Thanks to Pixabay for this inspiring image.
“Happiness is a choice. If you feel yourself being happy and can settle in to the life choices you make, then it’s great. It’s really, really great. I swear to God, happiness is the best makeup.” ~ Drew Barrymore
Happiness is a choice and it’s a habit.
Eavesdrop on any conversation and you’ll likely overhear people complaining about something. Their job, their marriage, their health, their house, their money, their time, their debt, you name it.
We have no shortage of things to find fault with. We are trained to look for problems with everything and everyone, including ourselves. It’s so natural to us that I bet when you read the words “One of these things is not like the other. One of these things just doesn’t belong,” you start humming the Sesame Street tune automatically in your head.
We are so ready to look for difference, we can’t help ourselves. Discernment is key to survival. It’s how we learn to read and speak. It’s how we learn to understand that this food is edible but that one is toxic. Our brains are hard-wired to scan for danger. Scouting for contrast between the familiar and the unfamiliar is the best way the brain knows how to do that.
Your brain’s number one priority is to keep you safe, so it’s always on the lookout for what might be threatening to you. That’s why you are constantly identifying qualities about other people and experiences and calculating if they are safe or dangerous.
In ye olden times, when saber-toothed tigers roamed the Earth, we had to be on the lookout all the time because our physical survival was at stake. These giant tigers have gone extinct, but our nervous systems are still running on high alert as though we are about to be snuffed out at any moment.
Life-threatening, physical danger does exist, but it’s not the biggest thing threatening your life these days. The biggest enemy to Living Your Life is your ego. The ego is masterful at creating painful, emotional, fictional fantasies that will block your every move in the name of safety, at the expense of your happiness.
“I was trapped so terribly inside my own head that I was a prisoner to my own thoughts.” ~ Ryan Holiday, The Ego Is the Enemy
Your brain doesn’t know the difference between what is really happening and what you imagine is happening. Whether the vision of being mauled by a ferocious tiger is real or imagined is irrelevant. Your brain responds to actual or perceived danger in present time the same way. From a biological perspective, your brain is always thinking: Better safe than sorry.
So, let’s say you start thinking about people, events, or circumstances that scare you. Those anxious, stressful, painful thoughts happen under your conscious awareness, so you are not aware of them until you physically feel them. You create in your mind a scenario of you not being safe. Your intangible thought forms create a physical response.
Your brain immediately releases a cascade of neuro transmitters that tell your heart rate and blood pressure to increase, your blood vessels to dilate, your pupils to get wider so you can take in more light and see more. Your sympathetic nervous system rushes blood to your limbs so you can fight back or run away. The sympathetic response in some people is to freeze and play dead.
Let’s take a different example. Imagine you’re on a pristine, white sandy beach. The waves are gently rolling in and out. The gentle rhythm of the water is soothing. You look out at the vast turquoise ocean and you feel so serene and calm. So relaxed. So at peace.
Pleasurable, relaxing thoughts, real or fictitious, create a different physical response in your body. Same idea, different planet. When you fantasize about something that feels good to you, your brain responds just as quickly, but instead of dumping a bunch of neurotransmitters into your bloodstream that tell the body to fight, flee, or freeze, it releases chemicals that create more ease.
When you are experiencing pleasure — imagining a future pleasure, remembering a past pleasure or experiencing pleasure right now — your brain feels safe and activate the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic memo says: It’s okay to rest, digest, relax, renew, release, heal, be at ease, be peace.
It’s completely acceptable to criticize, compare, compete and complain because we understand contrast. Contrast helps us make sense of who we are and our place in the world. That’s why the most common currency that we trade in is not Bitcoin. Not dollars. Not gold. It’s contrast.
The most common currency we exchange is the currency of contrast.
We love to polarize. It is in our nature to name things as good or bad, painful or pleasurable, safe or dangerous, right or wrong, helpful or harmful. We are so used to interpreting our experiences from this polarized duality that we don’t even realize we are doing it… until we do.
Black and white thinking creates separation, isolation, and pain. It diminishes us on every level because it is so limiting. When we are in pain and feeling separate from everyone else, that makes us feel anxious. When we are anxious, it is physically impossible to be creative.
You can’t be in gratitude and lack at the same time. Your nervous system is trained to prioritize lack, because lack equals danger, so you’ll default to lack first every time, until you train your brain that there’s another option.
This mindset of good/bad, right/wrong, better/worse is natural to how we navigate the world and our place in it because it does create an illusive sense of safety. It also throws a giant monkey wrench in your creative machinery.
