The role of your internal investigator

Tam Johnston

What are you trying to prove?

Steady! It’s simply a genuine question. As humans we like to make things fit with what we already know (or think we know, otherwise known as a belief!). We all have our own internal evidence collector, own internal Sherlock Holmes* who seeks to validate what we (often unbeknown to us consciously) believe about ourselves and the world.

(*Other detectives are available, the author has a Sherlock bias as she works near Baker Street).




 Confirmation – seek and you will find.

Every day our own Sherlock is working hard behind the scenes to prove our case based on the brief they have been given. He or sherlock-holmes-462957_640she will filter out the data and information that isn’t needed, so we can spend time focusing on what we need. They are doing a brilliant job for us, dutifully sorting through the evidence. What could go wrong?!

Well, over time that ‘evidence sorting’ creates a back catalogue, building up into a strong case about ourselves. What we are good for, our potential and what we and others think about ourselves and the world. That evidence can turn us into a winner or a loser* (or other variants ‘labels’ on the theme. (*other titles can, and frequently are used!).

So we have the evidence, and we think we know what we are about.


Cue the second stage, self-reflection. I know. It’s of those terms that can be seen as new age and invoke groaning and eye-rolling or an immediate response of ‘as if I have time for that”.


So let’s not call it that. Think of it as the case review meeting.

As human beings, we like to be right. It gives us a sense of satisfaction. We also like to make it mean something, we are meaning-making machines! So when it comes to reviewing the case evidence of what we have found out about ourselves and the world, on some level we get a great sense of satisfaction by confirming suspicions (bring on secret smug responses of ‘I told you so’… ‘see, I knew it’… ‘yes I was right!’), and we use that meaning to strategize about our next steps for example:

“Hmmm. I knew it. That means   I am… need to… can do… they are….”

…and so on!

So we reflect on the past and use that to guide our future.

All okay so far right? You and your own internal Sherlock are a great team. But what are you trying to prove? What’s the brief or the baseline that you set Sherlock off to confirm for you?

Are they so busy confirming what you think you already know, that you are missing out on what you don’t yet know about yourself or the world? Is your Sherlock working for you or against you? Are they restricting you or bringing you evidence that helps you live up to your full potential?

What’s the brief? 

Self reflectionNaturally, it depends upon the baseline and what you briefed them to look out for. This isn’t you consciously deciding this of course! No one would rationally choose to restrict themselves or seek to prove unhelpful things about themselves! This is all going on behind the scenes unconsciously.

So, worst case scenario here…. If Sherlock is looking to keep proving to you that you are a loser as it’s all you’ve been exposed to (thanks Sherlock!), seek and you shall find, and that will also influence your ‘strategy’ for the future. How much you push yourself, how you approach your next challenge. How you behave out there in the world.

But Sherlock notoriously gets cases wrong too and like the rest of us, can disregard what is really out there for the finding, because they’re so focused on getting the job done.

Check in with yourself for a minute. How much time do you spend (and waste) thinking about what you can’t do, just because you failed at it once, reflecting upon the reasons why it won’t go well or what they may have thought about you (that’s negative)? Convincing yourself all over again what you think you know about yourself, just because you’ve done such a good job looking for it, to the detriment of evidence to the contrary. And how much do you seek to find that one time it’s been ok, or that it turned out they liked you, or that you are good at it? Have you got Sherlock finding evidence that supports you to the max?

Get your investigator to work for you.

So serious question here, what are you wanting to prove about yourself, even if at the moment you’re not sure if it is true? Where aren’t you looking that may be helpful to redirect Sherlock towards? It is out there for the taking, you just got to know to look for it and give Sherlock a new brief.

Review your evidence. Have a meeting with Sherlock, be it briefly at the end of the day or more mindfully and intentionally, and think about this.

What went well today, and what does that tell me about myself? In what ways have I surprised myself? Sherlock will soon get up to speed and start looking for these things for you throughout the day, but of course, you’ve got to be willing to take them on. As a team, you can start finding what is already great about you that hasn’t been getting enough attention and more excitingly what’s possible.

Do yourself a favour. Be determined to start proving what you don’t want to believe about yourself wrong, it’s out there. It’s possible. Now that’s worth finding, isn’t it?



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