So what’s your favorite way to sabotage any efforts to change?
For me, procrastination has always been a favorite…
Or perhaps playing the victim, like my injuries stop me from exercising and losing weight.
If it’s not those, try these on for size:
Can you relate to any of these responses?
I’m not alone in my self-sabotage, although so often it has felt like I am the only one in the whole world who lacks the self-control and motivation to stick with anything.
And it isn’t just about losing weight or starting an exercise program, although this classically plays out with our New Year’s Resolutions.
This same story holds true with starting a new job, a new relationship, even in learning how to drive. Every time you want to make a change and grow in any area of your life, you’ve gone through these forms of self-deception or something similar… I guarantee it.
No, I am not a psychic. And I am NOT spying on you. That would be really creepy!
Have you ever watched a baby learning to walk? This is the perfect example of the Cycle of Growth and how we all must go through it–no if’s, and’s or but’s.
In Part 2 of our “From Stress to Success” series, we discussed the Cycle of Growth, its four stages, and how important attitude and effort are in pulling us through the second stage of Deception — self-sabotage.
Before we start anything new in life, like learning to walk or drive, we are massively excited and determined to succeed.
It’ll be a piece of cake, right? Everyone else makes it seem so easy.
We are in Inception–the honeymoon phase. We have a great attitude and effort, and yet we don’t know what we don’t know.
We are unconsciously incompetent.
Then reality sets in and we realize that this is harder than we thought. This is Deception, where we are consciously incompetent. Our attitude and effort drop, and our unconscious mind uses every trick up its sleeve to sabotage our efforts.
If you make it through Deception, you move into Transformation — the transition between your old and new identities.
Here, you are consciously competent, your effort is high and your attitude varies with what you’re experiencing in the moment.
You are very uncomfortable in Transformation because your new skill is taking all of your energy, focus and time. You may feel like you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Have you ever started a new job and feel like you’re exhausted all the time? The good news is that this phase is only temporary until you move into your new Identity.
In Identity, you are unconsciously competent. You have created a new reality for yourself. Your attitude is high and your effort is low because your unconscious mind has now taken over.
Self-deception: The Favorite Weapon of Your Unconscious Mind
The sole role of your unconscious mind is to keep you safe and alive, to keep your life running smoothly along the same lines it always has.
That is what it is comfortable with after all. It keeps your heart beating regularly, your body temperature the same, your digestion moving and so much more.
When you consciously decide to make a change, you’re floating on the excitement and vision of the change.
This is Inception.
Your unconscious mind goes along for the ride, biding its time. It knows that sooner or later, your excitement is going to slip.
When you hit the first sign of conscious incompetence, your STOP button is triggered.
Your unconscious mind scurries into the memory bank and reminds you of everything that hasn’t worked before, forcing your attitude to drop.
Because your unconscious mind stores every memory (including those you don’t consciously remember), it knows all of your hot buttons to push.
The smarter you are, the more creative and manipulative your unconscious mind can be.
In Rod Hairston’s book, “Are You Up For the Challenge?”, he notes that there is no limit to how your unconscious Deception can show up, and there are 7 common patterns you should be on the lookout for.
1. Victim: This is one of the most common patterns AND most challenging to overcome. The victim justifies why they can’t change because of all the negative life events they have experienced. These are the ones who can’t exercise due to pain or illness, for instance.
2. Rut dweller: The rut dweller is overwhelmed, like so many of us. They need to be perfect or they don’t want to play.
3. Certainty seeker: This is someone who constantly seeks reassurance that everything is going to be fine. These are the ones who don’t want to start a job unless they know they are going to succeed.
4. Success seeker: The Success Seeker is always searching for the high of Inception, the excitement of starting something new. We’ve all known people who never get past the first month of relationships because they move on when the novelty wears off. This can happen in careers, personal development and health programs too.
5. Escapist: The Escapist wants to run and hide at the first sign of challenge. She wants to pretend it’s not going to happen because she doesn’t believe deep down she can handle it.
6. Pretender: The Pretender believes he is a fraud. He wears a mask in an effort to hide his true nature because he is so afraid that if anyone were to find out what he is truly like, he would be run out of town in humiliation.
While this may sound crazy to someone who hasn’t experienced it, we’ve seen this pattern at the root of many people’s public-speaking or performance anxiety.
