk a lot about I ought to do this, I ought to practice, I ought to pay more attention, I ought to put myself out for more opportunities, I should really work harder on this particular piece, I need to take a different attitude to what I'm doing.



All of these words are designed to help us do these things, but actually make the task feel heavier and harder. The other thing they do is they make us feel like a child. So we are talking one part of us is talking to the other part of us like that part is a child. And the difficulty with talking to yourself as a child is, if anybody knows transactional analysis, is that when we talk to ourselves as a child, we are more likely to respond as a child. When I say respond as a child that might be respond and go, "Yeah, but I don't want to," in our head, "Oh yeah, but I'm going to watch telly for a bit because I deserve a break". Or it might trigger us to feel even more insecure about it, because if we're a child, how can we possibly do it? If we feel in that childlike mode, we were feeling vulnerable about doing it and now we're feeling even more vulnerable about doing it because we've been put in that childlike response, and we're even more worried about doing it badly.



What's worse than not doing it at all is doing it badly. In some ways I know it's usually said the other way around. Because maybe if we do it next week, we'll do it, well, maybe all our ducks will be in a row and the stars will have aligned, and next week, we'll be capable of doing a good job. But we don't trust ourselves that we can do a good job now. So we have this tendency, as I spoke of recently, to procrastinate.



And then we use these SMOG words to try and kick ourselves up the backside, but those make it feel heavier, and more negative, and harder and more daunting, because it's put us into this childlike headspace where we feel less capable of doing it. So all these words that we use, to try and get ourselves to do this stuff actually makes the situation worse.



So what can you do about it? Well, this is where this, this transformed my life. This is where we convert these words, and we start to change the language. But there is so much more to these words than just changing the language. But a shortcut, a really easy shortcut is to change the language. So instead of thinking, "I really should practice today," step back and go, "What's the reason I feel I should practice?" And you might discover, actually, it's not top of your priority list, you might discover whatever you're saying you should do isn't even on your priority list at all. And if you step back and say, "What is it I want?" And I don't mean that hedonistic, instant gratification want right now, "Oh I just want to sit and watch telly or I just want to go and have a conversation with my friend." I mean, the bigger overarching wants. What is it I want to achieve today? What is it? What is the reason I want to achieve that? Where am I going? Where do I want to get to? Tap in if you feel like you should be preparing, doing some preparation for this thing, what's the reason you feel it's important for you to do this preparation, because if you tap into the reason, you might then be able to convert this into what I would say WELL words, Want, Enjoy, Like or Love.



I want to practice because I want to get to the space where I feel good about this. I like practising because actually I get a chance to sing. I want to prepare this because I want to feel prepared when I get out on stage in front of these people. For some people getting to those WELL words, want enjoy like and love about these things, can be too hard. So what I would say is then have a look and see if you can make them WISE words.



So that is what is it wise for me to do right now? Is it wise for me to practice right now? Or is there something that it is more important I do? The I stands for important to me, and it's important, we say that important to me because the world might be saying it's important that you tidy your kitchen, but is it important to you? And if it's not important to you, what is important to you? So Wise, Important to you, Sensible is the S What would be sensible for you to do because, and I'll come to this in a minute, because these words can have a different impact on us. And then the E stands for effective, what is it effective for you to do?



Because we can all see how well word want, enjoy, like and love, give us pleasure. So if we do something we want, we can get pleasure from it, and we also don't get the kick if we don't do the thing we want one more fool us. If we don't do the thing we enjoy like or love, there's no punishment for that. Whereas if we don't do what we should or we ought or we must do, then we feel says something about who we are, there must be something bad about us. We must be lazy, stupid, I'm trying to think of the word, inadequate in some way.



If you look at these wise words, the joy of them is if you do something wise that says something about you too, that says that you are wise. If you do something that's important to you, well, that says something good. You're doing something that's important. If you do something sensible that makes you sensible, if you do something effective, that comes with kudos.



If you do something you should or must have got to have to there's no kudos that comes with that because you should have done it. You don't get credit for doing what you ought to do anyway. So not only do these SMOG words take away the credit we might get, they also make the whole thing the task heavier, and they put us into this childlike state. So all these words that we've been using to try and get ourselves to do these things have made it harder.



If we go back to thinking, "What do I actually want from this, what will be really wise and sensible to do right now?" we're tapping back into the goals, the reason for doing it, and that means you can tap into the motivation to do it, and you're not just doing it because you should, which is terribly boring, and makes you feel like a child. So that's how these words work in the short term, these are really good short term effective way of them working. But these words can do more for us.



What I realised was these words can identify when we feel vulnerable. These words can identify when we're putting pressure on ourselves, and that's where I use them with my clients. Because when people start using SMOG words, it's a really good indication that something is going on for them that is making them feel vulnerable, that is putting them into a defensive stance, that is making them feel small. And that's such a great key for then unlocking, unpicking that and changing that pattern. So I them, I get really excited about this, because then I can empower the person, or help them empower themselves mores the point, to develop a different pattern around this so the situation doesn't make them feel vulnerable anymore. It makes them access what they really want, and empower them to go out and get what they really want. That is where the real transformation starts to happen.



When you can hear where you feel vulnerable, and then go and do the analysis on what is making you feel vulnerable, and change that, that's when I have the breakthroughs with people. When we flip what feels vulnerable to people to being exciting, and empowering.



That's what I love about these SMOG words, not only are they a short term way of making things better, but in the long term, they are one of my biggest tools for making changes for my clients. They are the biggest flags and I go right, this is where we're going to do the work, and that's what I love about them. So as ever, I come back to this idea of being kind to yourself, because if you hear yourself saying "I should do this, I need to do this," it can be then tempting to use the should or shouldn't around those words, well, I shouldn't be weren't using the word should. And that's where I went to very quickly, and I addressed that, I kept going I shouldn't do this, I should do this, I should stop saying the word need. But that's just using a stick to encourage someone to stop using a stick.



Instead, in that moment, if you can offer yourself some kindness and go "Right there's something I'm feeling vulnerable about. Let me step back and work out what it is I actually want and what is the wisest step for me to do, to take to get what I actually want?" Then you will start to be able to make these changes, and that is where the work really begins. That is where we start to unpick things and make changes that don't just impact how you perform on stage. They impact how you are in life. They impact how you show up in all your relationships, how you show up in your work, and how you set yourself goals and achieve them. Because instead of making life harder for yourself, you found a way to make it exciting and rewarding.



So my passionate plea to you is to have a look at the SMOG words in your life and have a think about what would happen if you change them. I'm Hattie Voelcker from Find Your True Voice.