A Conversation with Bridgit Dengel Gaspard, author of The Final 8th: Enlist Your Inner Selves To Accomplish Your Goals
No one enjoys being stuck and the misery is amplified when we have accomplished multiple steps toward a cherished goal — whether breaking a bad habit, losing weight, building a business, finding a mate, or finishing a degree — but just can’t seem to complete it.
In The Final 8th: Enlist Your Inner Selves to Accomplish Your Goals, author and therapist Bridgit Dengel Gaspard calls this demoralizing quandary when someone is so close to the finish line but just can’t seem to cross it “the final 8th” and introduces a powerful technique called voice dialogue to help readers recognize and overcome internal blocks that are preventing them from achieving their goals. We hope you’ll enjoy this short Q and A with Bridgit about the book.
Tell us about the title of your book The Final 8th and what it means.
The Final 8th is the demoralizing quandary of failing within sight of victory. The concept jumped out at me as I frequently watched clients mysteriously stall in front of their finish line. Despite working hard and doing many of the ‘right things’ that would get them 7/8 of the way there, they were inexplicably unable to reach a cherished goal, whether it’s in career, relationships, financials, health, creativity and/or personal growth. Despite the nearness to the goal, despite the hard work and access to resources, despite admirable commitment and having the finish line within reach, they just couldn’t get there. Examples abound of that last little undone bit that can plague people for years: the final 5 pounds they don’t lose, that one incomplete that prevents graduation, being indispensable at a job, but not considered for the promotion. The Final 8th is a finish line issue.
You introduce a process in your book called Voice Dialogue. Please tell us more about how Voice Dialogue works.
The technique of Voice Dialogue is a powerful method developed by my mentors Hal and Sidra Stone, to discover different aspects of yourself and speak from their point of view. This technique can reveal and free you from the hidden internal conflict that’s blocking your ability to achieve your goal.
Is this what your subtitle “Enlist Your Inner Selves To Accomplish Your Goals” refers to?
Yes. The Final 8th operates similarly. You think you want your goal with every fiber of your being, but what you find out is that there are parts of you that don’t want the goal. My book helps readers to get unstuck by identifying and embracing their many personas. They learn how to use Voice Dialogue to communicate with their different alter egos and excavate crucial information regarding their Final 8th mystery. Instead of pushing or wishing away parts of themselves labeled problematic, they actually get to meet them, learn their wisdom, and realize that each part has the noble purpose of protecting our vulnerability. And that means any part — the Resistor or Avoider or Anxious One — has genuinely good reasons for not wanting to go to the next level. Though it may feel strange at first, The Final 8th process teaches you how to enlist all of your inner selves to accomplish your goals. It’s incredibly empowering.
Why do people stop themselves before finishing the final steps to their goals?
It’s an unconscious, distorted act of loyalty to negative messages from early caregivers, which has morphed into painful core negative beliefs. These foundational assumptions generate a skewed, negative worldview that is false, but believed. These beliefs define who we are and at the same time, we desperately don’t want the negative identity to be true. This vacillation is the organizing principle that motivates different parts of ourselves.
Part of the Final 8th process is becoming aware that there are parts of us that operate to make our core negative belief not be true – like Action-Taking, Disciplined and Motivated alter egos. They get us 7/8s of the way there. We see the finish line on the horizon and parts of us are happy and excited. Then the mysterious stall happens as the accomplishments rub up against the negative identity within, supported by disorganized, cynical and fearful selves. Whether or not we’re aware of these contradictory belief systems, they are so distressful that a series of sub-personalities, like the Napper, Substance User or Web Surfer swiftly move in to distract us. The contradiction between our Final 8th goal and our core negative belief creates a double bind within, forcing us yo a standstill.
Which inner selves are involved when we stop a project in sight of the finish line?
Accomplishing your Final 8th goal makes you bigger, which is exciting but also opens you up to being exposed and vulnerable. Depending on who you are, any number of different selves could be part of your stuckness. That’s why doing Voice Dialogue and discovering the gifts, motivations, actions, and rules of your different parts is vital.
For example, I dialogued with my client’s Resistant Alter Ego who had been labeled as the problem. Much to both of our surprise that alter ego revealed a secret. The real obstacle to the Final 8th was a potential drinking problem if my client moved into a more successful, and stressful arena. That realization shifted our work and we explored different parts of her, whose wisdom and guidance were key to the puzzle of her stuckness. That’s why people who have a lot of skill sets, 5-year plans, time management strategies and the like, don’t understand why they can’t use these tried and true techniques to move forward. What got them stuck — what was tripping up my client — wasn’t anything that strategic planning could address. The problem and the solution usually lie in our invisible double bind.
You say that it’s important for us to listen to all aspects of ourselves — including the Inner Critic, Procrastinator, Resistor and other aspects of ourselves that are in the way. Why is that?
All selves have wisdom to offer. Some of what they say may be surprising, some of it may be exhilarating, and some of it may be hard to hear, but all of it will be helpful. You might feel a particular alter ego is a pain and a drag, holding you back from your Final 8th goal, but from its point of view it’s protecting you somehow. Be curious about what’s going on, dialogue with it, and don’t aim to attack or get rid of it, which doesn’t work anyway. Your Inner Critic is with you forever, but t it can become your ally instead of your bully through the Final 8th process.
If someone is having a hard time crossing the finish line to their goals, what is the most important thing you want them to know?
Instead of focusing on how bad you feel and misinterpreting that to mean you are a failure who is unable to cross your finish line, get curious. This process is an adventure that animates vitality. Identify which specific parts of yourself are having a hard time and which ones want your Final 8th goal to happen. You get to dialogue with parts of yourself like your Optimist, Adventurer, Healer, Playful Child and Visionary. Engaging in the Final 8th process creates startlingly rapid shifts. It builds momentum and motivation so you can become unstuck and cross the finish line.
Bridgit Dengel Gaspard, LCSW, is the author of The Final 8th and the founder of the New York Voice Dialogue Institute. She is a former performer who earned a master’s degree from Columbia University and teaches at numerous professional settings including Omega Institute. She lives in New York City, where she maintains a thriving private practice. Visit her online at https://www.final8th.com.