Ending Self-Sabotage: 35 Surprising Lessons I Learned From Hypnosis
35 Ways To Break Self-Limiting Trances
Over the past 15 years, as a hypnotherapist and life coach, I’ve worked with hundreds of people to successfully achieve a wide range of goals: I’ve helped clients to become world champion athletes, get into the X-Factor quarter finals, and regain their form (mental focus) to play premiership and national soccer; I’ve coached people to overcome self-limiting emotions and finally get their book published; I’ve supported clients to get out and finally meet and settle down with their ideal partner. I’ve also worked with hundreds of people to get a new job, overcome fears and lose weight.
You can’t have worked for thousands of one-to-one contact hours, and have been through that process of growth yourself, without finding out a thing or two about what makes the difference in succeeding – in spite of old negative programming or the sense that “I can’t do it”. At this point in life, there are 35 secrets or insights that I’ve internalised and found to be true – and that I have found make a BIG difference for my clients.
These insights are important because they will give you the context and mindset to make changes and achieve the goals you really want. What happens outside hypnotherapy sessions is equally as important and the problem is that we all have habitual states or trances that seem to just “happen” to us. Some of these cause us to make poor choices, quit or not even try.
There are several “self-limiting trance” states of concentration and focus that you and I enter. These habitual states cause us to self-sabotage or not take action on our goals, even when it is obvious that it is in our best interests. So each of us needs to become aware of them and have a robust strategy and proven tactics to overcome the tendency to self-sabotage. These self-limiting trances are compelling and feel very real – like “this is the way it is”. They are the “parasite” that Don Miguel Ruiz talks about in his excellent series of Toltec wisdom books.
When you internalise any of these 35 suggestions, you tend to feel more resourceful and sense that you could make a bigger difference to outcomes in your life. You come less from frustration, blame or resentment and more from a sense of personal responsibility and empowerment.
You can make a difference and you do. You have more control over your life than you currently think. But there is a price to pay on the road to changing perception: time, effort and a willingness to try something new.
There is a mindset and approach to life that will increase your likelihood of success and make hypnotherapy sessions and self-hypnosis much more likely to deliver outstanding results.
Yes, this takes some time and effort.
But you have time, and you either make the effort to improve and achieve something meaningful – or you spend time and effort lamenting staying stuck. There is no option to stay stuck when you truly think about it, especially when you know how to think more expansively.
…you need the roadmap before you can set out. Here it is!
- Success is only ever to be measured on your own terms. – Everyone in life has a theory about how you should behave, what you should achieve, how you should vote, what you should be doing and how you “should” be living your life. It is a very good idea to listen to others. It is an even better idea to trust yourself and be clear what matters to you. Don’t use this as an excuse to pretend that being single is better than being with a partner, but do use this insight to do things on your own terms. If you want to meet someone who goes to Church, then you need to volunteer there and get involved. You want a partner who has a busy social life? Then you need to get social and join some clubs. But what really matters, and makes you feel successful need not be the career or “winning”. It can simply be having the best quality time with your kids or spouse. It could be having the most creative fun time alone. It doesn’t matter because you ultimately determine what “success” means to you. You don’t accept a societal definition of success, so much as defining and measuring it on your own terms.
- Don’t compare yourself to others. – I once had a client who told me that she wanted to adopt certain behaviours and do more. When I asked “Why?” she replied, “My parents do lots, so I should too.” I was genuinely gob-smacked that someone so intelligent and “successful” in her career could be so stuck. And let me tell you, she insisted that this was the way it was going to be. She didn’t want to change that. And it limited her. Your parents, friends and colleagues all have insecurities, doubts and weaknesses. You can do things they do and vice versa. I can’t play tennis, yet some of my best friends are champions for their respective clubs. I’m more productive than them, write faster than most people I know and love getting in front of big groups of people. But in terms of your and my happiness, so what? We each have our own skills and weaknesses. Know yourself, and don’t worry about others. A quick story: I originally trained with Paul McKenna back in 2000. Now if you want to try and compare yourself to someone who is the best known in your profession, then that is not going to make you feel very successful is it? How could you top someone who has sold millions of books and audios worldwide and has had numerous TV shows? You can’t. Actually, I know Paul works very hard, has a different approach and he would almost certainly agree: be yourself, work hard to develop your own skills and realise it is an abundant world. Neither he nor I can see every single client, but we sure appreciate knowing there are good hypnotists out there, who have people’s backs!
