01/11/2016 05:43 EST | Updated 01/11/2017 05:12 EST

How To Silence Your Worst Critic: Yourself

One of the most common barriers to achieving our goals is the idea that we're not capable of doing whatever we're trying to do. Sometimes the idea is utter bull, a limiting image of ourselves we can't seem to shake. As in, I can't step into that management position because someone might discover I don't know what I'm doing. Or I can't take singing lessons because I know I'll be terrible at it. And sometimes it's actually physically true, as in I can't leap out of a plane because I've never been taught how to skydive.

For some reason women seem to fall prey to this capabilities barrier way more than men do. I don't know why, but we tend to shrink our accomplishments and expand our skills gaps in our own heads. Which is a terrible combo.

Regardless of which kind of capability barriers you're facing, there's a way to get over all of them that doesn't involve positive thinking, smiling till you're happy, talking to your mirror, or any other thing that's not rubber-hits-the-road practical. Those of you who know me, know I'm a more action-oriented person than that.

The Competence Tally to the Rescue

I'm very fond of proof points. Maybe it's my inner scientist, but I find them much more convincing than just trying to talk myself into something. I bet you will, too, so here's how it goes:

Whatever thing you want to get up the gumption to do, think about what capabilities you need in order to accomplish it. Write them down.

Some of the things will be traits. They might be things like:

• Self confidence

• Less inhibition

• Courage

• Assertiveness

Some of the things will be skills. Say, maybe:

• Skydiving certification

• A better trained voice

• Knowledge of how to mentor staff

Now here's the trick:

You might be looking at your list and thinking, yikes, it's even worse than I thought. But it's not. The Competence Tally is going to prove you're already well on your way to having what you need to reach your goal.

For everything on your 'capabilities needed' list, I'm willing to bet there's something you've done in your life that is an example of that trait or is a stepping-stone to that skill. Let's look at the trait of self-confidence, for example. What's a time you felt that? It could be when you were eight years old and proud of your first science fair exhibit. What was it about that situation that allowed you to feel that way? If the answer is, say, that you'd researched it until you really knew what you were doing, you now have a clue as to what you have to do to feel the same way in this new situation. Even if the reason was because your Mom helped you, there's still a clue: if you have a mentor you can do this thing you want to do.

This is super important, because traits such as self confidence are transferable from one situation to another when we remember we've demonstrated them in the past. But since our tendency as women is to dismiss our past accomplishments, we forget we have the traits that went with them. When we remind ourselves of those occasions, on the other hand, we can think about that courageous or uninhibited or assertive person and say wow, yeah, that's me.

Likewise the skills: it is almost guaranteed that you already know how to do some aspect of the full skill you need to reach your goal. If it's skydiving, you've taken physics in high school so you know something about aerodynamics, and you know how to make checklists because you successfully got your kid ready for camp, you know how to strap on gear safely because you've put your life vest on a thousand times at the cottage. Etc.

There is no morsel of knowledge or experience too small to be included in the Competency Tally, because that's how competence is built: through one small experience building on the one before it.

So, to build your Competence Tally, you just take each capability you listed earlier and write down all the proof points you can think of from your past that are going to help you have that trait or learn that skill in this new thing you want to accomplish. It really is as easy as that, and incredibly effective.

How does your Competence Tally look? I bet it's a lot bigger than you thought.