Are you unconsciously self-sabotaging?

Have you ever wanted something so badly, that you are almost afraid to try to go for it? I mean, if you try after all, then you might fail. And failing is bad. At least, for our egos it is. But I am not writing about the fear of failure here. What I am writing about is how we can want something so badly, that we don’t see the other opportunities that may be out there in the big wide universe. More than that wanting leads to us unconsciously self-sabotaging our best efforts.

The phenomena of Candy Crush

I have been playing Candy Crush for a couple of years now. What intrigues me is how I will sometimes miss a great sequence for a colour bomb, a stripe or bag because I have been so intensely focused on my next move. According to the authors of The Invisible Gorilla, Daniel Simons, and Christopher Chabris, what I am suffering from is inattentional blindness. Their studies have proven that when we are focused on something (like how many times a basketball has been passed in this video) we can completely miss a major thing (I won’t tell you what it is in case you want to watch the video – hint, there’s a gorilla).

Simon and Chabris take it one step further by doing another experiment. Just when you think you are on to their wily ways, you still miss something.  Missing something can lead your unconsciously self-sabotaging your efforts. 

Overcoming Unconsciously self-sabotaging your efforts

But what about if we flip this on its side. Instead of missing something, Do we see what we expect to see? This can be a crucial piece of the whole inattentional blindness thing. If we see what we are expecting to see, do we, in turn, make it happen? Not only that but when we take it one step further, do we then manifest what we are expecting to feel? In his article on Overcoming Self Sabotage, Adam Sicinski states that not only do unconsciously self-sabotaging patterns keep us from reaching our goals, they also become a safety mechanism that protects us against disappointment.

Take for example my friend, Bridget* who just went through a tumultuous time in her relationship. Her husband totally disengaged for a few months stating he wanted space. In reality, he was having an affair. Regardless of the excuse, she is concerned that she hasn’t totally forgiven him. Because of this, the fear of it happening again and the even bigger fear of being made to look like a fool of for taking him back, she has been sabotaging the relationship. She just now realized this. Her actions were not in line with what she was truly wishing for.  While this is an extreme case, it is the same sort of thing that happens when we go for a really big goal.

The bigger the goal, the bigger the fear

Considering this information on connections being made in our minds, I think it is fair to say this: When you want something really bad, you tell yourself the many reasons why you can’t have it. This litany of excuses will draw your attention and focus. So much so that you miss the gorilla in the room. Missing the gorilla can inadvertently create actions that reinforce your focus and attention.

As my mind wanders while playing Candy Crush, I find myself thinking that perhaps this article is making too big of a leap. Is it possible that we are looking so hard, trying to focus, that we miss opportunities and perhaps cause ourselves to see what we are expecting to see and therefore, act in a way that reinforces that expectation? If so, can we train our brains not to go there?

In the case of Bridget, she is now working every day to see the positives in the relationship. To build a bigger gap of perception so that she doesn’t react in the comfort of old self-sabotaging patterns. To try to make new neural pathways that will create new actions and habits – all the while, staying on the lookout for the gorilla.

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Kathy Bourque is a Leadership Development Expert for women in business who crave operating from a place of clarity and confidence.

Through her down-to-earth mentorship programs, workshops and keynote speeches, she’s here to show you how to create a workplace of open connectedness where the fires put themselves out. Her emphasis on mindset and mindfulness is revolutionary in the business world.

Transform your leadership style and declare how you want to show up at