THE IMPACT OF SELF-SABOTAGING BELIEFS
Let’s be honest with ourselves before we begin.
Almost everybody wants something in their life a little bit different. This doesn’t mean that they’re unhappy with their lives, or that this missing thing is torturing them; stopping them from achieving their dreams. It’s just that humans in general are always seeking “better,” and if you can dream, you can see how something in your life might be a little more to your liking.
This blog post isn’t about those people.
This blog post is about the people who say they want a complete change in their life – a total paradigm shifting change – something that turns everything in their life upside down. In other words, people who just can’t live with their reality anymore.
These people are passionate about change and talk about it all the time.
And yet, for some reason, they don’t do anything about it.
I’ve read and listened to a lot of self-help stuff out there. I’ve heard all the go-to ways to change your thinking:
a) Reward yourself when you do what you’d like to do
b) Create a painful consequence if you don’t do something you want yourself to do
c) Envision how your life will be different if you do that thing
d) Think positively
e) Just take one small step towards your goal each day, increasing the daily action over time
f) Focus on one thing at a time and stick with it for at least 30 days
g) Do all the above
And of course, the most famous one:
h) “Buy my product” 😉
Sometimes these things work. God knows I’ve used some of them and they’ve worked for me, and they are time tested by many, many brilliant people.
Yet for many people they do absolutely nothing.
The main reason?
These things either emphasize “thinking exercises” / “outsourcing effort” over taking action, or focus on “willing” / “coercing” yourself to do something you don’t want to do instead of getting to the heart of why you don’t want to do it to begin with.
This turns the former into yet another form of procrastination and the latter into another “struggle” where you’re simply “counting down the days,” hoping at some point the habits will stick and become effortless.
Both options suck.
Now, before some of you self-improvement junkies jump on me – this isn’t to say that these exercises are useless. Visualization techniques, seeking outside expertise, building up willpower, and focusing on the process instead the outcome are all extremely helpful mindsets to have when seeking to change.
But they are incomplete. They are tools. And you can acquire all the best tools in the world, but if you’re not going to sit down and build what you say you want to build, you’re wasting your time (and money).
Here is an obvious but not fully appreciated truth:
In order to change, you have to want a different reality more than your current reality. So people who say they want change but don’t take action in their lives are in fact more content where they are right now than where they say they want to go.
Swallow that bad boy for second, cause it probably tasted pretty bad going down.
This, for the record, does not mean that they see their current reality as being good for them. This doesn’t even mean that they consciously want to stay where they are.
But what it does mean is that at the very least they are, subconsciously, very comfortable where they’re at.
Look, I get it: nobody wants to hear that, actually, when they don’t talk to the girls they say they want to talk to, when they don’t start that business they’ve been talking about, when they don’t get off their ass in the morning and go to the gym, that they are doing exactly what they want.
But, in truth, that is exactly what they are doing. Because you are always doing exactly what you want.
Otherwise why would you be doing it?
Think of the human mind like a computer. Now think of your behavior as the computer software.
Some software, like sex and survival, is coded deep in the operating system as part of the program’s core. It’s an unavoidable factor in our actions; it’s our DNA. Other software is also coded deep but based on years of experience and ingrained habit. It can be changed, but it is hard to shake; it is subconscious and automatic, impacting our actions without our awareness.
Our goals, thoughts, and desires, on the other hand, are conscious and shallowly coded. We can change them quickly based on new information, new emotions, new dreams.
But to since that code is shallow, it is by and large subservient to the deeper code. So if two different “programs” have different objectives, the one coded deeper – despite whether it’s best for us – will ultimately be the one enacted.
This is why people say they “didn’t do what they wanted” after they do something that didn’t upgrade their life, even though if they were being honest with themselves the larger part of “them” did want to do it. They were consciously aware they wanted to do something, but their subconscious impulse overpowered it, leaving them frustrated with themselves and confused.
Hence that dreaded word: “self-sabotage.”
External pressure and willpower can change this equation, giving your conscious thoughts temporarily more power than your subconscious impulses. But most people don’t want to spend their life facing make-or-break deadlines or waiting for cancer to snap them out of complacency, and willpower, being like a muscle, takes time to grow in people, and may not be able to be indefinitely applied to important goals because it is limited. This is why so much personal development is designed to find “hacks” to get around the requirement for willpower or to find some way to vastly increase it “instantly:” willpower is a tough fucking thing to muster to change your life.
So is there a way around it?
Sort of. I don’t want to sell you guys down the river: willpower is a necessary attribute, and there’s a reason why people who have mastered themselves have historically been the ones to master their worlds. But “willing” yourself to overcome deep-seated beliefs is a lot more difficult if you haven’t figured out what those self-sabotaging beliefs are and why you have them.
Allow me to explain.
If you want something consciously but subconsciously you’re unable to do it, chances are it’s because you’re afraid.
And if it’s not something that involves you stepping on landmines or getting shot at, then the fear is irrational, and the more you expose it and bring awareness to it, the less control over your life it will have.
When I mention this, clients will often tell me, yes, in fact, they’re “afraid of failure.” And I don’t necessarily doubt this. Failure is a terrifying concept. But it’s not terribly difficult to show someone that their fear of failure is irrational, that they are blowing things out of proportion, and that in truth, sticking on their current course of non-growth and stagnation is the most risky thing they can do.
What’s harder to sink in for people is that what’s really sabotaging them is not a fear of failure but a fear of success.
Fear of change – even if positive. Fear of responsibility. Fear of abandoning their victimhood and “struggle.”
Fear of stepping into a different life.
It’s easy to chase the car. What happens when you catch it?
If you’re having problems doing things you know will upgrade your life, maybe you need to ask yourself why part of you doesn’t want that life to be upgraded.
It’s a scary question to ask yourself. Maybe you’ll find out that you’d rather relax than make an impact, or you really don’t care about succeeding in business, or that in general you’re comfortable in mediocrity.
But after you find all that out, you receive a beautiful thing: the choice to reject those self-sabotaging beliefs and change them.
Will it happen overnight? Maybe, maybe not. It depends how committed you are to your new reality.
But what is for certain is that trying to “will” your way through self-sabotaging beliefs when you’re not aware of they’re existence is a recipe for unnecessary struggle.
After all, it’s a lot easier to fight your demons when you know they’re made up 😉
So bring awareness to your actions. Your self-sabotaging beliefs. Own them. You are responsible for everything you want, and by definition you want everything you do.
And if you’re confused about what you “do,” feel free to contact me for a powerful conversation.
But whatever you do, know yourself. Only then will you become the person you say you want to be.
PS I know dealing with self-sabotaging beliefs can be a big challenge, especially since we tend not to realize we have self-sabotaging beliefs for years – and only then after failing to live up to our expectations of ourselves repeatedly. The key is to maintain self-awareness. It’s not uncommon that self-sabotaging beliefs don’t necessarily need to be self-sabotaging; they simply are because of how that belief thinks it needs to be met. Also, remember – pretty much everybody has self-sabotaging beliefs. So don’t be too tough on yourself. You’re not alone – and you will overcome.