Awareness is often seen as something intangible and hard to measure, which leads people to relate to it as a dark art that’s hard to master. Actually, if you push through resistance and learn to increase your level of awareness – or mindfulness – it can be an absolute game-changer across every area of your life. By slowing things down and learning to see what’s really happening across every moment, inside and outside of yourself, you’ll be able to make better choices. If you make better choices that are aligned with what you want you’ll get better results.

Better awareness = better choices = better results.

Why is it that even though you know what you want in life you never seem to get it?

Ever wondered why you always fall short of your dreams, expectations, and desires in life?

A large part of the reason is related to your level of awareness. This chapter will give you the techniques you need to help you increase your level of awareness so you can finally start realising your dreams.

First, let’s start with a simple example. Focused around an itch you have that you want to scratch.

Itch = “I just need a glass of wine because I’ve had a stressful day.”

Scratch = Opens bottle of wine and drinks.

What if you did the following and paused to reflect as to why you want a glass of wine? Like this:

Itch = “I just need a glass of wine because I’ve had a stressful day.”

Pause and answer:

“Ummm, yes and no … it would feel better in the moment, but I kind of know that it’s not a solution to self medicate with booze, and I’ll have a fuzzy head in the morning. Not to mention putting extra empty calories into my body I don’t need, which won’t help me stay in shape. I’ll also be a little bit ratty in the morning because of my dull head, which will impact the relationship with my wife and kids.”

Pause and question:

“So do you really feel this glass of wine is going to help you, or can you manage your current feelings of tiredness / stress / anxiety another way?”

Pause and answer:

“No, I don’t need it. I’ll sit down and chill for 15 minutes to unwind and then have dinner.”

The need to scratch the itch (drink the wine) passes after 15 minutes or so.

This sounds simple for the benefit of the example, but, it actually takes a lot of practice across all areas of your life. Not just your relationship to wine.

There’s a saying I relate to awareness and personal development: “In the particular lies the universal.”

In other words, how you do anything is how you do everything.

Raising your level of awareness isn’t just about one category of your life. By committing to becoming more aware it has to be an ‘all in’ game across every domain. You choose to raise your awareness or you choose not to.

It means choosing to be more aware with the language you use with your partner and how it impacts them and your relationship. Because your words create your world.

It means choosing to raise your level of awareness about how you’re setting an example for your children. Choosing to be aware that shouting at them for no reason is not the best path to take if you want them to learn. Far better to speak to them calmly and explain why what they’re doing is not in their best interests. Otherwise, they may have an unhealthy relationship to accountability.

It means choosing to not turn up to your office late looking shabby and diving straight into email, ignoring your team, grunting to one of them to get you a coffee as you’re knackered when you walk in.

What kind of example does this set? It’s leadership, but chances are not the kind of leadership you want your team to reflect in their work.

It means choosing to be aware of how you treat your friends. Being aware that they have feelings too, and that it’s not always about you getting what you want, your agenda. To have friends you first have to be a friend.

So, all this sounds simple. But it takes a commitment to practice and patience. Because, we all have an inner saboteur …

Imagine you have a stealthy, ninja-esque, character patrolling across your mind 24/7. Pacing around, looking for danger, protecting you from making bad choices. He, or she, is there to keep you safe. They’re very strong, quick, persuasive. Think James Bond crossed with Bruce Lee… with a Darth Vader edge. The force is strong with this one.

This is your inner saboteur.

Saboteur = a person who commits or practices sabotage.

Sabotage = any undermining of a cause.

Have you ever considered what impact your inner saboteur has on your life?

For the purpose of this post, let’s assume it’s a male.

Here’s an example to help you identify yours, to get to know him, build a relationship … so you can raise your level of awareness and stop it undermining your cause, now you have clarity.

It’s related to career and ‘success’.

Many people have a kind of split personality where 50% knows what they want and how to get there. The other 50% is constantly pulling them back from behaving in the right way to get what they want. Commonly what’s driving this is a deep-seated fear of actually being successful, linked to an even deeper feeling of worthlessness.

You may feel too unworthy to be successful. Which, possibly, could lead to your inner saboteur chatter inside you head saying things like:

“Why would someone like you be successful? You don’t know enough.”

“You’re going to get found out one day. Remember there’s plenty of people out there far better at what you do than you.”

“You have no right to be doing this. You’re not perfect. Who do you think you are?”

And on, and on and on.

Not just in the workplace, across all domains. Remember… how you do anything is how you do everything. The same applies to your inner saboteur, because it’s part of you.

One and the same.

How this negative chatter manifests itself could be a procrastination of doing what needs to be done.

The shuffling of papers vs. calling that person you need to call.

The checking of emails and living inside the safety of your inbox vs. going to an event that will give you 10X value if you attend.

Choosing to not invest in a mentor you know will skyrocket your own personal development because your saboteur thinks it’s too much money vs. being bigger than the fear. Trusting yourself to make the most out of working with someone who can help you get where you want to be far quicker and more sustainable than if you attempt to on your own.

Reading another self-help book, and then another, then another vs. reading one deeply, taking notes and applying one game-changing tactic to help your development – forever!

Your inner saboteur does not want you to get what you want and need. He constantly tries to ruin your plans and desires, and the bastard enjoys keeping you small… because he’s actually acting out of love… trying to keep you safe… because he thinks there are sabre-toothed tigers outside in the big wide world who will eat you.

