Self Sabotage

As we live out our lives, we pick up habits. Some good, some bad. Sometimes, those bad habits can become -so bad- they seem to be all we can focus on. Then, when we try to rid ourselves of them, they a bad habit!

Sometimes, it's as if we can't get out of our own way in terms of getting over those bad habits (e.g. smoking, over-eating, depressive thoughts, etc.). Many of my clients have wondered "why" we tend to do that. The answer is a concept known as "self sabotage".

Self sabotage is this insidious mechanism that we all have. It's a dysfunction that prevents us from moving on, until we recognize it and change the way we think.

Here's how it works:

Let's say that a smoker wants to quit smoking. So, she resolves to do so and throws away all her packs of cigarettes. She tells herself that she's "not going to talk about smoking or even think about it". She goes throughout her day and ALL she can think about is cigarettes. Why?

Do me a favor and just play a simple game. Don't think about pink elephants for the next 15 seconds. Not at all.

Were you able to do it?

I doubt it.

The process of "not" thinking about something inherently REQUIRES that you think about it initially. In some cases, for some people, they can't shake the thought and it becomes the center of their focus. Which is why "not" thinking of your bad habit doesn't work.

It's a form of sabotage that most people experience but it's easier to overcome than you'd think.

There are other forms of self sabotage.

Have you ever seen those videos of people hitting police cars that have someone pulled over? It happens a lot. The problem is that people (aside from those who simply aren't paying attention or being under the influence) get so focused on "not" hitting the police car, that they....hit the police car. Think of your bad habits like that squad car. If you've ever tried to avoid making the same mistakes again, only to...make the same mistakes again, think of that cop car. You just hit it because you were focusing on "it" and not where you want to go.

It's a matter of focus

So, what should you be focusing on? How do you avoid these kinds of mistakes?


Do me another favor.

Focus on that pink elephant again. Think about it. Focus on it's size, shape, color, maybe you can almost hear it walking with all that weight. Or perhaps you can see it's eyes or the texture of it's skin. Now, picture yourself riding that elephant. I wonder if you can feel it's muscles flexing under you as it walks. Now, I want you to steer the elephant toward a mountain in the distance. Look at all the trees along your path.

Were you successful in imagining that scene? I bet you were. You were focusing on the right things. You were allowing yourself to incorporate the pink elephant into a scene that you created in your mind. You used the pink elephant to take you places.

The same thing is true of your bad habits. As you allow yourself to use the habits to take you to new places, you may be surprised just how much further you go on your journey.


Let's pretend that the same woman who wanted to quit smoking used the same tool to help her throughout the day. Only the pink elephant is a cigarette (or a pack of them). She can use the cigarettes as a trigger to her mind. What if every time she saw cigarettes, packs of them or even thought about them, she was reminded that she was an ex-smoker? Wouldn't that be something? Well, that's exactly what she should be doing!

Think about that cop car again. We all see them nearly every time we drive. How often do you immediately check your speed when you see them? Or ensure that everyone is safely buckled up? Do you wreck every time you see a cop car? No, I hope not!

No! Because you're focused on driving. The cop car is simply part of the environment. It causes you to increase your focus on what's important: moving forward, safely toward your destination.

Your habits are simply part of your environment. When you learn to focus on arriving at your destination, you are better able to navigate -past- those old, bad habits and successfully overcome them.

Learn more

If you'd like to learn how to overcome your habits or find better ways of focusing on your personal success, please contact us at 615-713-7457.

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