- Never try to go after a goal alone. – You won’t succeed long-term without a support network. This is a fact that it took me far too long to learn and cost me dearly. Who will your team be? Who are you closest friends who you trust 100%. You probably have between 1 and 7 people who you would trust your life with. They will help you, give up time for you. Never try to do it alone: Enlist their help, nurture these friendships and alliances, give freely and life will reward you handsomely.
- Get feedback as often as you can. – Your team will provide you with the feedback you need to keep you on track and get you back on track when the doo-doo hits the proverbial fan. Think about it. If you don’t have someone to test out your answers for the upcoming interview, how will you ever know you are properly prepared? How will you know that you know you can do something? You can always improve. So get used to getting feedback and using that to adjust course as you go.
- Prepare and rehearse. – Waking up from self-limiting trances and embracing success is a function of your determination to achieve and your preparedness. Are you enjoying enthusiastically studying, learning AND applying yourself to your areas of expertise every single day? If not, you must learn to use your imagination. When I wrote Fearless Fasting, I came across some little-known research that showed how you can improve your strength by using your imagination, which activates mirror neurons, regardless of whether you actually do the physical exercise. Now, if your mind can do that, then think what actually rehearsing with a member of your team, a mentor or coach would do for you!
- Always have 3 month projects that challenge, absorb and fascinate you. – Instead of five-year plans, make sure you have a few shorter-term goals. This focuses you intently. A life of meaning and continually breaking self-defeating and limiting trances begins with knowing what you want and going for it with energy and enthusiasm. It has to be big enough and close enough in time to make your palms sweat. It needs a pressing deadline for your nonconscious mind to get excited enough to take notice.
- Make sure the goal makes your palms sweat with equal amounts of nervous energy and excitement. – Years ago, a mentor told me that, when I set a goal, my palms should be sweaty and I totally didn’t get what he was driving at. What I’ve realised is that many of us stay in self-limiting ways of thinking and acting because we have a desire for security, safety and comfort. All those things will keep you stuck, make you age prematurely and keep you acting older than your age. You want to get used to living slightly outside your comfort zone. Yes, you can take some time to relax and zone out. But really, most of us live our lives going exactly for that and it serves us not. Anything worthwhile will hurt mentally and cause us to dig deep emotionally. Unlike some self-help gurus, I won’t tell you that you can imagine it, and it will come. But you can train yourself to pick the goals that really connect with you, force you to dig deeper, and manage your internal state productively. If it makes you excited and nervous, it is probably worthwhile.
- Be productive each day and stay so busy that nothing can get in your way or derail you. – I remember a time when I failed to get a job. And I knew that I was a strong candidate, yet I got a no. Friends and family expressed disappointment, but I didn’t skip a heartbeat. Why? My diary was crammed with the projects, experiences and core things to do that were filled with meaning. I channelled my energy into what matters, what was under my control. I encourage my clients who are working on important goals to do the same: Have a diary of targeted positive events, actions and meetings that don’t give you the luxury of wallowing in self-pity. This is a particularly effective way to break this self-limiting trance.
- Always focus on what is under your control. – It is true that there is plenty in life that is not under your control. When my student loans got transferred to a private company, I remember the company in question being unethical, rude and aggressive in their tactics. You have a choice in those situations: take a step back, consult and get good advice and take the best and most appropriate course of action. Or go unconscious and get into the deadly states (see #29). Always look for what is under your control and remove yourself from that which is not. There is always something you can do, even if it is taking a step back, taking a rest or seeking counsel. Always be looking for where you can influence, and focus on taking actions allied to that.
