Several clients have sat in my office during the past six months with the same complaint – self- sabotage.
An all-too-common problem, self-sabotage is often hard to recognise and comes in many guises – procrastination, perfectionism and boredom being but three. Recognising its symptoms is one thing – knowing quite what to do about it is another. . .
Having a strong vision and purpose is the primary way to fight the seductive attractions of self-sabotage – after all, if you really know why you are striving to achieve your goals then you will allow nothing to get in the way.
However, for most of us, having a crystal clear vision of where we are going – let alone how we are going to get there – is just simply beyond us. I was pondering the problem, when in that curious way that serendipity works, just the right book fell into my hands.
Called “The War of Art" and written by Steven Pressfield, the book (ISBN 0-75286-031-3) comes highly recommended to anyone who has ever struggled with the life-threatening grip of self-sabotage.
With many gems in its pages, “The War of Art" struck six particular chords with me – and they worked for my clients too – so I decided to share them with you too! A professional acts in the face of fear. The amateur believes that he must overcome his fear; then he can do his work. The professional knows that fear can never be overcome. He knows that there is no such thing as a fearless warrior or a dread-free artist.
What Henry Fonda does, after puking into the toilet in his dressing room, is to clean up and march out on stage. He’s still terrified but he forces himself forward in spite of his terror. He knows that once he gets out into the action, his fear will recede and he will be OK. A professional recognises her limitations. She gets an agent, she gets a lawyer, she gets an accountant. She knows that she can only be a professional at one thing. She brings in other pros and treats them with respect. A professional self-validates. An amateur lets the negative opinion of others unman him. He takes external criticism to heart, allowing it to trump his own belief in himself and his work. A professional is patient. Resistance (self-sabotage) outwits the amateur with the oldest trick in the book: it uses his own enthusiasm against him. Resistance gets us to plunge into a project with an over-ambitious and unrealistic timetable for its completion. It knows that we can’t sustain that level of intensity. We will hit the wall. We will crash. The professional on the other hand, understands delayed gratification. He is the ant, not the grasshopper; the tortoise not the hair. A professional is not too rational! Rationalisation is self-sabotage’s right hand man. Its job is to keep us from feeling the shame we would feel if we truly faced ourselves as the cowards that we are for not doing our work. A professional embraces self-doubt. Self-doubt can be an ally. This is because it serves as an indicator of aspiration. It reflects love, love of something we dream of doing – and desire to do. If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends) “Am I really a writer", “Am I really an artist" then the chances are that you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.
Olivia Stefanino is a leadership development consultant and executive coach, who works with blue chip organisations, SMEs and individuals. To find out more – and to download your free e-booklet “128 ways to harness your personal power", visit http://www.beyourownguru.com
© Olivia Stefanino 2004