“I have a tendency to sabotage relationships; I have a tendency to sabotage everything. Fear of success, fear of failure, fear of being afraid. Useless, good-for-nothing thoughts.” ~ Michael Buble
“I have a limited tolerance for feeling good. When I hit my Upper Limit, I manufacture thoughts that make me feel bad. The problem is bigger than just my internal feelings, though: I seem to have a limited tolerance for my life going well in general. When I hit my Upper Limit, I do something that stops my positive forward trajectory. I get into a conflict with my ex-wife, get into a money bind, or do something else that brings me back down within the bounds of my limited tolerance.” ~ Gay Hendricks
There is an old parable which I am sure you are familiar with, of a boy watching two wolves fighting. There was a dark wolf and a light wolf and the boy asks the Master which wolf will win the fight. The Master tells the boy that the wolf he feeds will win. Now this parable is great for examining which energy you are feeding in your life; but when it comes to self-sabotage I have another answer, different than the one the Master provided. I say when both wolves are fed then neither one needs to provoke the other.
Let me explain. One of the biggest problems with self-sabotage is there is no one else in the room, or at least so it seems. It baffles us why we do such a thing to ourselves. Why do we derail our diet by binging on donuts? Why would we procrastinate again and again, putting ourselves under severe stress instead of just doing the project when it was assigned? Why is it that we were on the computer until 3am for the third night in a row, when we swore never again?
Because you are not alone. Well, to be more precise you are not just one person. All self-sabotage stems from this paradox.
Imagine one part of you is a care-free, child-like persona who is driven to play, have fun, and seeks pleasure as its purpose for being. Now imagine your other part is logical, systematic, and data driven, making outcomes its purpose for being. So, you have these two seemingly opposed parts: carnal/logical, physical/thinking, animal/computer.
These two diametrically opposed parts of yourself work fantastic together when they share a goal. For instance, if you want to eat healthy and you crave vegetables then you are in alignment and have no trouble with this eating plan. If you are a morning person and have a paper route then getting up for work is a joy. This alignment is so seamless it’s invisible, so we don’t even know to look for it when it’s missing.
“Each of us has an inner thermostat setting that determines how much love, success, and creativity we allow ourselves to enjoy. When we exceed our inner thermostat setting, we will often do something to sabotage ourselves, causing us to drop back into the old, familiar zone where we feel secure.” ~ Gay Hendricks
What happens for most of us is that our computer part decides something needs to change and imposes a system to produce an outcome. After all, that’s its reason for being. Now, the animal side is the part that is the recipient of this new system, which feels like a shackle, and it only goes along with it until it can figure out how to escape it.
Thus, you start out great guns on your diet, perking right along for a week or 10 days, and then BAM! The next thing you know you’re wiping sprinkles off your shirt from the 3 donuts you just scarfed down. What’s a girl to do? You feel guilty, get mad at yourself for being so weak, and the computer part jumps in with even stricter systems in order to help you become successful. And the cycle continues.
It’s enough to really wear on your sense of self. You start to feel hopeless and weak. Maybe you even feel like you’re a failure and nothing ever works out for you, so why bother anymore?
“It was very humbling to realize that my worries were there just to make me miserable. It was even more humbling to realize that I was the guy who had his finger firmly pressed on the misery button. It was wonderful, though, to discover that I also had the power to quit pressing the button.” ~ Gay Hendricks
I’m here to tell you none of that is true. You’re not hopeless, helpless, or a failure. You just got a message that your two parts are not working together. Once you restore alignment you’ll flourish.
Do you want to turn your self-sabotage into gold? Then pretend you are a miner and use this 3-step process.
- Pan for Gold
The first step is to identify where you are out of alignment. You are going to pan for gold using a paper and pen, or a computer if you want to be a modern-day miner!
Make a list of everything you are doing tomorrow. Everything! Waking up at 6am, making breakfast, brushing your teeth, leaving for work early so you can get that pumpkin latte on the way, sneaking out at lunch to secretly buy a new pair of shoes to slip into your closet before your husband comes home. Really, I mean everything – the good, the bad, and the ugly!
The reason for this is you must put everything down to really identify your discomfort. My guess is the stuff you want to leave off is where most of your gold lies; since only you see the list please don’t short change yourself. Write it all down.
Now go back through each item and rate your discomfort level. Put a zero if you don’t feel any discomfort with the item and put a ten if the item makes you want to run screaming from the room.
- Assess Your Lode
Now look at the items that scored the highest. Ask yourself these three questions:
Do I actually want this or do I think I should do it?
If so, then how can I make it more fun?
If not, what would I rather do instead?
These questions will allow your carnal self to have a voice in the process, balancing out the logical side’s constant input. Allow yourself to really dream – engage your imagination. Treat this as brainstorming and suspend reality and self-censoring at this stage. Just allow your imagination to go wild – there’s gold in them ther hills, so go find it!
- Extract the Nuggets
Now that you have allowed your imagination to run wild, see what it came up with. Choose the aspects you can incorporate into your logical systems so that both sides of you are working together to create new patterns in your life. Feed both wolves.
For example, maybe you are up on the computer late at night because you felt lonely and you discovered in this exercise joining a book club will give you the social outlet you were really seeking. After coming home from your group activity you no longer feel the craving to stare at Facebook for six hours. Your social needs are met and you get a good night’s sleep. A win-win.
Self-sabotage is not an indicator of your inability to stick with things, it’s just an indicator that you set up a system that isn’t working for all of you. As you notice where this pops up in your life you now have a way of addressing the real underlining problem, so you can be successful, happy, and enjoy the journey all at the same time!