If I had to name the one thing that holds leaders back most, I would choose self-sabotage. No matter how outwardly confident we are, we have all fought against the limits we unconsciously place on our own success.
To others, we may appear to launch fearlessly into new ventures. Internally, though, we often struggle with beliefs that suggest we only deserve this much money, this much happiness, this much recognition.
And when we experience even a little more success or wellbeing than we are comfortable with, we self-sabotage. We don’t make that important phone call. We get sick before that important pitch. We scoff a block of chocolate instead of going for a run.
Over the years, I have turned moving past self-sabotage into a replicable formula:
1. Identify a goal you want to achieve, yet you catch yourself self-sabotaging. An example from my life: I wanted to globalize Inkling Women, yet found myself passing up opportunities that would make this a reality.
2. Question your fear of achieving this goal until you get to its root. Ask yourself, ‘what’s the worst thing that could happen if I reach my goal? And then? And then?’ You’ll know when you get to the root fear when you almost gasp with realisation – ‘Aha! No wonder I’m self-sabotaging!’ My root fear? I was scared I would lose my precious ‘daggy days’ with my children if Inkling Women went global.
3. When you’ve uncovered the root fear, let yourself feel this fear for a full 90 seconds. Let the fear take over your whole body. Don’t try to rationalise it or explain it away. Just feel it – fully. After 90 seconds, the fear will have diminished significantly.
4. Work out the big assumption sitting behind the root fear. Ask the following question: What assumption am I making that is causing my fear? For me, I had assumed that going global would drain my energy and take away my freedom.
5. Now test this big assumption. Is it true? Could the exact opposite assumption be more true? In my case, I realised that the exact opposite assumption – ‘going global will provide me with more energy and freedom’ – was actually more true than my original big assumption. Every time I spoke to audiences of thousands around the world, I felt more freedom to be myself, and huge sparks of energy too.
6. Make yourself a promise that appeases your original root fear. In my case, I promised myself that even if Inkling experiences huge global success, I will schedule regular daggy days with my children.
Self-sabotage is a given. Moving past it is a choice – it takes time, discipline and a willingness to lean into discomfort – but the rewards are worth it.