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Turn Self-Sabotage Into Success

A simple and useful technique to ensure that your inner dialogs and beliefs truly support your goals.
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Many people are their own worst enemy.  While they may start a project with energy and enthusiasm, they eventually fail because they have an inner dialog that doesn't support their desire to succeed.

Self-sabotaging inner dialogs always consist of a belief that drives self-sabotaging behavior that gets lousy results. In the following example, I'm using a salesperson, but this technique works for anybody in any job.

  • Belief: "The economy is weak so people won't buy want to buy me."
  • Behavior: The salesperson resists calling potential customers.
  • Result: The salesperson's "pipeline" of opportunities dries up, thereby reinforcing the belief.

A few years ago, Tom Roth, COO of the sales training firm Wilson Learning, taught me a great technique to ensure that your inner dialog supports your goals.  He calls it "STOP-CHALLENGE-FOCUS."

Here's how it works.  Whenever you feel uncomfortable or unmotivated about taking an action that you know will lead towards your goal:

STOP. Identify the belief that's causing you to feel emotions that aren't helping you succeed.

CHALLENGE. Question the validity of that belief and find reasons why it's not really true or not true in this case.

FOCUS. Create a specific inner dialog that supports your goals and then take action immediately.

Using the example above, here's how you'd apply this technique. He does the following:

STOP.  A salesperson notices that he doesn't feel like calling potential customers.  He listens to his internal dialog and identifies the self-sabotaging belief: "The economy is weak so people won't buy want to buy me."

CHALLENGE. The salesperson reflects that: 1) Some salespeople do great during hard economic times, 2) The economy, while weak, is still growing, 3) When companies are struggling they need good ideas.

FOCUS. The salesperson forces the following belief into his internal dialog: "Customers need what I'm selling even more in weak economy" and immediately takes the action that he's been avoiding.

As I mentioned above, the STOP-CHALLENGE-FOCUS method works for any job role and any situation. For example, let's suppose you're about to present your startup idea to a billionaire investor, but you're feeling queasy and unsure of yourself.

STOP.  You identify the belief that's not supporting your goal: "Why would somebody so important and successful want to speak with a nobody like me?"  As a result of this belief, you're probably going to come off with little self-confidence and thus self sabotage.

CHALLENGE.  You reflect that 1) most great entrepreneurs were "nobodies" at one point, 2) billionaires often enjoy taking risks to make more money, and 3) many people--even billionaires--have a deep desire to mentor.

FOCUS. Just before the meeting, you force the following belief into your inner dialog: "I'm going to meet a kindred spirit who will probably love my great idea." You may not get the money but it won't be because you self-sabotaged yourself.  More importantly, you've created a belief, and an inner dialog, that supports your goals.

In other words, by identifying, challenging and resetting your inner dialog, you not only prevent yourself from self-sabotage but greatly increase the likelihood of success.

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IMAGE: Plattform/Getty
Last updated: Aug 28, 2013

GEOFFREY JAMES | Columnist

Geoffrey James was recently named a "Top 40 Social Selling Marketing Master" by Forbes, and his blog has won awards from the Society of American Business Editors and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. His writing has appeared in publications as diverse as Wired, Brandweek, and Men's Health, and he is the author of numerous books, including The Tao of Programming, Business Wisdom of the Electronic Elite, and, most recently, Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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