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why you are not your own worst enemy

February 6, 2010

“Beat … beat … beat … beat.

Excuse me!  Can’t you see I am busy beating my heart here!

Beat … beat… beat… ”

An excerpt from a teaching story told by Ram Das

Have you ever looked back over your list of goals for the past couple of years and found that there is one or more that seem to reappear every year – one you just cannot manage to get across the line? It might be about getting fit and losing weight or maybe there is some financial goal that you just cannot seem to get a handle on.

I have both of them on my list. In past years I made an effort to start walking and I sat down and put together a budget for the coming year. For the first few weeks things went OK … and then there is our birthday month (February) when both goals were put aside for a couple of weeks – to facilitate the proper celebration of the gift of another year of life! And then … well I am sure you know how the story ends.

While I could possibly make an argument about how I am not the only one responsible for my failure to reach my financial goals, I am literally on my own in regards to my health goals.  So why am I always my own worst enemy?

As you will know, I have been reading a lot around NLP lately and one of the principles is that people always act with a positive intention.  I think we would all like to believe that of ourselves and of others, but it wasn’t until I connected ‘always acting with a positive intention’ with the role of our subconscious in achieving goals that I heard the click and the answer became clear.

We are all well versed in setting conscious goals for ourselves. We set them with the best of positive intentions and we often succeed.  There are however times when we do not. When I would reflect on my past failures there was a tendency to beat myself up about it – “If I can’t even achieve this simple goal what chance do I have with my ‘bigger’ goals!”

My ‘a-ha’ moment was when I realised that when we have subconscious goals we always succeed! Where we get into trouble is when our conscious goals are in conflict with our subconscious goals. When we seem to always fail to keep the resolution to get fit and lose weight chances are that we are succeeding in achieving some other subconscious goal.

One simple example might be a hypochondriac who consciously desires to be healthy and sets themselves goals accordingly. An unconscious goal aligned with a value of feeling loved and nurtured may be opposed to the conscious goals and so nothing changes.

So this year I have taken a different approach with my past failures. I have asked myself “What subconscious goals might I have and what positive intention does my subconscious have around that goal?”

For me, the answer explained why I don’t seem to be getting any closer to achieving a very real and conscious goal of living in a “sustainable home”.  I couldn’t understand why I seemed to oppose any steps in that direction even when the goal is clearly aligned with a number of my values and beliefs. I have since come to realise that I have a deeper (subconscious) belief and goal around what is sustainable in terms of debt. That is the goal I continue to succeed in achieving while I fail to make any progress on my conscious goal.

When I have suggested this approach with a number of the people I work with I have seen the light going on when we talk about the goals they have had difficulty in achieving.

For me the key part is being gentle with your self. There is no point in beating yourself up. Your subconscious always has a positive intention – when it attempts to screw up that new relationship remember it is only trying to protect you from (potentially) getting hurt.  Your mouth dries up, your hands tremble and you get the urge to run the other way just before a big presentation? When it happens to me before some workshops I now believe my subconscious is trying to align my actions around my values of appearing skilled and competent. It is doing that by trying to keep my out of situations where I might fail.

Once I realised that, I sat down and had a conversation with my subconscious (my NLP book suggested it – it wasn’t an idea I came up with on my own) and I negotiated a way that we could achieve both sets of goals – conscious and subconscious.

My subconscious is going to do those things that it is best at:

  • so that I don’t talk beyond a reasonable length of time it is going prompt me to look at my watch every fifteen minutes;
  • so that I don’t leave anyone behind it is going to remind me to make eye contact with everyone in the room at least once every session;
  • so that I can be the best that I can be during each session my subconscious is going to give me a full rundown of where I can improve after the event instead of during it.

I am going to let it get on with beating my heart and it is going to support me in doing my best to touch the hearts of the people I am speaking to.

It might sound a bit crazy but give it a go.  Once you understand your deepest values and beliefs and can reframe your conscious failures as an unconscious success, you can begin to make the move from being your own worst enemy to being your greatest friend.

So far I am feeling much more relaxed about my next workshop at the end of the month – I will let you know how things turn out.

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