- Do what matters now. – This learning took me a long time to get, but changed my life and the life of my clients. You have some few core actions that will get the ball rolling. Want a book contract? Then contact 5 book publishers today. Want a girlfriend? Then ask the next girl you like out for a coffee. There are small sequences of steps that are essential to breaking self-limiting trances that we don’t do because we “get busy” and “go unconscious”. A large part of self-hypnosis and the work I do is helping people de-hypnotise themselves. A mixture of programming at school, from parents and primary care givers installs a sense of frustration and fear early on in most of us. And you can only break that through persistent action now. If it matters, train yourself to do it now. My friend and mentor, John Overdurf, likes to ask, “If not now, when?”
- What really matters to you? – This is the casual question that will guide the goals you go for. I have friends and colleagues who come up with suggestions for what I should be doing. Over the years I have realised two things: 1) I need to trust myself, and make mistakes on my own terms and 2) I need to listen more as I progress towards what matters. I know what is meaningful, but I don’t always know how to get there. I need help, and I need to stay focused on that. But only I know what matters. Only you know what really matters and drives you inside, and the very best coaches and therapist will help you connect with that and honour your inner muse. Know your values, know what drives you and you will shine.
- Stay aligned with your core values every single day. – Write down how you want your life to be. Don’t settle for where you are now. Take some time now to think about where you want to be in six months. Don’t ignore this. Feel those feelings that motivate and drive you every day because these are your inner core values: Want a sense of control? A pride in your work? A sense of artistic creation? Closeness to your friends? What really matters to you? Know that and your life has meaning and satisfying purpose.
- Know consequences and continually ask yourself, “What happens if I don’t take action now?” – Why would you not take action on those things that matter? It is because of a laziness of the comfort of the nonconscious mind. Instead, once you know what matters, ask yourself where your life will be in five years if you don’t take some form of action. Even when I work with deep hypnosis with clients, I get them to both intellectually and emotionally consider the consequences of not getting going right now – before we do the deep hypnosis work. That way, they feel the experience and they can get to that place of “enough is enough. I will do this now.” You can’t stop smoking or get out of semi-terminal singledom or unemployment by saying, “I think I will consider getting into doing this sometime someday.”
- Realise that you will experience failure and that this is a good thing. – I remember once being the best prepared candidate for a job interview. I put in around 50 hours of work, probably had the most relevant experience, but the organisation had another candidate in mind. I did something that I hadn’t up to that point in my life: I was so focused on what matters that I didn’t have time for disappointment. I could have felt disappointed, resentful and or that I lacked the power to influence the direction I was going in. But I made a decision that this was like a sales call or a person asking a girl out on a date. I got a “no,” and it was on to the next one. Failure is essential for learning and success because it fosters the qualities of persistence and resilience – and gives you feedback. In fact, if you are a parent you will know that your kid can only learn by continually making mistakes and getting feedback. No one is a born walker! Never confuse the positive nature of “failing” (the verb) by using the term (the noun) “I am a failure” because this is self-indulgent word trickery and it will hold you back – if you make it part of who you are. The ongoing act of failing and adjusting course is a pre-requisite of success. All successful people use it to transcend their limitations. So should you.
- Know yourself. Really know yourself. – Understand how your persistent chronic thinking and feeling holds you back, and then set a goal that will push you, with support and clean up on the back end. Never think that you can succeed by cleaning up all your problems with counselling etc BEFORE you get out there and take actions to break self-limiting trances. You need to get out there in the field of play, push yourself, experience discomfort and stress – and work with a therapist or coach or good friend to clear up as you go. You know your patterns, stay aware of them, and take action – irrespective of how you feel.