7. Stressed achiever: Ironically, the Stressed Achiever is very similar to the Victim, except that they do take action. However, it comes at a great cost. The Stressed Achiever is addicted to the energy and recognition that comes with deadlines and a flurry of activity.
There is a martyr-like feel to their “I’m so stressed!” They’re not happy until they’ve achieved their goal. And even then they don’t enjoy it as they’re on to the next thing.
So which pattern fits you best? If you’re like many, there are times you may have had multiple patterns playing and haven’t known which way was up.
The good news is that you can use this new-found awareness of Deception and use it to your advantage to flow from stress to success.
You can keep your attitude and effort high as your primary way to hack Deception.
Your attitude and effort levels naturally fall during Deception as you face potential failure and incompetence.
Once you’re aware of your patterns, you can motor right through them using your high attitude and effort.
If you’re not sure how this would work, think of the last time you saw a baby learning to walk.
When a baby is learning to walk, they don’t just give up after they fall once. Oh no. They get right back up and try again.
They’re determined and focused. They see everyone else doing it so they know it can be done–and they want in on the action.
This is especially true if they have an older sibling who has just learned how to walk too. The baby learns even faster! This is called borrowing references–using others as examples of possibility. Belief is essential to having the best attitude, knowing that success is at the end.
A baby also learns to fail fast. Yes, it is a good thing to fail and fail quickly.
The baby makes corrections each time, focusing intently with great effort. A baby uses up so much energy, they need to sleep a lot!
Babies have no ego about failing.
They don’t know it’s a bad thing. As adults, we’ve forgotten our natural genius of failing strategically in our need to feel important in others’ eyes.
We are afraid to look stupid. In fact, we would rather refuse to enter into the Cycle of Growth rather than look foolish in others’ eyes. This is where procrastination comes in. That is why we don’t ask that person out of a date or apply for the job we want.
The key is for us to regain our genius and remember how good it can feel to be incompetent at something as we’re learning. We can use it as intellectual humility as we choose to care more about improving ourselves than about what others think of us.
Do whatever it takes to keep your attitude high during Deception. Laugh… celebrate… be silly!
Make it a game. I personally like to see how Deception is going to show up each time and do its best to foil me. Not feeling the fun through the hard slogging?
Do a power move that raises your energy level.
A power move is what athletes do before they start a game to raise their confidence and energy. You’ll also see athletes doing a power move after they score a goal or touchdown.
Borrow this technique from the top athletes to improve your own game.
Fun and power moves have helped me get through each challenge as quickly and easily as possible.
An added benefit of keeping it light is that it derails the major Deception Patterns.
It’s really challenging to keep up the Stressed Achiever or Victim patterns when you’re having fun.
The Rut Dweller can’t feel so overwhelmed, the Certainty Seeker isn’t so focused on fear, the Escapist forgets to escape, the Pretender lets the mask slip, and the Success Seeker decides to stick around to see how the party ends.
In our article, “Use Your O.P.A. Mindset to Flow From Stress to Success“, we discuss deliberately setting our outcomes and purpose before moving to action.
By doing so, our belief, attitude, and goals act as motivation to see us through the challenges — the Deception. We are happily achieving rather than achieving to be happy like the Stressed Achiever. A major benefit of this is that we can proactively move through the Cycle of Growth on our terms.
Deception turns into Resistance–going to the mental gym and lifting weights– and developing internal motivation to keep moving forward.
The more we develop this mental muscle, the more successful we will be at moving through Deception ever more quickly and easily.
You have already gone through the Cycle of Growth multitudes of times even if you didn’t understand the process.
It is a fact of life.
Sometimes you were successful, especially when you were highly motivated and knew you could be successful.
You, like almost everyone else, have learned to talk, walk, drive, graduate from school, and have relationships.
Often, you have been thwarted by the STOP button of Deception, particularly if your target wasn’t really clear, motivation wasn’t really high or you weren’t 100% certain you’d be successful.
That may have been around developing healthy habits, studying for an exam, applying for a new job, or having a happy long-term relationship.
The key of using your mindset to flow from stress to success is regaining the genius of the baby.
Keep your attitude and effort high.
Fail fast and constantly, making corrections along the way as you get back up time and again.
Make a game out of it, because life is about happily achieving rather than achieving to be happy.
The more you choose to enter the Cycle of Growth & Performance deliberately and aware of what’s in store, the more your Deception will turn into welcomed Resistance.
Enjoy the challenge of it, knowing that you are building your mental muscle. See you in Identity!