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What’s your sentence?

My friend, Sean Stephenson, was one of the most powerful people I’ve ever met. He was born with brittle bone disease and only grew to 3 feet tall. He lived in a wheelchair his whole life. But he had a doctorate in Psychology and he was a powerful coach. And when we’d chat he’d constantly challenge how I saw the world. 

Sadly, Sean passed away too soon. I miss him deeply. 

One day we were sitting in his kitchen. I was telling him a story about something I wanted to do that scared me. 

“Why are you scared?” he asked. 

“Because I have this constant voice in my head that says in a very condescending tone, Who are you to do that?” I explained. 

“Well,” Sean shot back, “Who are you?” 

I hated him in that moment. 

It was like time stood still. 

I saw exactly what he had done. 

He’d taken the nagging, rhetorical question in my head and asked me to answer it. 

Damn you, Sean.

Only a second had passed but I knew I was at an important choice point in my life. 

I could crack a joke, or change the conversation. Or I could choose to answer the darned question that had haunted me for so much of my life. 

Slowly, I began to answer. 

“Who am I to do that? Well… I’m Richard J Litvin. I’m a powerful man who makes a big impact… [I felt so uncomfortable. I had to literally force myself to go on]. 

I do what scares me. I’m comfortable in my own skin. I fit in, in any situation. I’m strong and I’m confident…”

I don’t recall my exact words. 

I do remember that I was sweating by the time I’d finished. 

I hated and loved Sean in the very same instant.  

But the spell had been broken…  

For the first time in my life, the sentence that had constantly held me back, had lost its power over me. 

Why do you have a sentence?

Have you ever noticed that the critical voice inside your head often sounds like the voice of your mother or your father, or someone significant in your life, when you were very young?

That’s because, as a youngster, there came a moment (possibly many moments) when you didn’t feel safe.  

And, in that moment (or over time) your younger self began to form beliefs about the world, in order to protect you, in order to keep you safe. 

And I can tell you two things: 

  1. Your younger self did an amazing job at keeping you safe. 
  2. In this moment, you are paying a price for the choices your younger self made. 

How do I know your younger self did an amazing job at keeping you safe? Well, if you are reading this—an article for successful leaders and coaches—chances are that you’ve created some extraordinary opportunities for yourself and for others. 

How do I know you’re paying a price for the choices your younger self made? Because you’re human. Because your thinking creates your reality. Because almost everyone is living into an unconscious Default Future. 

What can you do about it?

I have a simple but powerful tool that I’ll teach you. It’s called The Sentence…

The Sentence

The word sentence has two meanings. It can refer to a grammatical construct in the English language. It can also refer to confinement in prison. 

I have news for you…

You are living under a sentence. 

There’s a phrase that the voice, or voices, in your head, say most often. 

It can sometimes sound mean. It can sometimes sound loving. 

Either way, it’s designed to protect you and keep you safe. 

The problem is that all of your growth happens just outside your comfort zone. And your entire unconscious self is using every trick at its disposal to keep you from ever moving out of your comfort zone. 

So, just like me, you have a choice. 

Do you want to feel comfortable, or do you want to grow?

What’s your sentence?

Here are some of the most common ones:

  • I don’t belong.
  • I’m not enough.  
  • I’m not good enough. 
  • I’m powerless.  
  • I’m not important. 
  • Who am I?
  • I need to work harder. 
  • What will people think of me?
  • I’m a loser. 
  • I’m not lovable.
  • I’m not capable.
  • I’m inadequate. 
  • I’m too old.
  • I’m too young.
  • I’m too poor. 
  • I’m too fat. I’m too skinny. I’m too tall. I’m too short… 
  • I’m not smart enough.
  • I’m not popular enough.
  • I’m not connected enough.

Sometimes the voice in your head will personalize these thoughts. They’ll begin with the word, “I…”. Sometimes they’ll sound a little harsher and they’ll begin with the word, “You…”

  • You don’t belong. 
  • You’re not enough.  
  • You’re not good enough 
  • You’re powerless.  
  • You’re not important. 
  • Who are you?
  • You need to work harder. 
  • What will people think of you?
  • You’re a loser. 
  • You’re not lovable.
  • You’re not capable.
  • You’re inadequate. 
  • You’re too old.
  • You’re too young.
  • You’re too poor. 
  • You’re too fat. You’re too skinny. You’re too tall. You’re too short… 
  • You’re not smart enough.
  • You’re not popular enough.
  • You’re not connected enough.

Whatever that phrase is that’s in your head, you’re in prison right now. 

You are imprisoned by the thoughts in your mind. 

Right now, you are living into an unconscious sentence. Its only purpose is to keep you safe. But its only result is to hold you back. 

When the diagnosis is made, the healing begins

Awareness is freedom. 

You can be released from your sentence only once you see it. 

I’m Rich Litvin and my sentence is, “Who are you?”

What’s your name? And what’s your sentence?

Don’t try to fix it, or do anything about it. Simply write it down. 

I’m ________ and the sentence that used to have power over me was, “_______________…”

Love. Rich 


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  1. Rich Litvin’s 1:1 Coaching Playbook: Learn my top 10 proven tools for coaching elite clients in this live training. Over 100 people joined me for our first live call – and all calls are recorded, so it’s not too late to join me…
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