Watch Out For Your Inner Saboteur!

Editor’s note: this post was first published in 2010. (Courage 2 Create will return with new posts on November 26.)

You may be familiar with him, your inner saboteur.

He’s that little primitive instinct inside of you that appears to be looking out for your best interests. He weighs the pros and cons of finishing that big project you’ve started. He sees that, for example, if you do finish this first draft of your novel and continue to finish the entire novel, you will have far more to lose than if you don’t finish the novel at all.

The inner saboteur says:

“If you back out now, no one will blame you for it. You haven’t reached the Point of No Return yet. So, get out now, while you still can!”

At this point, there are only 3 or 4 chips that could fall. Your saboteur sees that as you move forward, those 4 chips will grow to 10, then 50, then to 100, and when all those chips fall, he knows that you will be in big trouble.

The more you get yourself involved, the more it will be hard to get yourself out. You’ll be caught in the web, tangled up in the process, strapped to a car seat in a car speeding forward without any breaks, flying over a gorge, ending up who-knows-where in God-knows-what-condition.

The Saboteur knows the story of David and Goliath. He knows how the story ends. The bigger they are, the harder they fall, he whispers. He advises you to keep on the side of David. Shrink back, don’t take risks, don’t get any bigger than you are, don’t get any more involved than you can help it. Play it safe. Keep closed. Shrink back, shrink back. Don’t try for the big feats, don’t expect more than you have to.

Stay small, and no one will see you.

The nail that sticks out is the first to get hammered, he says. Stop putting yourself out there. Don’t you know the hammer will knock you out, sooner or later?

Watch Out For Your Inner Saboteur!

The Saboteur invented the anomaly we refer to as the “fear of success.” But fear of success is really fear of failure in disguise. We don’t want to succeed because we think that on the other side of our success is most certainly more failure. A failure that’s more bitter after we experience that sweet ride of success.

So, in fearing success, we are only fearing a future, unforeseen failure that we believe would follow our great success.

But we really have no proof of that.

Yet, The Saboteur seems to have you convinced.

The Saboteur sees you making a big bet and he advises you against it. He shows you charts and graphs and focus groups that tell you that it’s a bad bad idea. It’s too risky. Too uncertain. Too dangerous. Better to make safer investments, investments that will guarantee a more stable, monthly return.

You’re crazy, he says. Absolutely crazy to continue like this. It’s like jumping out of a plane without a parachute; diving into the deep ocean, alone, without an oxygen tank; rushing into the ring to battle a prize-fighter–without any gloves on!

The Saboteur believes you are better off with less: you are better off not accomplishing anything.

Be small, he says. Small helps you disappear in the crowd, and then nothing bad can get to you.

But upon hearing all of these well-intentioned arguments, you must scream:


Shine a spotlight on your inner saboteur and keep an eye on him as he looks at you innocently.

Then, realize that he is really setting you up for failure by PRETENDING he is setting you up to avoid it!

What a SCHEMING, CONNIVING, LITTLE, MONSTER! What an awful, terrible trick!

This Saboteur is not your friend, he is not wise, nor can he be trusted. He is out for himself. Don’t forget it.

No matter what your goal is, The Saboteur will always find some fault with it. The goal will be too big, or too impossible, it will take too long, or it will be too hard. The consequences will always outweigh any benefits and he will have you convinced you should not begin at all.

You will be smug in your belief that The Saboteur was right, and you made the right choice by listening to him. But The Saboteur is no prophet. He cannot divine the future. So whatever you do, do not listen to him (or her)! Remember, he is out for himself, he will see everything wrong with your goals and none of the good. He will employ false reason and demonstrate several proofs. But, on further scrutiny, you will find these proofs cannot be backed up with cold, hard facts.

So, whatever you do, don’t listen to his false reason!

Instead, shine the light on him! Sound the alarm! And crank up The Beastie Boys!

much SABOTAGE!!!


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5 comments on “Watch Out For Your Inner Saboteur!

  1. Tammy says:

    fast company just did a great article on eradicating negative thinking – it’s a 20 minute brain exercise that is really cool

  2. RD Meyer says:

    My inner saboteur says things like, “You can do that later – your show is on!” or “You don’t need to plan.” He’s hard to get past sometimes, even when I know I have to.

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