Self Sabotage Disguised as Encouraging Words


“I should be practicing more than I am.”

One of the most common sabotaging thoughts a person has is, “I should be doing more than I am.”  It can sound like a statement of fact, but it is really a judgmental self-critical thought. And a debilitating one at that.   The result is  an emotional shot to the gut, perpetuating feelings of unworthiness and failure.

Our mind can quickly imagine a more perfect scenario than where we are.  It can imagine that we practice our mindfulness exercises 16 hours of the waking day, and some dream work while we sleep to get the full 24 hours of consciousness training.  But you know what?  That’s just not realistic.  Being consciously aware and present at that level is something that you have to work up to.  Because our mind can imagine a “perfect self” or a “disciplined practice” doesn’t mean that we should be doing it. I can imagine running a marathon, but I’m not ready for that. To do that smartly, I’d have to work out and train for that kind of distance.  I’d have to start small and build up to that level. It doesn’t make sense to imagine running a record-setting marathon after a few months of training and then compare and reject myself to that imaginary standard of achievement

The same is true for our progress to greater happiness.  That’s partly why I call it “Pathway to Happiness.”  It’s because it is supposed to be a path of many steps. It’s not called, “The one move that will change your life,” or “one leap to what the critical voice of the Judge says you need to do to be perfect and acceptable.”

Take a moment to recognize that thoughts like, “I’m not doing as much as I should,” have a negative impact while not adding any benefit to your progress.

You can tell two kinds of stories. 

Suppose you do some journal writing for 20 minutes.  You can tell yourself, I should have done more.  I should have gotten up earlier or not watched that TV show and written another 20 minutes.  The result of which is that you feel like a failure.  And when you think about doing a practice later, your mind will attach those feelings of failure and associated unworthiness to not doing more. That negative feeling will cause you to practice less because of the way that kind of story makes you feel. You don’t want to feel bad, so your mind instinctively shies away from thoughts of journal writing.

You can also tell yourself a different kind of story.  You can tell yourself, “I did 20 minutes of practice. That’s twenty minutes more than zero.”  When you tell your self that kind of story you feel good about what you accomplished.  You could have done zero, but instead you took initiative and did some work. Now you feel good about what you did. You did the same amount of work, but you feel good about doing it instead of bad. That good feeling conditions our emotional self to feel better about doing the exercises.   We are intrinsically wired to feel good, so we are motivated to do some more practice when we think about it that way. This kind of story adds emotional motivation instead of the other kind of story that builds an emotional barrier.  Both are compared to imaginary standards.

To build long term momentum going forward, consciously change the kind of imaginary comparison you make about your practice

Shifting this one story about our process might not be enough to turn everything around, but it is one step in the right direction. Take another, and another, and another, and they will begin to add up. If you are like many people you have bought into this kind of criticism dozens or hundreds of times.  Changing this one type of story isn’t just taking one step, it has the effect of hundreds of steps over time.

The Right Amount of Time and Practice for You

There is the possibility that we just don’t have the time to devote to working on our process one or two or four hours a day. One of the things you won’t find in my program are suggestions about how much you should be doing. There isn’t a requirement to do an exercise 4 times a day, or for 20 minutes in the morning five days a week.  Why?  Because everyone is different.  Some people are unemployed and so they might do 2 hours a day for a while until they start a job.  Someone else might have a job and raising a family.  They try to set aside 10 minutes in the evening a couple of days a week for some practice but still don’t always get to it. They might have to make time by listening to audios on their work commute.  Besides time, there are factors of motivation, and resistance to the process that slow us down.  What does resistance look like?  Resistance can be disguised in pseudo encouraging phrases like,  “I’m not doing as much as I should,” or “I really need to get his perfect before I move on.”  That thinking makes us feel bad about practicing, even though at a surface level it sounds like we are trying to kick our self to do more.

The reason I don’t tell people how much to do is because the right amount is different for everyone.  Only you can know what is right for you.  Only you know the factors in your life. Those factors also change over weeks and days.  You can find my interviews with people who have dome my course in the Free Audio podcasts.  These are people who created big changes in their life. There is a potential upside, and a potential downside to how someone listens and interprets these. The upside is that it helps to know that change is possible, and how different people go about it. It’s also good because it can inspire people to take action and make changes in their life.  The downside is that it provokes the self-judgment response in some minds.  The Judge comes in and compares them to how other people approach the process.  The resulting story is something like, “I’m not doing as much as I should.”   The comparison to an imaginary self has more believability if there is an audio example of someone else to help prop up the story. Please be mindful to use those audios in ways that help your process and avoid the self sabotaging thoughts that hinder.

Back to Marathon Proportions

Even if I have the time to exercise all day, I also have to build up to working out over time.  I can’t go for a run and do 15 miles today. My body isn’t ready.  I am probably not mentally ready either. I have to work up to it.  In the beginning, a person might start with a 20 minute walk. Then they get into a habit of doing that several times a week.  When that feels good, the walks become longer. Jogging is added, and then running. A person needs to build up their mental focus as well as physical endurance.  The same kind of build up applies to our mindfulness and Self Mastery practices. You don’t get into physical shape overnight. It is a lifestyle change.  The same is true for effectively changing our beliefs, emotional states, and behaviors. Being happy, mindful of your attention, emotions, enjoying moments of the day, and how you express your self is a lifestyle change, give it time.


