Understanding Your Self-Sabotaging Traits To Better Leverage Them

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25 October 2022

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Around a year ago, I stumbled across Shirzad Chamine’s book Positive Intelligence. An incredibly intelligent man with an educational background from both Stanford University and Yale business school – he is a lifestyle coach focusing on mental fitness and resilience allowing for a better pathway for our future. 

One incredibly riveting aspect of Positive Intelligence is the free assessment on your key self sabotaging traits. Named the “9 ways we self sabotage”. Most people have likely stumbled upon the Myers-Briggs personality test or done another personality quiz which identifies their core personality traits, but what I found particularly compelling about this assessment was that it asked for a quick-fire response to 50 questions to understand your personality based on your reaction to things and thus identify your key “saboteurs”. 

A “saboteur” is defined on Positive Intelligence as the “voices in your head that generate negative emotions in the way you handle life’s everyday challenges.” Essentially, the saboteurs are the blueprint for each person’s reactions to a situation and affect how a person may think, feel or respond and ultimately be the foundation for other negative feelings like stress, and anxiety. Positive Intelligence theorises that there are 10 saboteurs in total, and we all suffer from them to differing extents.

The Saboteurs are:

  1. The Judge – the ultimate saboteur which activates all other saboteurs and the one that makes you overthink and obsess over any mistakes and what the future holds.
  1. The Avoider – puts off unpleasant tasks and conflicts.
  1. The Controller – has a need to take charge and control situations.
  1. Hyper-Achiever – strives off constant performance and achievements for validation.
  1. Hyper-Rational – intensely focused on processing things rationally, including relationships which can come off uncaring. 
  1. Hyper-Vigilant – intense anxiety about dangers.
  1. Pleaser – attempts to gain acceptance and affection by helping, pleasing, rescuing, or flattering others constantly.
  1. Restless – constantly in search of more excitement, the next activity and is only happy when constantly busy.
  1. Stickler – A perfectionist that has an immense need for order.
  1. Victim – extremely focused on internal feelings and acts like a martyr. 

The premise of the assessment is that our saboteur’s patterns of thinking and reacting are soft-coded into our brain through our neural pathways, meaning that they cloud how we react to things. They’re bad for you because they are a negative frame of thought putting you in a state of alert and stress. Remaining in such a state forces you to be tunnel-visioned and prohibits your capability of delving deeper and finding solutions to situations which you may face (which your brain does more easily when in a positive state).

Although Positive Intelligence has its own guide to conquering your saboteurs, I personally think identifying them is the first step to being self-aware so that you can confront them and internally reflect on how they may be prohibiting you from being a better version of yourself.

This time last year, I felt extremely stagnant and as if nothing felt good enough. My assessment results, which showed that my two top sabotaging behaviours were Restlessness which was closely followed by being a Hyper-Achiever. Although I was probably reluctant to acknowledge that I do pride myself on being very busy and my achievements to date, I didn’t really think about how this may be negative. Upon some very heavy reflection, I did realise that I inhibit the exact traits of the Restless saboteur, in that I am constantly seeking excitement and variety instead of stability – I stay very busy and seek out new stimulation. 

I often found that I was having thoughts that things weren’t necessarily stimulating, and I wanted more options. Taking the assessment made me consider that needing to be this way is an anxiety based escape and that by constantly indulging in fun, new activities I was avoiding dealing with unpleasant things and not really focusing on issues that were important. With this reflection, I could also see how being a Hyper-Achiever was closely related to the concept of being Restless. With the need to constantly involve myself in various activities or studies, my sense of validation drove from having a great academic and work ethic, and my displeasure with situations, directly correlated to not having performed well in some aspect.

As a result of this introspection, I forced myself to have a designated Monday “me” day where after I come home from work, I just slow down, and relax (a concept which was profoundly foreign to my social butterfly self who likes to schedule plans back to back). This involves doing whatever I feel like, but also saying no to any plans on this day and spending time thinking about situations and allowing me to process what’s actually going on. This is a practice which I have found extremely useful to actually process emotions and reflect. 

So, while this may be a simple pass time assessment that you don’t think twice about, I do urge you to try this assessment as it may very well be the key to unlocking your full potential. 

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