- Overwhelming feelings and self-doubt are to be expected, planned for and dealt with. – You will never achieve anything of meaning without taking well-meaning and well-planned risks. Security is largely an illusion, and you must be secure with your ability to start projects, set outcomes and move forward. Never give in to those feelings of self-doubt. When they come up, schedule more activities in your diary. Get more busy with the few things and activities that really matter.
- Disappointment is relative and you don’t have time for it. – Instead let others feel disappointment if they choose. You anticipate failure and obstacles, and these are simply the raw fuel for you to move forward. These are the building blocks of inner resourcefulness that let you break the self-defeating trances, the sense that you can’t do it. You can do it! Your positive sense of anticipation and refusal to indulge in disappointment need to be central to your plan.
- Failure is to be expected a significant proportion of the time. – You might fail on 50% of your projects and still lead a life of profound joy. The fact that you wrote a book and no one bought it is neither here nor there, if you enjoyed the experience and learned from it. The fact that he said “no” matters not. The fact she said she had a boyfriend or said “no” is inconsequential. Failure is something that can be learned from. Most people who end up with a partner they love have been through a cycle of dating or meeting other people first. This is normal and the fact that it didn’t work out or someone said no is inconsequential. The fact that 10 employers said “no” is inconsequential to your getting a new job. What can you do better and what will you do next? Are you in alignment with your values?
- What will you do when failure happens? – What is your plan to get back on track when setbacks occur, as you know they will? Will you get busy with the next task that is high priority especially if I you risk feeling disappointment or self-doubt? By training myself to use self-hypnosis I’ve managed to largely condition myself, so that failure spurs me on to become more motivated – to try harder. Some people need a day off, some people need to chat with their coach. Whatever it is for you, you need a simple, reliable process for dealing with failure. You need this to be fast, consistent and get back to work. Fast. Don’t stay stuck, don’t lick your wounds. This is nothing personal; it is just part of the process of change and success. Do this and you will overcome self-limiting trances.
- Realise the true value of persistence. – Determination to do until you succeed is a two-edged sword. If you don’t have alignment with what matters to you, you won’t stick the distance. Many of us are stuck going for goals we think we should do. What do you really want? Start to think in terms of possibility, instead of procedure and the way it’s always been, and stick with what you want to experience, even if it means going down some dead ends. This gives you contrast, so you know what to try next. There is no success without persistence.
- Do what you really want and go for what you really want, even if it feels like you can’t do it. – Most people who are stuck in their jobs or have health issues don’t realise the power they have – if they stepped outside their comfort zone and had a serious go. You need to condition yourself to go through a very particular process: 1) What matters? 2) What goals and short-term projects can I do that are aligned with this and 3) Seek Counsel and 4) Take action now.
- Your power is in the now. – Yes, you’ve heard it before and somewhere on your bookshelf is probably a copy of Eckhart Tolle’s masterful book. Eckhart may be living in the moment, but he is a hard worker who consistently takes action now. His command of English is every bit as good as mine and he writes and speaks German (his native language) and Spanish fluently too. He writes daily on his projects and stays very focused. He has learned to trust himself and his abilities and the wider intelligence. You must too. Your point of power for change is by taking action in the moment that is aligned with your inner values. Not waiting until 31st December this year and setting resolutions that you have no intention of going for.
- Don’t try and be perfect or do things perfectly. – Perfection is an illusion of the ego and irrelevant to your success. What matters is taking action that is aligned with your core values and trying, applying and doing your absolute best. That will vary day to day, but by doing what you can, you avoid regret. You do your best, you have a deadline and you submit. Then you take the next imperfect step in your learning and evolution.
