Damn that self-sabotage

I’ve just got back from a run with my neighbour, Charles.

We try to go regularly, 3 times a week, but we are quite sporadic about it. So it never really gets any easier. We run a circuit of about 4 1/2 miles. About 3/4 of the way through, there is a steepish hill, then a slow climb back into the village. It’s horrible. So we started turning off the road and climbing a fairly big hill, then running down it into the village. It’s lovely for a couple of reasons, one because you get beautiful views of the Foret de Boucheville just outside the village, and two because we get to walk up the hill and have a rest from running.

Anyway, the last few times we have run my calves have really hurt.

Like they’re not getting enough oxygen. Never happened to me before, in all my long history of running. Strange I thought. The first time we did this route, about 2 months ago, they really hurt. Today they didn’t. Good news.

There is a point to this story.

Before all you non-runners get bored and go away, the point of this story is that the end of my calves hurting signifies the end of my latest attempt at self-sabotage. I have an under-active thyroid — a condition I have had since I was 26. I take tablets for it. One tablet, every morning. About 4 months ago, for reasons I won’t bother to go into, I ran out of tablets. And in a teenage fit of rebellion instead of getting off my a**e and getting some more I just stopped taking them. “I can do without them” I thought. But I was wrong. My body and my mind started to slow down. I became more and more overwhelmed with fatigue and less and less inclined to do anything. And as we know the only way to get anything done is to do it. And I stopped doing.

And after about 4 weeks of this, I realised what I had done.

By stopping taking my tablets and forcing myself to stop, I had attempted to sabotage my life. I was frightened of success. Everything was going well — I was getting more coaching clients, I was settling into my life here, my French was improving, I was writing and loving it. So I made myself stop. Weird huh? So I got some tablets, started taking them and 6 weeks later I’m operating at full steam again. Totally back on track.

But as I examine it, I realise that it’s something we all do from time to time.

We get secretly a bit frightened of our success so we create a situation, which purportedly is outside our control, to scupper us. It’s a tactic. A useful one. And a dangerous one.

Because as we know…

If we want to achieve something, if we know what it is and we really want it, we can let nothing external stop us. We can choose our attitude towards all outside events and that can keep us on track even when the world seems to be falling apart around us. The only thing that gets in our way, THE ONLY THING, is ourself. Our attitude, our behaviour, our doing or lack thereof.

There is good news.

Once we are aware of what we are doing, it can be very easy to get out of our own way. I often remember the advice of the Bedford Police when I was on their skid pan, learning to control an out of control car. They said:

When you get into a skid, simply reverse the last action.

And to me that’s an apt piece of advice for life — find the thing that you did that screwed you up and reverse it. Realise that your attitude has moved from “I can” to “I can’t” and change it back. When we stop taking time to eat a healthy breakfast because life has got in the way, start doing it again. When you haven’t got time for your hobby any more, make time.

And when your body starts to fail because you stopped taking the damn tablets — just start taking them again.

Take 5 minutes.

Do you self-sabotage? Do your inner demons get in the way of your positivity? Do you sometimes let something go when you know you should pay attention to it? Does the world come along and screw everything up when things are going well? Are you in control of your thoughts and behaviours?

Many people have developed strategies for self-sabotage. I’d love to know yours. Do you have similar stories where things were going well then things changed? Is there more than one story? What are the common factors between such events in your life? How do you react when things don’t go your way?

All these things give us clues to how we self-sabotage and prevent ourselves from being the wonderful amazing person that we are. Once you’ve raised that awareness of your own patterns, have a think about what you can do to overcome them, to break the habits and get out of your own way.

Try this exercise — know your thoughts.

When things are going well, it’s very easy to let go of our inner vigilance. We can stop paying attention to our thoughts and our behaviours and go into autopilot. And that’s when the danger can set in.

So. Practice keeping a watchful eye on your thoughts. Are you steaming through or are you getting in your own way? Mindfulness is a great way to practice monitoring your own thoughts and the direction in which they are going. Here’s a simple mindfulness exercise to get you started.

Focus on your breath for one minute. Sit comfortably, both feet on the floor, hands in your lap. Close your eyes. And breathe. In, out. In, out. Continue for a minute.

Your mind will wander. That’s ok. It’s natural. When it does, notice it and bring it back to your breath. In, out. In, out. For one minute.

Practice it daily. Increase the time as you get more accomplished. See over time how you become more aware of your thoughts and how it becomes easier to manage them.

If you want more, try the Headspace App for daily mindfulness exercises to help you through your day.

This was originally published on 12th May 2015, at social8.co.uk, under the Commuter Coach series. The website is no longer active so I’m republishing it here.

At theslowcoaches we live to 4 principles of slowing down, tuning into what you need, determining your gifts that you choose to give to the world and living life to your own design. We are in service to others, helping them do the same.