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Recently I gave a short talk on slaying saboteurs. Since then, saboteurs has become one my most used and most favorite words.
One of the first things I became aware of when I was first introduced to yoga back in 2001, was that I had been living with self sabotaging, negative thoughts that had been playing in my head over and over again since before I could remember. They were limitations I put on myself to protect me from rejection and failure but what they really did was prevent me from taking advantage of opportunities, from taking chances, and from believing in myself.
Over the last 18 years of my yoga practice
I have remained aware of these recordings and even attempted to change them, but it really wasn’t until I read Shirzad Chamine’s book, Positive Intelligence that I came to realize how often these recordings still play in my mind and how they have affected my self-esteem and self-confidence. In fact, this very blog is 2 years in the making because I questioned whether I was good enough or smart enough to make it successful!
In his book, Chamine calls these lies we tell ourselves, saboteurs. While they’d like us to think they are protecting us, in fact, they’re doing just the opposite. They are preventing us from achieving our true potential, and ultimately these saboteurs lead to all kinds of negative feelings like fear, disappointment, guilt, shame, resentment, anger and on and on.
Our judge is at the center of our saboteurs and she is assisted by 9 other saboteurs I call accomplices, each with their own name and personality, and each on their own mission to bring us down. You can learn more about them and discover your top saboteurs on PositiveIntelligence.com. In the book, Chamine provides great strategies for slaying our saboteurs.
Here are 7 strategies that work great for me:
Bring awareness to the negative dialogue. I learned early on in my yoga practice, awareness is half the battle. Once you become aware that your saboteurs are influencing you, you have the power to shift your thinking.
Notice and name them. When you begin to notice your saboteur’s powers, use visualization to see your saboteur. Imagine if they are male or female. Who knows, maybe they’re even supernatural. Imagine all the details about their appearance like their height, hair color, skin color, what they’re wearing etc. Next, give your saboteur a name. The mere act of creating a being outside of yourself weakens their power over you.
Breathe and come back into your body. When you feel the emotion of your saboteur arise, bring breath into your awareness. Take long slow inhales and exhales and notice your chest expand and contract as you do so. Then wiggle your fingers and your toes and simply notice what it feels like as the calmness begins to take over.
Count back. Mel Robbins wore an entire book around this. Counting back slows your mind and can be enough of a distraction to change your thinking. Try counting 5-4-3-2-1 and say, “Right now, this is enough.”
Get curious about what’s happening. This is one of my personal favorites. Chamine talks about becoming an anthropologist. When you become uncomfortable, go into discovery mode. Step outside of the situation and ask yourself, “What is it about this situation that I need to understand more?” Or “What is the other person perceiving that I am not?”
Employ empathy. If they feel good, you feel good. Is fighting for and winning that parking space really going to make you feel better or is it possible that you’ll feel better “giving it” to the other person?
Flash Forward. Ever hear the statement, nobody on their deathbed ever said, “I wish I had spent more time at the office”? Can you fast forward to the end of a difficult situation and ask yourself, “How do I want this other person (my client, teammate or friend) to feel at the end of this?” Then ask yourself, “What actions do I need to take to make that happen?”
None of these things are easy. In fact, some of them probably feel a bit weird and uncomfortable (cue the visualization), but with practice and commitment, you can shift the negative dialogue to dialogue that is empowering, the kind of dialogue that makes you feel happy, strong and in control. The key is to take the first step and don’t give up. Try. Then fall, and try again. It takes 21 days to form a habit and even then you’ll do great for a while before you fall down again, but each time you get back up, it will get a little easier to get back into the habit and to stay with it.
This book and these ideas have changed my life and I hope they’ll create a positive change for you as well.