You see, he’s operating on a two-million year old self-preservation system, otherwise known as your brain.

You can try to tell him, but he’s not the most balanced individual. He’s actually quite scary, and very, very strong.

Bless him. Misguided fool that he is!

Take a minute or two now and write down a few areas where you know you’re holding yourself back because you’re being controlled by the fear injected into you by your inner voice.

What are your avoidance patterns, your system you use to ‘stay safe from the sabre-toothed tigers’?

How would your life be different if you became bigger than the voice inside your head?

What would happen if you overcame your avoidance patterns and dove straight into each and every fear holding you back across every area of your life?

How would it benefit you and those close to you?

Want a quick hack/technique to help with this? Here it is.

The only thing you have to remember is you have a choice!

You have a choice as to whether you listen to your inner critic and follow his advice or not.

You could choose to raise your level of awareness, feel and hear the voice inside, and then choose to move on and follow the right path to help you realise your dreams.

You can choose to be smaller than your inner saboteur or you can choose to be bigger than it.

How do you do this?

Well, one way is to create a new note on your smart device, or carry around a small notebook and pen with you for a week. Title the note or book, “My Saboteur”.

Then each and every time you feel or hear your saboteur rising up inside you and starting with the usual rhetoric, just pause. Breathe a big deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth five times. And then write down what he is saying to you in your note or book, with the date next to it.

For example:

8 July – I didn’t want to go out with John and Jo for dinner because we have nothing in common and they’re so negative, but my inner saboteur was shouting at me to not state this to my partner. Because if I did, she might not love me anymore and be nasty for a few days.

10 July – Geoff really annoyed me at work because he was late again. Rather than say anything, I avoided it because I hate confrontation and am scared of what will happen if I say anything. He’s our best salesperson.

11 July – I avoided sending the email to a potential customer in case they say no to a phone call. The fear I had overcame me and I chose to schedule it for next week.

Make sense?

Be really authentic with what’s going on inside your head. Write it down and take it outside of your head.

That’s it. Don’t try and change anything at all; just keep writing things and moments down.

Why?

Because it is going to take time to change your habits. The first stage is becoming aware of where your inner saboteur is showing up. Nothing else.

Once you have an increased level of awareness of where it’s happening, then you can start to look for patterns and triggers, to see if there are any themes. Because there will be.

Maybe you have a theme of avoiding perceived confrontation.

Or you could not like the thought of saying no to people, even though it puts you out. This is sometimes called approval seeking.

See what comes up.

Once you have your list and you’ve identified patterns, you have a higher level of awareness. Which means you can make a choice to change the pattern.

From your list of avoidance patterns, pick one. Then commit to working on changing this, one baby step at a time.

For example, let’s say you have difficulty saying no to people. Create a mini-project call ‘My No Project’ and practice saying no to people if they ask you to do something that you really don’t want to.

That’s it! Your system for raising your level of self awareness.

Let’s have a re-cap:

Step 1:  Realise you have a choice, all the time.

Step 2: Create a notebook of where your inner saboteur is showing up for 7 days.

Step 3: Review your notebook after 7 days and identify themes / patterns that show up.

Step 4: Create a mini-project to work on just one of the patterns, like ‘My No Project’.

Rinse and repeat.

Now although this sounds simple, there is a warning.

This will feel uncomfortable. You might feel stupid taking notes about your saboteur. You will have a sense of nausea as you start to uncover some of your avoidance patterns. People will react oddly to you when you start your project. You will want to stop taking notes. You will want to stop your project. You will fall off the horse, get back on, again and again.

All of the above are signs that you’re in the right place. Stick with it.

This is the resistance you will always face when transforming your behaviour. Learn to embrace it.

The final piece in this particular jigsaw puzzle is what’s called the ‘values piece.’

Why? Because, chance are, you’ll discover a ‘values gap’ if you analyse your behaviours and avoidance patterns with what you say you actually value in life.

If you value authenticity all the way, yet you’re not saying no to people when they demand your help
unreasonably … and you’re suppressing saying no to them … how authentic are you really?

By overlaying what you value over the avoidance patterns, it will help you to decide which mini-project to prioritise. Because the more you work on your ‘values’ gap’, the better you’ll feel. Essentially you’ll be living a life with more intention, more purpose, more meaning … not just letting life happen to you. You happen to life.

Most people spend several decades of their life not being authentic with themselves (not following their heart in terms of career, relationships, friends) or others (never speaking what they really feel, being a people-pleaser, caretaking others and not saying no).

What most people discover, after doing deep inner work, is that these habits and patterns were making them feel like sh**. Lost. Confused. It can often lead to self-medicating with food, drink, sport, weight-lifting, etc.

Anything to avoid the pain of not being themselves.

If you choose to be authentic with yourself, and others, everything will change. It starts with raising your level of awareness to see how you’re showing up in the world and how you’re holding yourself back.

Better awareness = better choices = better results.

As Oscar Wilde famously said, “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken”.

Now it’s your turn. Choose to be your self, not your inner saboteur. Are you up for the challenge?

Wishing you health and happiness,

David.

Want to learn more about making better choices?  I’m holding a live event in London on November 20, 2018, called “Get Clarity”.  This all-day workshop is designed for you to get more clarity about what you really want and to set yourself up for a fantastic 2019.

 

*A version of this blog post previously appeared in my ebook, Mastering Accountability: Getting Sh*tDone In A Busy World