For many years I’ve been asking my coaching clients to complete a free online self-assessment instrument developed by Shirzad Chamine, Stanford University lecturer and author of the New York Times bestselling book Positive Intelligence. His assessment helps identify “saboteurs,” the voices in your head that generate stress and undermine your potential for happiness and effectiveness.

Where do saboteurs come from? They start off as “guardians” that help you make sense of and respond to perceived and real threats – both physical and emotional. By the time you become an adult they are well-practiced habits that often generate a sense of safety and security.The problem is, they no longer serve you.

There are nine archetypal saboteurs. I won’t describe all of them because I don’t want to bias your assessment results. Each archetype is based on a core limiting belief that influences how one goes about feeling safe and worthy. For example, one of the saboteurs is the “hyper-achiever.” Hyper-achievers too often place an inordinate amount of focus on accomplishment to the detriment of relationships and personal well-being. This saboteur is fueled by the limiting belief that “success in life comes from achievement no matter what the cost.”

Here’s the paradox – our saboteurs are the shadow side of what we and others often consider to be our superpowers. For example, the typical hyper-achiever has an extraordinary capacity to focus and keep others focused on a goal. But remember, because, this ability is grounded in judgment, fear, and self-doubt, it often becomes detrimental.

So what’s next? After you identify your most dominant saboteurs, Chamine recommends three kinds of practices to help you reduce their influence and draw upon a more positive source of wisdom.

    1. Practice Centering and Self-awareness: A repetitive 10-second meditation called “PQ reps” teaches you to notice and name your saboteurs without judgment and quiet their voices. Here’s a video in which Chamine describes the practice.

    2. Weaken the Saboteur: The moment you detect a saboteur hijacking your thoughts, feelings, or actions you adopt the practice of exposing and discrediting limiting beliefs, so you are no longer fooled into thinking your response is helpful (e.g., “achievement matters but not at the cost of my relationships and my health”).

    3. Listen to Your Inner Sage: The Sage can counterbalance each r saboteur. Rather than being driven by fear and judgment, the Sage approaches challenging moments with calm, creativity, and optimism. Building this muscle involves learning to use five “Sage Powers”.

For most of my clients, the saboteur lens has become a powerful way to identify self-defeating thoughts and actions. More importantly, learning to quickly notice saboteurs the moment they show up enables them to choose pathways that are different from their all too familiar defaults. This framework helps yield a way of leading that is more grounded, curious, and creative.

If you’ve already taken the saboteur assessment what was your experience? How did discovering and addressing your self-limiting patterns assist you in growing as a leader?

Image Credit: Grianghraf on Unsplash

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