"Oh, bother!" said I. Actually, those aren't quite the exact words I used. The car was in the ditch, and I had driven it there. Deliberately.
My girlfriend Judith and I were on holiday. We were staying in a beautiful resort up country, and had gone for a drive to enjoy the scenery. It was the Canadian winter and there was fresh snow everywhere.
We were chatting happily and got to discussing how deceiving appearances can be. "For example," she said, "the side of the road looks so solid with its covering of snow, yet there's a ditch between the road and the fence."
"Really?" said I, having trouble disbelieving the evidence of my eyes.
"There always is," she told me, "that's the way we do it here." This didn't make much sense to me, although I was fairly new to Canada. Was she telling the truth, or should I believe what my eyes and my mind were telling me?
"Are you sure?" I asked. It seemed unlikely, the verge of the road looked so solid and safe. Could she be having me on? "There’s a ditch there," she laughed. Yet the more she insisted, and the more she laughed, the more I doubted her.
“Let's check it out,” said I, sure that I was right in doubting her words. So convinced was I of being right that I turned the steering wheel and drove slowly onto to the solid-looking side of the road.
What a surprise, there was a ditch there just as she had said. Appearances can be deceiving. In fact, they generally are. What a valuable lesson in self sabotage. We were stuck in the ditch on a road with virtually no traffic.
Luck was on my side. A few minutes later, a passing car stopped, "Would you like some help?" It turned out to be one of the local farmers who had a tractor nearby. Less than an hour later, we were back on the road.
The Issues I needed to Overcome
No damage was done, except to my ego and my amazing persistent belief in the infallibility of my thoughts. I was so convinced I was right that I had refused to listen to the words of the local expert!
But is this story just about being right or about how viable life strategies can change your life? It demonstrates the truth in the maxim that to change my life, I have to make a change in my life. When you change your perspective, then your actions automatically change. Along with your results.
I no longer even blush when reporting that I didn't resolve many of these issues immediately. The self sabotage mechanism is amazingly persistent. I've spent most of my life looking at the results of self sabotage, and wondering what is the secret of success to acting on what was becoming so clearly obvious.
This story shows I had many issues to overcome:
I was convinced I was right, I was being right
I made no attempt to minimize the risks
Nor did I think through the consequences of my actions
I lost sight of my goal
I was gullible - I believed my own thoughts
It's actually about the consequences of believing my self sabotage mechanism
> #1 - I was Convinced I was Right
Judith was Canadian, and was used to the Canadian weather. She had lived with snow all her life. She knew the countryside and knew what it looked like in both summer and winter.
But I was a recent immigrant with little or no snow experience. I was brought up in the city, so was unused to the countryside, let alone snowy winter in Canada.
When you are being right, as opposed to open-minded, you ignore all evidence to the contrary. You think you know it all, so there's nothing more to learn.
Another problem with being so certain is that if you don't know how to do it, you believe it can't be done. It took me an embarrassingly large number of years to realize that I don't know how to do it doesn't mean it can't be done at all. I changed my life when I eventually got that it just means I don't know how to do it!
> #2 - I Made No Attempt to Minimize the Risk
So sure was I about being right that I didn't feel any need to check it out in a safe manner. I could easily have stopped the car by the side of the road instead, got out and walked onto the verge.
But the car, rather than my feet, ended up in the snow covered ditch. And extricating the car was a lot more difficult. If I'd fallen in, the snow would have cushioned my fall. I would have just picked myself up, which would have saved all the time and the embarrassment.
Minimizing the risk is an important part of being more effective. When I went skydiving, I wore a backup parachute, even though I had full confidence that the main would open. On a motor-cycle, I wear a helmet. Reducing the risk can change your life, learn to choose the less risky yet equally effective alternative.
> #3 - I didn't think through the Consequences of my Actions
A moment's clear thinking would have highlighted the likely consequences. What would happen if your thinking turned out to be wrong, even though you think you are right?
In this case, we were lucky that the local farmer soon came by and promptly pulled us out. Yet we were in the middle of nowhere and cars were very few and far between. The consequences of being wrong could have been far more severe.
