When You Hold Back, You Break Through to Authentic Success

When You Hold Back, You Break Through to Authentic Success
-Self-regulation is a powerful tool for getting what you really want.

When my daughter was young, she had an English teacher who suggested the best way to write an A+-worthy essay was to allow the first draft to be the “sloppy copy.” The goal was to be free enough to let all the “mistakes” happen without restriction or consequence. Once everything was in front of her on paper, she would have a better perspective to edit out anything that got in the way of writing her best essay.

This sloppy copy concept works for any challenge in which you must make a significant decision or response. Authenticity means being real with yourself, more than being real with others. The sloppy copy is your chance to do so without adverse impact, except maybe on your ego!

When we give ourselves the space to face what’s inside us, the good, bad and indifferent, we give ourselves the gift of clarity and wiser judgment. Restraint is one of the best strategies I know to be your professional and personal best.

If you’re tired of overacting or underreacting to challenges big and small, learn to hold back the right way. Break through those inner blocks that hinder the outcomes you want.


Self-regulation to the rescue.
We all have moments of concern, worry or anxiety that drive us to make rash decisions or speak and act hastily. We may defend ourselves when no defense is necessary or shut down opportunities that could be beneficial.

Self-regulation is the ability to understand and manage our reactions and behaviors to achieve the goals we want. It helps us learn and grow, behave responsibly, create solid relationships and be more independent.

In a rapidly changing world, self-regulation is vital for success and happiness. We must be able to pivot quickly to deal with new circumstances. Shifting doesn’t mean we relinquish what’s important to us. It means we see and adjust any patterns of thought and behavior that keep us stuck. Otherwise, our impulses will pull us in every direction but forward.

A second look.
Self-regulation is a friend, not an enemy, to the idea of listening to your gut. Many of us don’t spend enough time contemplating the difference between deep-seated wisdom or mere bias and false assumptions. If your gut impulse is a wise choice, it can withstand the test of a second look.

Very often, our first glance at a problem isn’t always the most accurate. Typically, we’re too busy worrying about how to protect ourselves than dealing with the issue. We see challenges through the lens of how they will affect us, what our self-image demands we do, or how we can regain or not lose control. All of this is normal. But it may not be the most effective in solving problems and stabilizing relationships.

The sloppy copy strategy.
The sloppy copy is your opportunity to get all your “stuff” out in front of you so you can see what’s relevant to this challenge and what’s not. The beauty of this approach is that it permits you to be radically honest with yourself with little judgment or concern.

Since you are not acting on this honesty, there are no negative impacts. As you recognize this is just your first draft reaction to the situation, you keep any self-condemnation at bay. By holding yourself accountable to your state of mind and emotions, you clear a path to make the best decision or response.

What’s your ultimate goal?
When the teacher advised my daughter on the sloppy copy strategy, the goal was to write an A+ essay. In the same way, you need to know what your goal is. What outcome will the best decision or response you are looking for give you? Do you want your opinion heard in a meaningful way? Do you need to define expectations? Are you trying to strengthen a relationship?

Once your goal is clear, make a case for your decision or response on paper. Let this first draft rip! Don’t censor or hesitate. Use expletives if that feels right for you. Be as raw and honest as possible. Rehash anything that comes up from your past or indulge all your worries for the future. After all, no one is going to see this. It’s for your eyes only.

Once you finish, put the sloppy copy away for a while. A few hours or a few days, depending on your time frame.

When you return to it, re-read it a couple of times. What are your impressions? What is effective and what isn’t for getting what you ultimately want? Trust your second look, whether it aligns or not, with your first gut instinct.

Sometimes the sloppy copy is just a way to refine what you already know you need to say or do. Or it could show you a completely different strategy for getting what you want that you couldn’t see before. Other times, it reveals a deeper, more meaningful goal than what you initially thought you wanted.

Self-regulation is a powerful tool. Great careers, lives and relationships don’t happen in a straight line. They are a zig-zag journey of truth-seeking, discovery and refinement that can be hard but rewarding. Nothing is worse than getting what you want only to realize it’s not really what you want.

Let the sloppy copy be your strategy for authentic success and happiness. Be brave enough to get honest with yourself. Stop wasting time and effort making choices that take you further from your best life instead of getting closer to it.

Work Your Authentic Genius.

  1. How often do you “get real” with yourself? Do you wait for a major crisis or do it more regularly as a proactive measure?
  2. How would it feel to have the freedom to see how you get in your way? What could result from this awareness?
  3. How would the sloppy copy strategy help you get what you want more effectively?

Thanks for reading. Stay authentic. It matters.
Til next week…

Jo-Aynne Von Born, Leadership/Executive Coach

By Jo-Aynne

Professional and Personal Development

1 comment

  1. I like this application of sloppy copy + edited version strategy. Release then regulate. That is how I tend to write but I hadn’t thought of it in this way, thanks for the interesting post

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