Minimizing self-sabbotage

We sabbotage ourselves in many ways. Some of the more dangerous things we can do is trying to “hit rock bottom” or attempting a “leap of faith”. This blog is focused on learning, and if we want to learn we need to stay in the game and minimize self-sabbotage. You can read more about the subject here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

Why do we sabotage ourselves?

Humans are not the only animals to sabotage themselves. Occasionally people find whales on shores out of the water for no good reason. I do not see any evolutionary reasoning for this behavior.

Maybe there are fatal dangers at once useful mechanisms? After all, people used to die from appendicitis and we do not really need this body organ.

Maybe the reasons are neurotic? Some birds are neurotic enough to remove their own feathers.

Maybe we are trying to escape a greater danger, like a fox chewing on his own leg when caught in the trap?

Honestly, I do not know. Probably there are many unrelated reasons.

Hitting rock bottom

Addicts give themselves a slack, anticipating that the rock bottom will be a trigger for the positive change, and in the meanwhile, everything goes.

As the situation gets worse, our hope often increases. There are many proverbs like “it is always darkest before the dawn”. Many addicts firmly believe you must “hit the rock bottom” before you recover.

Sometimes failing many times culminates in astounding success. There is a famous Thomas A. Edison quote: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.vMany of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” The happy end is exciting, motivating and extremely rare.

More often people evaluate the situation and come to the conclusion that things cannot get worse. And the next week the things are worse in ways nobody could anticipate.

Leap of faith

Sometimes we believe that for some unforeseen reason we will not hit the rock bottom. “If you take a leap of faith, you do something even though you are not sure it is right or will succeed.”

In all my life, I have done this several times. Each time I felt very unhappy with my current state of affairs, wanted something badly and found no safe route to my goal. So I invested all the resources I could afford in hope that I will solve all the difficulties on-the-go. Every time an entrepreneur starts a company, he has no idea if the company will succeed and what steps will lead to this success. Conventional wisdom says that 90% will fail and “hit the rock bottom”.

Making your own luck

Some people are inherently luckier. Being lucky is a combination of character traits.

  1. Etraverts are luckier because they get unexpected help from people more often.  Smiling helps, especially for physically attractive people..
  2. Confident (the opposite of neurotic) people are luckier because they can focus on their goals even when the situation is scary. Positive language and self-talk increase the ability to mobilize resources.
  3. Openness allows access to unexpected opportunities, that would not be evaluated otherwise. Risk taking is a huge part of finding a lucky break. Creativity can generate solutions in unexpected places.
  4. Lucky people are usually very energetic. Energetic, passionate and decisive people can check more ideas in very short time and can inspire others.
  5. Attention to details. One of Richard Wiseman’s most famous experiments involved a newspaper and a set task: count how many photographs appear inside. The trick, however, was that on the second page of the newspaper, Wiseman had planted a large advertisement reading “Stop counting. There are 43 photographs in this newspaper.” Of his 400 participants, the ones who regularly said they experienced luck identified and read this message within two seconds; the ones who were unlucky didn’t see it, and continued to count the photographs.”

Can I learn to improve my luck?

This is a tricky question. Initially, it looks like changing one’s luck, requires changing his personality itself needs to be changed. Fortunately, the situation is anything by hopeless.

Attention to details is relatively easy to learn. There are very specific exercises which can train this skill.

Openness and creativity can be improved by reading heterogenous literature and performing creative activities: creating art, solving puzzles, looking for a new way to do familiar things.

Introverts can often learn compassionate communication, become friendly and cheerful. This is especially true when working with a friendly and cheerful partner or having a spouse with such qualities.

Confidence often comes with experience. The positive experience of success facing difficulties increases confidence. Failure decreases confidence by a different factor. Some range of ratio between success and failure gets is optimal. This range can change between people and activities.

To become energetic, passionate and decisive a person often needs to have a very specific vision and mission. Good physical shape often helps.

Fake it till you make it

One of the tricks to modify the way we behave is embracing a positive language. I am not talking about the phrases that we are telling to ourselves, but about a language in its wider sense.

Open body position is very important if we want to fake extrovert confidence. We can further improve the impression by non-verbal greeting, smiling, keeping eye contact and bursting the bubble of personal space. For an introvert, each of these steps is hard, yet manageable in control environment. Once we are confidently extrovert in the controlled environment, we can try doing the same in a wider range of social situations.

Positive self-talk is very important to keep being motivated.

Meet your inner critic

There are several thought patterns that can sabotage us.

Anxiety causes us miss good opportunities and burns our energy on useless worries.

When we want to settle and “cut the losses” we miss growth opportunities and important lessons.

If we think that we deserve to fail we will fail.

Some researchers think that the inner critic has his own agenda: he wants us to be safe, ensure that we are in control of the situation, and punish us just enough to motivate us.

When there is no visible goal this punishment gets out of hand. People may physically and emotionally hurt themselves, finding no venues to release the neural energy.

Be in control

Most of the time for most of the people, it is best to avoid leaps of faith and rock bottoms.

If the urge is too strong, one can take the risk. The recommendation is simple: never risk more than you can lose.

Once you decide to test your luck, make sure you are as lucky as you can be.

Even then, the chances are against you. Winning or losing it makes sense to be grateful for the chance to play the game.

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