Last month I had the chance to buy my dream house, and I didn’t take it. I’ve been working out why with my own coach (yes, coaches benefit from coaching!), and I’d like to share some of the insights arising from this work.
The word that keeps coming to my mind is “scotoma.” It’s the scientific word my coach used for what we commonly call a blind spot—an area in our field of vision where we just don’t see.
I’ve seen many of my coaching clients try to work through their own blind spots. Many of us set intentions and get ready to make a big change, to move onto something wonderful, decide our lives will be lighter or hassle-free… and then suddenly we sabotage ourselves. We’re back on our old track, playing into the old patterns we’ve created over a lifetime—patterns that seem stronger than our own will.
Why do we sabotage ourselves?
One of the most obvious explanations for this phenomenon is simply “the devil you know.” People stay in jobs they don’t like, relationships they can’t stand, houses they’ve outgrown or no longer need, climates that don’t agree with them—the list goes on, and both you and I can likely add dozens more items. The allure of those patterns and situations we detest is that they’re familiar. We know how they work, and we know what to expect, even if we expect pain.
At times, our aversion to risk and change are so huge that we would rather keep repeating the same old, same old than take a leap into the unknown.
But could it be deeper?
This is what I explored with my coach. What if it’s not just the devil I know that kept me from my dream house?
I walked into that house and saw a flow that worked perfectly for me, finishes I loved (down to yellow curtains that match my own couch!), a community center and pool nearby… it was truly a dream. But somehow by the end of the tour I had shut down any idea of buying it. In Ottawa’s market, you lose even before you snooze, and by the next day the house had sold without me even putting an offer on it. I missed out.
What stopped me from making an offer? What stops all of us from pursuing the big break, the promotion, the relationship?
I wonder if it comes down to our sense of self-worth. If we believe we deserve something, we step into it wholeheartedly. If we secretly believe that we are not deserving of what we truly want, then we may sabotage ourselves just to prove ourselves right.
“I knew this wasn’t gonna work.”
“I tried it before and anyway, I’d be surprised if it works out this time.”
“This guy is probably the same as all the others; I sure know how to pick ‘em.”
“I’ve never been able to hold onto money.”
We have reflexes that kick in that were often created when we were very small and shaped by our family and school systems. That’s when we decided whether we deserved good things or not. It’s when some of us learn that good things are “too good to be true.” We’re taught to stay in our lane, understand our limits, not set ourselves up for disappointment. That’s how our blind spots develop. We may no longer see opportunities for what they are.
This can be seen in sharp relief in the case of lottery winners who win big, all their dreams coming true—only to become destitute within a year or two. When the dream becomes reality, the person trips over their own self-limiting beliefs, stumbles and falls.
A few years ago, a client of mine had the opportunity to go to a fantastic conference at the last minute because another colleague had to cancel. Suddenly she found herself in DC acting as an aide to a major player. She brought the intellect, abilities, knowledge, and education necessary, and she shone. At the end of that conference, the very senior person she’d been assisting said they would love to hire her for their team.
This was everything my client had been hoping for, for years. But instead of staying an extra day in DC and having breakfast the next day with this leader, instead of formalizing this casual offer, she packed up her hotel room, made her flight on time, and went home.
She called me immediately to tell me her good news, but as she talked, it dawned on her that she may have seemed indifferent and tacitly declined the huge offer she’d been made by neglecting to stick around in DC. Good fortune wasn’t part of her ingrained pattern. She tried to get in touch with the leader, and they had a correspondence, but the job — which she would have been incredible at — never materialized.
She didn’t believe she deserved it, so she hadn’t prepared for such good fortune and wasn’t ready when it arrived. She’s not alone! This happens to so many of us.
And yet, there are some people who overcome what seemed to be their humble fate and achieve great things. So how do they do it? How do they reset their reflexive beliefs? What about their mindset actually allows them to step into the future they hope for?
Preparation is key
It takes discipline and imagination to get ourselves ready to accept opportunities and circumstances that do not align with our old patterns and beliefs. We’re not doomed to sabotage ourselves, but we do need to prepare so that we can take the big opportunities, see our obstacles, and find perfect solutions to our dilemmas.
In order to address them, we need to actually identify our old patterns and beliefs that create our blind spots. Unfortunately there’s no simple three-step solution. Different people need spiritual practices, therapy, coaching and other supports to untangle the patterns that are holding them back. Whatever approach works for you, you can count on having to give thoughtful answers to deep questions, look at past patterns in your life, and acknowledge that you are responsible for your own decisions and can change these now.
I encourage you to seek an approach that works for you. For now consider these questions:
- Where else in your life have you experienced self-sabotage?
- What happened? What motivated you?
- What do you want instead?
- How will you choose differently next time?
- Who are you becoming as you make these new choices?
- What opportunities lie ahead of you now?
As for me and my house
Getting over disappointment after self—sabotage requires a strong focus on opportunities. Beating your head against the wall and asking yourself how you could be so silly doesn’t really help – trust me, I tried!
So, I bought another house, one that’s less perfect, one that will take a lot of money to become a happy place for me.
I’m determined to make it a delightful, beautiful, joyful home. I have continued to peel back the layers of my scotoma with my coach and on my own and I’m focusing on opportunities this new home creates. For example, I can bring my sculpture studio into my house because there is a whole open-concept basement plus a side room with a sink and workbenches that can accommodate all aspects of my production. Having no private backyard to laze in may force me to walk to the river and the parks. Once I see the benefit and stop focusing on the losses, I will be able to enjoy my new home!
I hope it will serve as a constant reminder to myself, not of regret over the other house, but that the hard work of overcoming my blind spots and stepping with trust into a bold future is always worth it.
I’d love to hear your experiences with self-sabotage and overcoming old patterns!
I am taking a limited number of coaching clients this year, but have a couple of spaces open for those who want to go deeper into their own ideas of joy and fortune and self-worth. Let’s connect!