Take the Wheel from Your Saboteur

Sandy was walking down the hall to the office of his boss Jim. He was ready to present his big idea. It could make a significant difference to the company and be a game changer to his career. He had worked late nights and weekends to polish it.

As he got closer, he thought: Jim might think my idea is off base…maybe way off base. No way would the company take a chance like that. Who am I to be upsetting the way we do things? Jim isn’t going to be comfortable with the risk and will get mad — at me. This could be bad for my career, even my job. This is a mistake.

So . . .

Sandy stopped in his tracks and went back to his desk. He put the carefully prepared document in a file and closed the drawer. He never proposed the idea that might have catapulted the company over the competition and launched him to a new level of responsibility.

What happened in that hallway?

An internal voice, we call a saboteur, inner critic, gremlin or The Committee, whispered in Sandy’s ear and planted a big dose of doubt.

So, as Sandy made up a negative story that his next move was going to be dangerous, maybe even a career-killer, his dream crumpled. Worst of all, his saboteur convinced him to do nothing, to not even try.

Who or what was that saboteur and where did it come from?

The saboteur is that inner voice that serves as an internal warning system to avoid danger. It means well in trying to keep us safe but is woefully out of date and actually can do serious harm.

Some believe the source of this voice goes way back to when we were prehistoric hunters. That rustle of leaves might have a large and dangerous animal behind it; an internal voice said don’t go investigate and so live another day.

Others believe we devise coping strategies when we are very young children and then continue to use them despite being adults in radically changed circumstances.

While not the first to expose the pernicious saboteur, Shirzad Chamine has written a very accessible book, Positive Intelligence, and offers a free assessment as well.

Noting that our mind can be our friend or our enemy, Chamine’s assessment determines one’s Positive Intelligence Quotient, a score represented as a percentage of how much of the time your mind is your friend or your enemy.

His research has determined that a score of 75 is a tipping point. It means that your mind is serving you about 75% of the time and sabotaging you 25% of the time. Above 75, we are uplifted by the internal self talk and below that, we are being dragged down. He says that a dramatic 80% of individuals and teams score below this critical tipping point.

What are some strategies to deal with this saboteur? Start with awareness. When we notice an internal message holding us back, we have a choice to override it. Without the awareness, the saboteur is driving the bus and making decisions for us.

Consider the difference between: “I think I’m going to make a mess of this.” and “My lying saboteur thinks I’m going to make a mess of this.”

The challenge and the opportunity? Take the wheel from your inner critic.

Chamine offers his assessment for free at PositiveIntelligence.com. The feedback is nuanced and worthwhile. Your results are immediately available and will be followed up with a series of unobtrusive emails offering messages and brief exercises to reinforce the awareness and learning.

As we increase our awareness of that inner voice, we give ourselves a chance to restore choice.

Full disclosure: I let my own saboteur be loud and bossy while writing this, causing the post to be delayed.

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