There’s a lot of talk about how we sabotage our personal and professional success. We’ve been told that we’re often working against ourselves. Self-sabotage is often depicted by that ol’, overused image of a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other. Psychology Today even refers to self-sabotage as the enemy within. Webster’s dictionary defines sabotage as “an act or process tending to hamper or hurt.” This perspective suggests that we need to be on guard, ready to protect ourselves from the invisible saboteur within us.
But the whole concept of sabotage has always rubbed me the wrong way. Are we really our own worst enemy? Do we sabotage ourselves just when we’re about to jump forward into a new level of professional success, health, or personal growth?
Our Brains Are Wired for Success
If we buy into the concept of self-sabotage, I think we have completely misunderstood our inner journey. Our brains are wired for love, success, growth, and transcendence. Are we really working against ourselves? I don’t think so.
What most people have accepted as negative and limiting I see as a road map to living to our full potential or a pathway to greater professional success. We just haven’t been shown the map key. “Sabotaging” behavior is considered destructive because it takes us off the track of our positive intentions or life goals. But does it? Or are our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors pointing to something equally important—and even to keys for our success?
Let’s take a typical scenario. Your business is thriving. Customers are coming in, you’re getting better visibility, and your cash flow is increasing. Everything is lined up for success. Then you have a thought like “I can’t handle this” or “What if I fail?” followed by a pit in your stomach and a siren of fear shrieking. Or maybe you begin to worry that you’re not a good mom because you’re working too much—and when you are home, you’re stressed and curt with the kids. (Any of this sound familiar?) So you put on the brakes (if you don’t push yourself to the point of exhaustion), you show up half-heartedly at work, and your business begins to stall. Have you sabotaged yourself?
Or imagine you’ve been doing great on your exercise program: you’re working out three times a week, you’re eating healthy meals and snacks, and you’re running regularly (or doing some other sport that you enjoy). Then—wham! This healthy pattern begins to fall apart. You drop back into eating an unhealthy but delicious food “just this once.” Then you skip a workout “just this once” (“Tomorrow I’ll toughen back up!”) Pretty soon you’re off track, discouraged, and thoroughly entrenched in your old habits. Many would say that you have sabotaged yourself.
Values, Needs, Skills and Creativity Helping You Be Your Best Self
Now, let’s pretend for a moment that you’ve never heard of self-sabotage. Let’s look at these situations from a totally new perspective. Here are your NEW beliefs:
- You absolutely know you hold the answers within yourself.
- You are your own best friend, not your worst enemy.
- The negative emotions you’re feeling are clues to greater success and happiness.
- The inner conflict is creative tension, compelling you to your highest good.
How would you approach the above situations differently? With curiosity and compassion, right? And this shift is imperative for all true change and success!
Situation #1: Your business is thriving but you’re worried you’re not a good mom because you’re working too much.
What’s the value rising to support you? Love of your children.
What’s the need driving the doubt? Work life balance.
What knowledge or skill is needed to regain confidence and peace? Better boundary setting for a hectic schedule, and reframing negative self-talk. Perhaps more nurturing self-care.
What is the creative tension forging? You are being urged to update your behaviors to the greater demands of an expanding business and the changing needs of a growing family.
Situation #2: You welched on your diet and exercise program. Old habits took over.
What’s the value rising to support you? Celebration and validation of your discipline and success. (Maybe you’re treating yourself for all your hard work!)
What’s the need driving the doubt? A need for comfort; perhaps more R&R.
What knowledge or skill is needed to regain confidence and peace? Impulse control and increased delayed gratification; keeping yourself encouraged; celebrating yourself in a healthy way; acceptance that rest is as important as exertion.
What is the creative tension forging? The creative tension inside of you (for example, grabbing that yummy latte and coffee cake on your way to work—Ha! Saboteur!) is actually your body’s need for regulation. Because your body and mind have been confronted by the new conditions of healthier diet and exercise, your body is seeking homeostasis (balance and stability).
So, do you still believe in self-sabotage? When you practice these success strategies and replace the idea of sabotage with a much more encouraging belief, you’re on your way to success without sacrifice, and a whole new level of happiness and ease. Utilize the formula above to empower yourself—and then follow the answers within yourself.
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