Taming Your Saboteur

Just Say No to the Status Quo

You know that feeling when you’re about to do something important, and you just can’t make yourself do it? It could be something like quitting your job, or jumping out of an airplane, or getting engaged to be married, or speaking on stage, or learning to swim. You might feel terrified, or nauseated, or unworthy, or some combination of all of those (or something different). That icky feeling is your saboteur.

Your saboteur does NOT want you to take that risk and do the new thing. But you want – and need – to explore new things to grow and develop. Understanding your saboteur is key to moving on and up.

There are three things you should know about your saboteur:

  1. Your saboteur wants to protect you
  2. Your saboteur is using old information
  3. Your saboteur is loudest when you’re closest to your goal

Your saboteur wants to protect you

When you try new things, you’re, by definition, taking a risk. Your saboteur wants to save you from physical harm or embarrassment or rejection. Which on one hand is a good thing. You don’t want to recklessly sprint into danger.

On the other hand, this is where calculated risk comes in. You can’t grow without some discomfort, but if you’ve prepared the best you can, and planned for contingencies, you’re as set as you can be. You know in your heart that the reward far outweighs the danger.

Your saboteur is using old information

Your saboteur knows everything that’s ever happened to you. All. The. Horrible. Things. And it’ll bring them out for you to consider when you’re about to make a change.

That time when your second-grade teacher whacked your knuckles with a ruler for bad handwriting? Check. Remember when you tripped on stage when giving a speech in high school? Got it. Oh, and you didn’t get invited to that one girl’s birthday party? Yep, your saboteur can show you that mental video anytime.

The problem is that you’re not the same person you were when those things happened. You’ve grown, learned, and changed. You’ve got more experience under your belt, and you’re more prepared. Just because something didn’t work out in the past doesn’t mean you can’t succeed in the present and future.

When my clients are challenged with this, I have them frame a statement like this: “Until now, I didn’t <do the thing>, but now, I’m a <doer of the thing>.” This helps put the past where it belongs. In the past.

Your saboteur is loudest when you’re closest to your goal

When you’re about to hit “send” on the email or leave the dock on your whitewater rafting trip, those saboteur voices can get loud. Like, really loud. I remember the night before I published my website, I was literally sick with anxiety. Even though I knew what I was experiencing, I couldn’t stop the feeling. I spent an hour researching “entrepreneurs and fear,” and was relieved to know I wasn’t the only one.

Once I hit the “publish” button, I was filled with a sense of relief. And delight, and a feeling of accomplishment. And a little bit of, “why on earth was I so wigged out?”

What’s on the other side of fear and self-sabotage is the experience you want to have or the thing you want done. So it’s worth it to tell your saboteur to go to hell, and get on with it!

How have you tamed your saboteur? Tell us about it below!

Originally published at

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