You can see what you want to do and something stops you. You encounter a situation that causes a flood of negative emotions.  You struggle internally to figure out what the heck is going on.  This happens to all of us. What is really going on and how do you deal with it?

When I switched from cybersecurity to coaching a lot of people asked me how I could undertake such a big departure.  It’s really not.  What I basically do all day is perform security ops for humans. The human mind is an operating system – a very complex and incredibly vulnerable one – but an operating system all the same.   Just like any other system, it needs to be monitored for system health and security issues to make sure it is running optimally.

What’s Blocking You?

When clients work with me to achieve a goal or make a change, they come to me because they are encountering a block – something that stops them or something that causes them to feel in a way that isn’t pleasant.  These blocks, or “malicious files”,  are simply a function of how their mind was programmed to react from their past experiences and training.  These experiences created vulnerabilities that cause the malicious files to execute when a current situation triggers them.   They weren’t there at birth and they don’t have to be there for life.  I work with them, help remove them and then positive action takes place.  Its a form of incident response for people.

When we are born, we have a fresh system with lots of disk space.   Our memory is clear.  It is primed to learn and take in every experience that is offered. As we experience life this “learning mode” takes in both the bad and the good – causing people to develop viruses and bugs that interrupt our normal processes.  These issues – inaction, anxiety, anger, apathy and fear –  vastly degrades our own human performance.  These undesired effects burn up our processing power, crush our happiness and kill our energy.  They ultimately keep us from reaching our full potential and success.  The amazing news is that we all have the power to remove these malicious files, strengthen the vulnerabilities and fix the bugs.

5 Steps to Identify, Analyze and Remediate Unwanted Processes

Below are 5 steps I use that are essential to identifying issues and securing the Human OS against them.  Completing these steps on your own can be difficult because lots of additional unwanted processes will be triggered, but not impossible. The human mind is a very noisy place.  With some time and exploration (and getting coaching around it if you want to do it faster), the negative effects start to dissolve and positive action becomes effortless.

As a terminology refresher for those not in cybersecurity:

  • Vulnerabilities are weaknesses that can be exploited.
  • Malicious files, in the human casecase memories or undesired training, are essentially viruses that cause systems to do things they shouldn’t.
  • Remediation is the act of removing of a threat that has breached the system, in this case a malicious file, so everything goes back to its desired, normal behavior.

Now, let’s explore how to monitor ourselves for issues, identify the vulnerability that has been exploited, determine the root cause or malicious file that has been implanted, and remove it.  We have many of these malicious files, and following security monitoring best practices, practicing situational awareness on an ongoing basis will help identify and remove more of them. My client who is used as an example, “Bill”, has given me permission to share his story – de-identified of course.

1.  Monitor:  Recognize when you are triggered

When a malicious file is executed we can feel it physically.  It can be a tightness in the chest or shoulders, butterflies in the stomach, racing in our mind, a rising anger sensation, or telling ourselves we are going to do something only to find our bodies are on autopilot doing the exact opposite.  The uncomfortable physical feeling is the “signature” of the malicious file.  By identifying the signature, we can start to understand how it got there, what triggers it, and how to remove it.

For example, when a client of mine, “Bill”,  tries to move forward on a specific project, he feels a tightness in his chest and shoulders.  His response is to distract himself by working on something else.  This causes him a large amount of anxiety because he is always behind on this particular project.  This triggers even more “malicious files” where he berates himself for not doing a good job – putting him into a spiral of energy-sucking anxiety and self loathing.  By identifying that this spiral begins with a tightness in the chest and shoulders, we can begin to understand how to interrupt and ultimately remove this negative process.

2.  Start Incident Response:  Step away from the emotion and look at the empirical facts of the situation

These triggers occur because of a negative experience in the past where our minds were programmed to act to protect ourselves.  These negative experiences insert the malicious file.

Now, in the case of Bill who is having trouble executing on his project, what’s true for him is that he has a lot of anxiety on executing on this project and he’s feeling like a bad person who just can’t get out of his own way.  But the ultimate TRUTH in the moment is that he’s trying to send an email, make a phone call or execute some other action to get the project done and he is feeling a tightness in his chest and shoulders.  He is able to execute similar tasks easily when not connected to the project.   The ultimate question is why executing any action connected with this project is causing this reaction.

This process can work no matter what the emotion is – anger, fear, anxiety, or apathy.  At this point, we have identified Bill’s malicious file that is keeping him from inaction but we really need to get to the root cause of what put it there.

3.  Pinpoint the Vulnerability:  Identify what you are REALLY afraid of

We have already established that these malicious files were created to protect us from past negative experiences.  When you feel a trigger it means that you are afraid of a negative consequence.  These can include being judged by others, fear of personal failure, loss of respect and love, and exposure of weakness.

In Bill’s case, he is really passionate about this project.  He championed getting the project started but is really worried that people will reject his ideas and therefore, reject his confidence in his capabilities.  So of course, it makes perfect sense that when he tries to move the project forward he experiences an incredible amount of anxiety when trying to do a simple task to move it forward. So, Bill’s mind is particularly vulnerable to people rejecting his ideas.  He is concerned that he won’t be Successful and furthermore, that he will be rejected.  

Now we understand what triggers the malicious file in this case which causes him from inaction.   However, we still don’t understand why the vulnerability exists in the first place.

4.  Find the Root Cause:  Ask yourself when you first started to feel the trigger

Getting to the root of this question will help identify the malicious file so it can be removed.  This can be a very hard question to answer without help so be kind to yourself if you can’t get there quickly.  To access it, think of the physical effects you felt to recognize the trigger.  Ask yourself when you first felt this feeling.  This will help identify the experience that caused your mind to become “infected”.

In Bill’s case, he first felt like the tightness in his chest and shoulders when he was in kindergarten.  He always had new and innovative ideas, even as a small child.  This made him different which caused other kids to tease and bully him.  So now we have identified the process the malicious file executes for Bill.  “When you have a new and innovative idea you will be bullied and people won’t understand you.”  His adult self understands this isn’t true in his head but the malicious file is telling him to not put himself out there or he will be bullied or ridiculed.

5.  Remediation:  Identify and redefine the variable

These malicious files don’t only cause negative emotion, they also cause variables to point to the wrong place.  Successful, perfect, smart, beautiful, love, and talent are just some of  powerful variables that can point to a number of different definitions.  The definitions we give these words directly impact our ability to achieve them.

In Bill’s case, the variable that needs to be redefined is “success”.  We identified this through his understanding that he was really afraid of not being successful.    The first step to redefining a variable is verbally expressing what it means.

When I asked Bill what success meant, he told me that it meant making 100% of the people who hear his ideas accept them.  This is not his conscious belief, but an effect of the malicious file that was implanted when he was bullied for sharing his ideas when he was young.  Once he expressed this, he realized his definition of the variable was impossible to achieve, so therefore he would never be successful.

He redefined success as being brave to share his ideas and refining them as he got input.  We sanity checked this to ensure it was achievable, possible, and really pointed to his true idea of success.  It was. It also removed the fear of rejection which was a key cause of the trigger.

Final Thoughts

If you try this on your own, be patient with yourself.  It takes time to work these things out independently but it is ultimately possible.  Going through this process will give you greater success, productivity, happiness and fulfillment.  It will get your mind back to the perfect system it was meant to be.  Go for it!