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Why We Self-Sabotage

Do you regularly set goals that you don't achieve?

Do you procrastinate?

Do you start a new project well, but run out of enthusiasm somewhere along the way and never finish?

If you answered 'yes' you're pretty normal. Research shows that all of us put things off from time to time, and up to 20% of us are chronic procrastinators. And of course procrastination is one of the biggest ways we sabotage our own best efforts and intentions.

So what is going on with our nearly-universal habits of procrastination and self-sabotage?

In my experience this phenomenon always points to a head/heart conflict. The world is full of good advice. We are constantly bombarded with a host of opinions (often conflicting) on what to eat, how to exercise, how to manage our personal and professional relationships, and run our businesses. To put it simply, there is a host of 'shoulds', 'oughts' and 'have to's' out there.

While it is great to be able to tap into expert advice at the tap of a 'Search' button, in our eagerness to 'get it right' many of us lose touch with our own instinct, intuition and values, and feel pressured to live according to someone else's idea of how to run our lives.

In the Western world in particular, great value is placed upon the mind skills of logic and reason, and few of us have been taught how to listen to the wisdom of our heart and gut.* Yet it is the heart and the gut that call the shots when it comes to taking sustained action towards a goal.

Self sabotage and procrastination happen when a course of action has been chosen by the head, but is not in accordance with the knowing of the heart and the gut. At this point it is important to understand that our emotional and gut brains evolved long before our logical brain, and simply do not understand the language of reason.

Logical planning, and forcing yourself to take action may work for a while, but as we all know to our cost, at some point they stop working. For sustained progress you have to harness the values and wisdom of the heart, and the energy and enthusiasm of the gut. In other words, you need to 'have your heart in the project and a fire in your belly.'

So how do you do that?
Well at the risk of being another person offering good advice, here are some tips that have worked for me and my clients:

Stop beating yourself up and trying to force yourself to take action. Instead…

Take time to learn the language of the heart and gut. Take notice of the tightness in the chest, the uneasy feeling in your gut – this is not just stress. This is important information from your wise inner self. Listen and act upon it.

Know what is really important to you, and assess every goal in light of your values and priorities.

Check in with yourself as you set a goal, and as you work towards it. How does it feel in the heart? In the gut? Are you wholehearted about this? Does it give you energy? Is it consistent with your values? Ask your embodied intelligence to guide you.

Like any new skill, the more you practise listening to your inner wisdom, the easier it will become.

For a workshop that will teach these skills in the context of Business Review and Planning, go to http://www.realprogress.co.nz/

*Recent studies show that both heart and gut have neurons that send a constant stream of information to our head brain. There are numerous articles about this online.