At some point in my life I realized that some part of my brain doesn’t want me to be successful. You may have experienced something similar. I see it all the time with people I interact with – usually completely unaware of what’s going on… I still catch this happening within myself all the time, but it’s the awareness that allows me to overcome the limitations.
Self-sabotaging behavior is just one way this can manifest from our subconscious. And rather than preach from some high altar like I’ve completely surpassed these issues, I thought I’d just raise some of your awareness by sharing some things about myself…
For me, negative patterns of behavior crop up when I’m doing something challenging, something new, and there’s some fear in the back of my mind around failure. I take on too much work when I really need to focus on the one thing that is truly important to me. Somehow as a means of protecting “myself”, my subconscious mind (seemingly way smarter than my conscious brain) outsmarts every rational aspect of my behavior with some kind of override button as a means of protection. Protection from what? Failure for one. More accurately, the FEAR of failure, because the failure hasn’t happened yet, and might never happen.
Here are a few other things I’ve seen in myself from time to time that you can look out for:
- Forgetfulness – Believe it or not, your subconscious can make you forget as easily as it can help you remember. You might forget to reply to that important email in a timely manner – and you never know what it might be that life-changing person that can connect you to the next level.
- Tardiness – Instead of waking up on time like a kid waking up to go to Disney, you might forget to set your alarm… or not give yourself enough time to prepare / make it to that interview or presentation. You set yourself up for failure due to ‘circumstances’ that were ‘beyond your control’. You fail, but you are not a personal failure.
- Procrastination – I’ll write more about this later.
- Perfectionism – Have you ever worried so much what someone else might think, that you never finish something? It might be writing a book, publishing a blog post (like this one! :)), finishing that final cut of a demo music track to send to a contact. You eventually you forget about it. It’s something you worked on but never finished, and you failed but never “failed”.
- Wrong Priorities – “Things” come up. Work calls you in for an extra shift when you have an important meeting the same day. You *could* have said “I’m sorry, I can’t make it” and have chosen yourself, as James Altucher would say (I’m a big fan of his stuff – check out his book, “Choose Yourself”). But you didn’t. You just HAD to go in because you need the money, or you “might” lose your job. You didn’t choose yourself, and you failed but you didn’t “fail”.
- Laziness – Working to create something while working a full-time job is NOT easy. It can be demanding, draining, challenging… and sometimes you just want a break. It’s very easy to talk yourself into justifying “time for myself”. Now, I’m all for time for myself – it just has to be in the right way, and at the right time. Whenever I feel that urge, I don’t just ignore it and try to “push through the pain”… I go deeper. I meditate. I find out where that urge is coming from. If I find a connection to fear related to something I am working toward, that gets me fired back up to squash that fear. Without being able to discern the cause, you will either work yourself to exhaustion or you will not get your sh*t done… both are paths to failure by not doing.
- Getting Ready to Get Ready – Oh, this was me (sometimes still is). Wanting to learn everything and know everything before leaping out there. Think fear of failure / risk aversion might have something to do with it?
- Negative Thoughts – “It’s probably not going to work anyways, and I could really use the [insert one of: time, money, rest]”… “I just don’t think I’m ready”… “I’ll be ready as soon as I [ insert one of: graduate, take this course, go to XYZ training]”
Here’s the thing – when you’re not looking for these behavior patterns, they rule your life and you have no clue you’re being manipulated like a puppet by your subconscious.
BUT! … HERE’S THE GOOD NEWS!
As a wise man once said.. I think it was GI JOE… “Knowing is half the battle”.
Once you’re aware of these patterns, you can’t help but see them. The above list is from my own personal experiences, and you’ll begin to see even more over time. As you’re reading this, you’re probably thinking of a few right now.
There are only two ways to handle these patterns that I’m aware of, and I do both.
TACKLE THEM HEAD ON:
This is what we do by default, and we should. It helps, but it doesn’t get to the core (I’ll talk about that in a minute).
For forgetfulness, you might start to use reminders or to-do lists (like I did… and if you’ve done this on and off periodically, keep reading – you’ll need the “GO DEEPER” section for sure).
For things like procrastination and laziness, you might get an accountability partner.
For tardiness, you make it a habit to add things to your smartphone’s calendar and set 3 reminders like I do sometimes (one for an hour before an event.. one for the day before, and one for a week before!).
But only going head on at these things will make your life a living hell because it doesn’t get to the root CAUSE… For that you have to GO DEEPER.
Since the ‘head on’ approach is fixing the symptoms and not the CAUSE, you can do that forever, and it’ll never get easier. You’ll go through a life filled to the brim with some amount of self-torture trying to deal with these things on the outside, until you GO DEEPER.
Going deeper gets you to the cause… usually rooted in some form of belief or values that we may or may not even know exists in our minds.
An short example from my life will be better than a 200 page explanation…My fear of money.
For a while, I despised people with money. This was because of experiences in elementary school, where I was frequently the subject of a lot of mean comments based on my family’s financial status. It was an elementary school that my parents struggled to keep my sister and I in when my family had lost everything at one point – their business, our childhood home.. everything. My mom and dad are very resourceful, and somehow they were able to keep us in the same school to try and do what was best for us. But during that time, I still remember some of the kids making fun of my mom because of what she wore. Others made fun of my dad because of the kind of car he drove. Partly because of that I got into countless fights at that school and never really fit in. As I grew older, I realized how hard it must be to raise good children that can really appreciate what they have when they have everything…where money isn’t the most important thing in life. I didn’t want my kids to grow up to be ‘those’ kinds of kids, and part of my mind was protecting me from that outcome by completely avoiding the problem of ‘having too much money’ altogether. Is this making sense to you?
This revelation took me a while to discover…But going deeper allowed me to change that ‘belief’, which was one of the reasons that my mind would sabotage success. Part of my mind.. part of me, at a very deep level, did not want to succeed. I was able to realize that I can be immensely successful and that can give me more of a chance to raise wonderful children. One of my dreams now is to teach by example for one (think philanthropy), as well as by exposing them to the world – other cultures… that we are all humans, all different and all the same.
Think about how your mind works. Your mind (barring physical issues or chemical imbalances) is fundamentally a rational machine. We are only conscious of a very small part of our thoughts – like looking at the surface of the ocean, not knowing what currents are going on underneath. Our rational mind will work to protect us at all costs from any dangers, even if those dangers are, by definition, irrational. Find out what you subconscious is protecting you from, and you can start to work on correcting those flawed beliefs.
4 STEPS TO STOP FAILING ‘ON PURPOSE’:
- Watch yourself carefully. Observe yourself meticulously for self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviors. Keep in mind that your subconscious can be VERY tricky, and is way more powerful than your conscious mind.
- Outsmart yourself. When you identify these limiting behaviors, find ways to outsmart your subconscious while you
- Go deeper. Find out the true source of those behaviors within yourself.
- Internal development. Work on correcting the incongruent belief within yourself.
Step 4 may be easy in some cases – awareness may be enough… or may be a big challenge. You might need to experiment to find out who or what works for you…
This is all about improving… personal growth…getting past your limitations… removing limiting beliefs and thought patters, and eradicating limiting behaviors.
Internal Development for External Success.