September 1, 2023

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today i’m talking about self-sabotage.

well, technically, i’m talking about a skill you can use to undermine it, but self-sabotage is a common issue so i’ will use it’m using it for context.  


self-sabotage is a pattern of thinking, feeling, and behaving that makes a situation worse.

these sabotage patterns typically start at an early age and refine overtime into automatic patterns of reactivity that are a mismatch for your current circumstances. 

it’s super common because you are wired to react to similar-ish situations like you always have. 


hot stove = avoid

angry father = avoid

so if you are caught in patterns of self-sabotage, congratulations, you can rest assured that everything is working properly. 

efficiency is not always best

repeating old patterns is both efficient and effective when it comes to external problems, like a hot stove. 

however, when it comes to internal problems – like your relationship to yourself and others, feelings, or lack of purpose in your life – these patterns often create problems. 

for example, when your wife or partner is angry at you, avoiding them like you avoided your angry father is no longer efficient or effective.  

avoidance in your current relationships leads to hurt, resentment, unforgiveness, distancing, and so on… 

your once useful pattern of avoiding anger is now a form of self-sabotage.

what’s interesting about self-sabotage is that you can even be aware you are making it worse, but do it anyway? 


fixing self-sabotage

it’s one thing to know it and another to change it, right?

well, here is a framework that will help you change it.

i call it your “S.E.T. list”. 

S.E.T stands for:

  • SENSATIONS (in body) – e.g. pressure of your feet on the floor, twisted stomach, tightness in your jaw
  • EMOTIONS – e.g. fury, boredom, disinterest
  • THOUGHTS – e.g. “i’m not good at this”, this isn’t what I want”, “why does this always happen to me?” 

your S.E.T is constantly changing, moment by moment, and serves as your pathway to undermining self-sabotage. 

when you anchor your attention to your S.E.T list you prevent your outdated patterns from operating. 

in other words, when you’re busy being occupied with your present moment experience you don’t do what you’ve always done

so the skill is to simply “turn toward” your S.E.T list – especially in difficult moments – overtime these outdated patterns become obsolete. 


a client i work with was being sold a product by a salesman who was pushy and not respecting his “no thank you”.

my client noticed his S.E.T. list in that moment:

SENSATIONS: twisted sensations in his stomach. 

EMOTIONS: feelings of fury mixed with fear. 

THOUGHTS: “i am being underestimated” and “talked down to like a kid.” 

historically, he would have reacted with an educational session for the unaware salesman about all the errors he was making. 

this pattern would have felt familiar and okay in the moment but would have resulted in him ruminating on it and ruining his afternoon with his kids. 

by anchoring himself to his S.E.T. list he prevented this old pattern from happening, instead, he was able to choose to remain calm, assert himself and end the conversation.


when it comes to your life, everything accumulates.

not only do these outdated patterns of reactivity make your immediate situation worse, but they stagnate your own momentum and narrow your future potential.

self-sabotage snuffs out opportunities to grow, to strengthen relationships, to land that new position at work, to train for (and finish!) that marathon, etc… 

TAKE AWAY turning toward your S.E.T list in difficult (or any) situations will dismantle outdated patterns of self-sabotage AND create new, more response patterns of self-care, self-respect, self-regard, and all-around success.

wishing you much success!

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