Stopping self-sabotage: Fixing your focus and your physiology

Stopping self-sabotage: Fixing your focus and your physiology

(USAF/Tech. Sgt. Charles Larkin)

Editor’s note: Emotional wellness strategies are the author's interpretation of the material presented in the CaPP Institute and the Robbins-Madanes Coach training programs, and are in support of the resiliency training concept under the US Army Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness (CSF2) program.

By Stephanie Weichert

It’s easy to hit cruise control when something positive happens. There is a sense of urgency in the air and even the sun looks brighter. When things are going well, people seem to be friendlier.

Then Thursday comes. Your spouse sits down at the kitchen table to pay bills, you realize another month is going by without the fence being fixed or the Jeep getting new parts.

At first you get angry. “Our house is falling apart,” you mutter to yourself. “It’s looking run down,” you think to yourself as you imagine the fence falling over with a strong wind.

Then you get sad as you say, “Things are never going to change. We’ll always be living paycheck to paycheck.”

In the Robbins-Madanes coach training certification, Tony Robbins calls the back and forth emotional rollercoaster the “Crazy Eight.”

When you focus on a problem, you might first feel anger. What happens when you feel angry? Your shoulders rise, your eyes narrow, your thoughts get stuck in a cycle and your muscles tense up. You feel like pacing.

Then, when your body needs a break from the physical tension, it will go into depression. This gives your nervous system a break. When you are depressed, your eyes look down, your shoulders slump forward and you feel like sitting on the couch. Unless you choose to break out of the cycle, you might flip flop from one extreme to the next.

What happened? Why can things go from looking sunny to gloomy overnight? Did the sun go into hiding or, was it you?

Not to minimize the problem. The problem that has taken the first seat in your mental real estate is very real. However, you are given an option. You can either focus on your bills or you can make a plan to change your situation and then change your focus.

In her book, “The How of Happiness,” Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D, notes that 40 percent of your happiness set point is based on your intentional choices – what you choose to do and think. Fifty percent is based on genetics and only 10 percent of your happiness set point is based on your circumstances.

The focus of your mind’s eye is what will make the day seem extraordinary or your finances seem overwhelming. If you are going to pop out of the “Crazy Eight” you are first going to need to change your focus. What is something else that you can choose to tune your focus towards?

Instead of focusing on the fence that’s falling down, be grateful that you have a house. Instead of thinking about the broken down Jeep, tune your thoughts toward the family car that does work.

The second step in overcoming the self-defeating cycle is to change your physiological response to the same stimulus. In other words, the bills might not have changed, but instead of sitting on the couch watching television being upset about the things you can’t buy, break out of your habits. Try something different like taking your dog for a walk in a park or going hiking with a buddy.

Although it seems simplistic, your focus and your routine guide your emotions. What you spend your energy thinking about and what you do with your body can either lift you up or cause you to stay stuck in a rut. Don’t allow a destructive thought to stay just because you’ve entertained it in the past.

It’s a new year, isn’t it time for a new attitude? I challenge you to start this week by practicing your own happiness habits. What is one thing that seems to steal your joy? What can you choose to focus on instead? In the past, when you’ve had these thoughts, how did you choose to behave? What can you do differently this time?

Please visit my website and send me an email about how you’ve employed the strategies in your own life.

About the author

Stephanie Weichert is a certified Life and Executive Coach through the CaPP Institute, published author, speaker, and   strategic director for START Fitness®. She developed and co-produced the Operation Living Fit™ DVD fitness series and co-developed Operation Fit to Fight™, a tactical fitness and resilience training program used to certify civilian fitness professionals and military physical readiness trainers. Stephanie is certified as a personal trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), as a Sports Nutrition Consultant from the City College of San Francisco, as TRX Suspension Trainer from Fitness Anywhere, and also has a B.A. from San Francisco State University. She has written numerous health and fitness magazine articles for Foundations, Hooah, Military Spouse and GX®: The Guard Experience. Stephanie is currently pursuing a certification in Strategic Intervention through the Robbins-Madanes Coach Training program.