- Ask. – If there is one learning that has transformed my life, it is the power of asking. Most people simply do not ask. They don’t ask for a raise. They don’t ask for the sale. They don’t ask for the job. They don’t ask their friends for help. They don’t ask the pretty girl serving them the movie ticket out. If you don’t ask, nothing happens. You must ask for what you want. You will be amazed at the proportion of time people help. I would estimate that it is anywhere from 90% upwards. If you ask respectfully and you ask precisely, then people want to help. People want to see you succeed and they feel good helping. I enjoy seeing my hypnotherapy and coaching clients succeed, but that only happens when they ask for sessions and support. You have got to get used to doing this day to day.
- You don’t know how to get there, and it doesn’t matter. – To achieve a big project, you just need to know what you want, why it matters, why you will stick with it, who can help you – and get going. Let someone else help you with your plan. If you’re dating, you probably won’t be the best person to pick your profile photo. Ask your friends which one reflects your personality. If you need to make some big steps, ask for help with the plan. You will never know all the steps: it is important to just get going now.
- Take lots of action early on to gain momentum. – The hardest thing with any new goal is to get going and get some traction. You have inertia, fear, and the sense of “Why bother?” This is to be expected, and you will overcome it, by starting off with a massive set of actions, and alignment with why this matters. When you feel “enough is enough. I need to change this,” then you will proceed. Realise that anyone who achieved anything worthwhile had doubts and worries, yet they took action in spite of it. You need to break orbit of your comfort zone to succeed and to have to gain enough momentum that you go from one task to the next. The hardest time will be the first few days, No matter. Go and get started. If you need help with motivation, getting aligned to values, clearing out the crud, or to stay on track, then consider hypnotherapy, learning self-hypnosis and coaching.
- Resentment or resilience? – When you fail, when you meet a block you will respond in one of two ways: either you will feel negative emotion such as anger and resentment – or you will train yourself to take the next step and become stronger form the experience. Whilst it might seem that this ability is genetic to some people, or that “some people bounce back better”, you can condition yourself to respond in a way that spurs you on.
- Manage your self-talk with help from your team. – One of my closest friends recently told me, “Look at the world’s most successful people: look at Roger Federer for example. He doesn’t operate alone. He has a success team around him. If he needs encouragement and he needs help to overcome doubt, worry or anxiety, he has that team. Yes, he has the best coaches and prepares well and has access to the best training and resources, but he is not operating in isolation. He has people who are there for him.” It’s so true. Why is it that home teams tend to perform better overall in the studies that have been done? Because they have a higher ratio of home fans rooting them on and telling them to pick themselves up and helping them overcome the deadly emotions.
- Transcend the deadly emotions of self-doubt, self-criticism and wanting to quit – Be prepared for that feeling that comes to everyone at some time on an important project of “Why bother? I might as well quit.” Every single project that is worthy of your time and effort will create a predicable chain of feelings. Some of these will surprise you about when they come and how intensely they appear. The day before the marathon, the date or the interview you think, “I can’t do it, I won’t even bother going.” Perhaps it will happen on the day itself. There will be certain emotions and states and self-talk that will come up and you need to handle them. I have a coach who helps me with that self-talk, and I in turn use my expertise as a coach and hypnotherapist to help my clients. It’s essential to have support. Why? Because we’ve been conditioned since an early age. Often times parents reprimand kids for quitting or showing negative emotions, when what they need to do is allow them to work through them and find a way to succeed. It is very tempting to quit when the deadly emotions rear their head and we feel the sense of shame, anxiety or desire to avoid humiliation – and without a team, without a coach, without help, it’s a lot harder.
- Be gentle with yourself. – What do you say inside yourself and what voice do you use when you are rushed, you hit a snag, you are tired or are overwhelmed? This is crucial because these are going to happen, however cool, calm, confident and collected you are. You get mad and indulge in an inner tirade of self-criticism, or commit a stream of verbal abuse to FB or Trip Advisor – or do you take a step back, assess what happened, and use it as an opportunity to clear out the crud and get more motivated? The way you talk to yourself and tone of voice is essential. Hypnosis is a very effective way to manage and change this.