Actions have consequences, and some consequences are less desirable than others! But I gave no thought for the possibility of failure, even though the local expert was clearly warning me of the danger...
> #4 - I'd Lost Sight of the Goal
Without knowing where you're going, any road will do. This road had taken me straight into the ditch, because I no longer had the goal in mind.
We were away for a romantic long weekend. The resort Judith had really wanted to visit had called with a late cancellation, which was a wonderful surprise. We had only to enjoy ourselves, and the omens were good for an outstanding time.
If I'd thought about having an enjoyable weekend, then ignoring her was not the most effective way to go about it. I chose to demonstrate that I was right, rather than focus on ensuring she was happy. Yet how can you have a romantic time without ensuring your partner is happy?
> #5 - Being Gullible
I was gullible, I believed in the wisdom of my own thoughts. Just like the Pope, I believed I was infallible. Since it was my thought, it must be true, so I ignored any and all evidence suggesting the contrary. After all, I'd had the thought, and I didn't make mistakes!
After a number of such incidents, along with countless disasters, the realization that my thoughts are not infallible has changed my life. Now most of my thinking gets careful scrutiny, which often saves me from making a fool of myself. Although I do make new mistakes, and have repeated others more than once, I've never purposefully driven into a ditch again.
> #6 - It was actually Self Sabotage
I have a self-sabotage mechanism, you have a self-sabotage mechanism, everybody has a self-sabotage mechanism. It enables you to know the negative side, to experience the full complexity. It brings you what you don't want, so you can really appreciate what you do want when it comes.
The self-sabotage mechanism will try to hijack your mind, so self sabotage is common. It's very good at its job, which is to totally mislead you. Self sabotage has been a frequent event in my life. Have you seen much in yours?
Looking back at this incident, as well as many others that have influenced my life, I'm actually amazed at the complete and utter stupidity of many of the things I have done. It's not that I'm stupid, it's that the self sabotage mechanism can be amazingly subtle - as well as persuasive.
Yet look at how counter-productive such self sabotage behavior can be. So learn to change your context which will transcend your current perspective which can change your beliefs which will change your thinking and change your life. This incident gave me some very good ways in which to do this.
The Secrets of Success
Now you've seen how it is indeed possible to control your thoughts. You can't control them directly, but you can change your perspective. As your context becomes more powerful, you change your life because you change what you see as right! Then your thoughts change.
Recognize you have a self-sabotage mechanism. Discover what you need to do to become more effective. Don't be gullible, don't automatically believe your thoughts, or those of anybody else. See that everybody thinks differently because their context is different. Learn how to become more aware of the consequences of your actions, which means investing time and money to increase your awareness - and improve yourself.
Yes . . . but How do I Change my Life?
Let's look at a good example - dieting. It's often said that many people who go on a diet still weigh even more after a year. Why don't they lose weight?
It's because they focus on losing weight, on not being so fat, the extra pounds which they need to lose. They are putting their energy into what they do NOT want: their unwanted weight, being fat, their extra pounds...
The secret of success is instead to put your energy into being healthy, a life-style that supports you in being fit. Doing without strain the things that you like to do. Enjoying exercise such as a half marathon in NJ. Looking trim and slender. Living longer, etc. etc.
A crucial natural law that's often ignored is Energy Energizes - a great example of a koan. Energy increases anything that you energize. Nature just works this way. When you authentically know this, you realize that by saying you do not like being overweight just puts your energy into being overweight!
You'll change your life when you learn to focus your energy on what you want instead. You already realize that most people advocate taking your focus from the negative and being positive. This is why. The Energy Process affects everyone in life. So only put energy on what you want. And if you have too many things you do not want, discover how to stop ignoring this natural law.
Is your self-sabotage mechanism trying to convince you that you know the Energy Process already? But do you still misuse it? Seeing this demonstrates how much it affects your life. This is the place to stop for a few moments - and contemplate your continuing self sabotage very, very deeply.
Food for Thought
"The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it's the same problem you had last year."