The root of sabotage is sabot, the medieval French word for a wooden clog that was supposedly thrown into a machine to stop it from functioning. When you sabotage yourself, you deliberately disrupt your own productivity, creativity and growth..
Sabotage provides the contrast between what you say you want and you actually having it.
We humans are clever. We are brilliant at coming up with creative solutions to our problems. We invented the wheel. We learned to harness fire. We just launched a red Tesla convertible into outer space. We have built roads and telescopes and microscopes and atom-splitters. And yet, when it comes to getting off the inner hamster wheel, managing our inner fire, and creating inner space, we have turned our minds against ourselves.
We have become fantastic self-saboteurs. We are intentionally gunking up the gears of our production line.
Instead of creating solutions to our problems, we are creating more problems to ensure that we stall out and do not create. Ever. We refuse to grow or change Ever. This insistence on our limitations keeps us safe. In a weird way, creating more problems is a kind of solution in the short-term.
When you block yourself at every turn, you create massive internal resistance. That’s the expected fear response when something is new and therefore unfamiliar. You get scared. You freeze. You fight. You argue. You refuse. You get into battle because you’ve never seen that new thing before and you don’t know how to handle it.
The only way to learn something is to do what have never done before.
The easiest thing is to quit. You’ll shut down production until you come to some internal agreement with the warring parts of yourself that it’s safe to progress. You must make peace with the various voices in your head, each arguing for what they think is right, or you’ll never get into gear. You’ll just keep spinning your wheels. Wherever you go, there you are.
“Self-sabotage is when we say we want something and then go about making sure it doesn’t happen.” ~ Alyce Cornyn-Selby
Follow These 6 Steps to Stop Self-Sabotage
If you recognize that you are a master saboteur, how do you stop it?
1. Recognize that this is your habit. It’s just a learned behavior. If you learned it, you can learn a new habit that’s more supportive just as easily. You must see your habit first and then you can choose to let it go, if you want to.
2. How do you know when you are sabotaging yourself? What is the sensation in your body? What does sabotage feel like? What are the words you hear in your head about yourself when you are not doing the thing you say you most want to do?
3. Ask yourself: What am I protecting myself from?
4. Ask yourself: What’s right about this situation?
5. Ask yourself: Who would I be without this story that I just made up that says I can’t that I’m currently believing?
6. If you could write a different story that had a different ending — and you can — what new story do you want to tell? You are the hero of your story. Write the role you want to play. Write the location of the scene. Write the words you’ll say. Act as if.
Life opens up opportunities to you, and you either take them or stay afraid of taking them. ~ Jim Carrey
You are in control of your thoughts and your beliefs. You can use the power of your imagination to create what you do want instead of what you don’t want. It’s your choice.
It’s important for you to realize that you do have choice, because that puts you in the driver’s seat of your life.
Sabotage is a learned behavior that carries certain rewards. You get to stay stuck. You get to play small. You get to receive attention from being in pain. You get to keep spinning your wheels. You get to blame the machine, the clog, the boss, your work environment. You get a lot of benefits from sabotage, in other words. Thank sabotage for providing you with all these gifts.
Here’s the big takeaway you must realize if you want to stop sabotaging and start succeeding: You created all of it.
You are the machine.
You are the clog.
You are the boss.
You are the creator.
You are the creation.
Self-sabotage is a learned behavior. Is it working for you?
You can learn anything you put your mind to. You can unlearn anything, too. You can install a new habit that is a lot more efficient and fun to run. Your choice.
At every moment in time, you are one thought away from freedom.
If sabotage is working for you, great. Give her a promotion and some more responsibility because she likes her job and she’s damn good at it. Reward her for a job well done.
If sabotage is not working for you, then let her go. Thank her for her service, her contribution and her time, and send her on her way with love. There’s plenty of work out there for her and she’ll easily find another job with someone else.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?” ~ Marianne Williamson
Happiness is a choice and it’s as close as your thoughts.
You create your reality one thought at a time. You can just as easily create happiness as angst, wealth as scarcity, connection as separation, joy as frustration, pleasure as pain.
You get to choose. Each thought you choose creates the next moment and the next and the next. The seeds you plant in the present create the flowers of your future.
Happiness is not some elusive thing that you need to chase and catch. It’s right here waiting for you, if you choose it.
The Way to Less Sabotage and More Happiness
If you want to 10x your happiness and stop sabotaging your success, check out my free e-book on how to rewire your brain for good.