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March 21, 2023

There is no such thing as self-sabotage

What if the very idea of self-sabotage actually perpetuated self-sabotage?

It is easy to look back on a behavior that produced a painful experience and label it “self-sabotage.” This is especially true for the same repeated behavior that overwhelms us time and time again.

Here is the radical mindset reframe: “There is no such thing as self-sabotage.”

Most of you will not believe what I am about to say unless you experience it for yourselves. I invite you to consider the exercise at the end of this blog.

In a moment in time, we are in a context that produces a response.

That response has a positive intent for our lives, even if that response does not produce the results we want.

This response was created from trauma, habit, outdated beliefs, limited identity and/or unworthiness.

In that moment of response, our survival mechanism kicks in to take care of us.

It has a positive intent for our lives!

This feels like self-sabotage because we judge it from a different time, context and a different part of our brain.

But in that moment, our survival mechanism kicks in to save us.

The survival mechanism is dedicated to making sure our heart is beating and we are alive. That’s it.

Not much nuance in its motive.

What if we re-labled the survival mechanism to a part of ourselves that had positive intent for us, but limited expression.

By limited expression I mean just one…


If we think of this process as something we have to overcome, we are creating an internal battle.

If we use will-power, discipline, grit and positive thinking, we will lose.

This is because, in that moment, our survival mechanism trumps everything.

We repeat the behavior over and over again

So, if we follow the radical reframe, we can now build a partnership.

In the Mind Muscles coaching process we become supporters of our survival mechanism.

We assure that part that we believe it has a positive intent for our lives.

We tease out when it was created, what context it was created in, and what it is protecting us from.

Once we stop trying to “beat it” and “work with it,” we can draw on its positive intent and upgrade its ability from an outmoded response from our youth to a supportive new and higher job.

Here is what you can do:

  • When you repeat a behavior that no longer serves you, find a name for your own unique survival mechanism.
  • Say its name, and give it an appreciation for protecting you.
  • This is a process of first awareness and acceptance.
  • Ask your survival mechanism what it is protecting you from.
  • From this context we can now stop fighting our own brain and build rapport with our survival mechanism.
  • Ask your survival mechanism at what age it noticed you needed its service.
  • Often this is at younger ages when a child was under stress.

In our coaching model, we use this process effectively to deal with what the client labels, “self-sabotage.”

Once we reframe the concept, we can now negotiate and create a powerful team.

It is helpful to have an experienced coach invite you into this process and help at points you feel stuck.

But…just a simple reframe from “self-sabotage” to “positive intent” will open a world of self-discovery.

Attribution: Self-sabotage image by Tim Vandoren on Unsplash

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Rich Friesen

Author, veteran broker and floor trader, Rich went from the "worst trainee trader ever", to building one of the most consistently profitable options trading firms on the Pacific Exchange by training his traders using neuroscience. Rich also holds a Masters Degree in Clinical Psychology, a B.A. in Philosophy, and is a graduate of the Gestalt Institute in San Francisco along with Master’s training in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP).

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