- Don’t forget to keep your focus on others. – Your success in large part in any arena is due to how well you help other people out. Want a promotion at work? Offer better service, and come up with more ideas to improve the quality of your customers, save time and money and good things will happen. Want a loving partner? Then be the kindest, most thoughtful, most fun and most exciting person you can. Want more confidence? Get out of yourself, and help others. People will become your biggest fans and supporters when you give freely and without expectation of anything. Some people might call this karma or “what you put out comes back to you” but it is true. Operate with immaculate honesty and focus on the other person, and good things will happen.
- To add value to others means to listen and really understand them. – Don’t assume that you know best. You don’t. If you are the one person who listens, who takes the time to really understand the other person, you will stand out, build a legion of friends and colleagues who have your back. Listen, ask and always be thinking, “How could I add value?”
- Determine where you want to be on 31st December 2015. – Really. Get a pen and paper out and write out, in the third person, how you want it to be. Write it out clearly, the way you want your life to be. Write this narrative with enthusiasm and always with that feeling of excitement and determination. “He does x and y and this leads to z.” or “she does this and that and this creates better social life and this leads to z.” You can’t overcome self-limiting trances, unless you know how you want it to be different. Get going now!
- Above all trust. – To succeed you must become secure in your insecurities and not knowing. You must trust that you don’t know everything but that there is an answer and there are ways to act that will help. You need to develop the ability to feel discomfort and not know, and still act in spite of it. One of the things I did a long time ago was develop a form of self-hypnosis that helps with this. I mastered it and teach it to all my clients now, so they get a sense of control long-term. You have to be able to use your mind to prepare for the challenges and work through and find the most resourceful way to respond. You can do it. Inside you is a vast network of helpers, the totality of which we might call “your subconscious mind”. If it can remember to walk, talk, regulate your heartbeat and retain all the information and skills you have learned, outside of conscious awareness, in a giant database or “inner city”, then think what it could do if you truly communicated with it and trusted it. Your subconscious is designed above all to care for you and look after you, so let it do its job and let it know what you need from it. Develop that trust and let your inner mind support you – and your life will improve in all areas. You will wake up from the self-limiting trances that have held you back.
- Take time to invest in experiences with the people who truly matter. – Life is short. I recently spoke with a close friend about what creates lasting happiness and joy, which is a way of overcoming even those most deep-seated negative habitual states…I could sum it up as “invest in experiences.” Imagine going to a gig or concert with friends or another cool experience to have together. The research is clear: what tends to makes people happy is the more they invest time, energy and effort in “experiences,” be they holidays, evenings, time together, events or meals, then the happier we are! The good feeling quotient supersedes most material things you buy. However good new “toys” are are, we suffer from “hedonistic hebetude” (=we get bored easily and the thrill goes) after a few days. Whereas, with experiences with loved ones, you always have the happy memories to look back on (as well as looking forward to the event!). Make time to get balance by enjoying experiences with the people that matter, and deepening those relationships. The good feeling and good vibes will help you transcend any old limiting emotions, as well as reinforce that you already have a good life and a life of meaning.
Your life is as rich as your ability to transcend inner programming and conditioning. Your ability to dehypnotise yourself from limitations and automatic ways to feeling, thinking and acting will largely determine your success. This requires being gentle and calm, yet also honest and firm with yourself. Success is easier and more achievable that people think. Change is possible, yet it is true that you have to know the rules of the game.
Some of the things like feeling disappointment or dealing with failure are essential, even if they might not feel fun, sexy or desirable. Yet, they are critical because they are the very times when you will either transcend the old limitation or feed the parasite of old programming.
Don’t give in. Learn these tools, apply them, and drop me a line if you need a hand. Hypnosis works. You can learn to take control, feel more in control and transcend the limitations. Make sure you have the support you deserve. You have earned the right to a better quality of life and to succeed. If you’ve read this far, you are well ahead of most people. You want change. You will have it. Let this year deliver! I wish you every success.Google+