Pursuing Perfection Hides Patterns of Self Sabotage


Self-Sabotage in the Pursuit of Perfection

Perfection is the enemy of progress when it comes to learning something new.  If you are trying to get things perfect, you end up focusing on all the things that aren’t working.  Some people are so concerned that they have to get it perfect that they don’t try doing anything because it will be a failure.  This kind of thinking sabotages your process

Don’t try to become perfect or even what you consider proficient at an exercise before going on to the next. For best results, do a mixture of the practices even if you are bad at them in the beginning.

Think about someone who decides to get in shape by getting physical exercise.  They start with walking in the neighborhood. They also cut out some unhealthy snacks.  Cutting out unhealthy foods doesn’t involve exercise directly, but it helps.  When some weight comes off, they start to jog a little bit while on their walks.  Instead of just cutting out junk food, they make some efforts to shop and cook healthier.  Shopping and cooking differently aren’t directly part of “exercise” but they are part of a greater lifestyle change that helps the body be fit. What you put in the grocery cart isn’t directly related to the workout you do at the gym, but the effect is. The same kind of mixture of activities and exercises helps facilitate a healthier mental and emotional state. You don’t want to be running a half marathon before changing what you drink and eat.  You do them together.  Making small changes in multiple areas helps facilitate change in the whole self.  “Mixing it up” with the Self Mastery coursework accomplishes a better overall understanding of your practice.

Some Things Can’t Be Perfected Anyways

Some of these exercises can’t be perfected based on what you have learned up to this point.  If you are doing the Basic Series you are going to find that you have judgmental thoughts about yourself, and other people. 99 out of 100 people won’t get rid of their judgmental thoughts using the exercises in the Basic Series. I address the dismantling of the Judge and Victim characters in the Advanced Series.

In the Free Trial Sessions, I invite you to be mindful of your Attention.  You’ll probably try to control your attention, and will be successful part of the time.  However, it is unlikely that anybody will be successful at this for extended periods of time.  I try to manage people’s expectations on this one, but people’s minds are likely to imagine some perfect performance possibility anyway.  You aren’t going to achieve that ideal control over your attention.  That’s because there are beliefs that interfere with directing your attention no matter how hard you try.   If you just discover what your Attention is, and that you don’t have much control over it, then you’ve gotten a great growth in awareness that is enough.

Actually getting control over your attention from those beliefs and emotional reactions is done in the Basic, Advanced, Relationship, and other courses I have planned.  My point is that you won’t get any exercise perfect.  So don’t let a story trick you into getting something perfect before benefitting from a new exercise, practice, or session. Keep learning and practicing in multiple areas.

As you get better at being aware of your emotions (Session 9) you will have more skill in identifying certain beliefs they arise from. As you break down these beliefs (Session 11 and others) you will have more personal power to hold an attitude of Acceptance (Session 6).  Practicing Acceptance will give you more control over your attention (Session 3)  Having more control over your attention will allow you to better shift your perspective (Session 5, 7, and 10)  Better flexibility in shifting your perspective will improve your work in the Gratitude exercise (Session 1).  These exercises work as a system to reinforce each other.  When you get better at a later one, you can improve more in earlier exercises without having directly practiced it.   If you try to get “perfect” by just focusing on a limited number of exercises, you actually limit how well you can do in that area.

If you limit the number of practices you do, you won’t have the chance to improve on that practice as much as you would if you included others. The work here is to become a better all around player, and not become “perfect” at just a small part of the game.  If you were playing basketball, it would do you no good to be the best dribbler, but not be able to pass or shoot.  In the realm of mindfulness practices, it doesn’t make sense to be great at a single aspect and yet not be a well developed and well rounded in your skills.

These kinds of sabotaging pursuits of perfection show up when people are doing the Free Trial sessions and consider moving on the Basic Series.  There are sabotaging thoughts telling them that they need to be better before moving on.  The same happens for people who finish the Basic Self Mastery Series and are considering the Advanced Series.  They talk themselves out of expanding their tool set, techniques, and range of skills with thoughts lik:I’m not ready for that.”

“I still need to work on the Basic Practices”

“That’s for other people because I’m not really good at this.”

“I need to really get these skills of the Basic Series down before I move on.”

I think these are sabotaging thoughts and detrimental to progress.  I generally find that people should be doing exercises that they are not ready for.  If a person was ready for an exercise it would be easy, and they wouldn’t grow from it.  For an exercise to be helpful, it is going to be challenging and you are going to struggle with it for a while.  That’s okay.  That’s generally how we grow stronger, develop new skills, and build new neural pathways.

One of my qualms is that I named the Advanced Series “The Advanced Series”.  People have it in their mind that it is so “advanced” that it generates reactions in their mind. It’s not really Advanced in that you have to be an expert, or even proficient at the Basic Series exercises.  Advanced just means it is a set of practices you advance to after you have done some Basic Series work.  Later, if I get to it, I might change the name to something like “Self Mastery Series Level II.”


The Downside to Trying to Get Things Perfect:

The path to getting better is to practice a lot.  Try, fail, struggle, make mistakes, and try again.  That’s how we really learn, anyway.  Be concerned with learning, which involves trials and failures.  We learned to walk only by falling down many times.  If you want to be a good golfer, you have to be willing to swing at the ball and hit a lot of bad shots along the way.  With practice you learn to hit more and more good ones. If you keep practicing these steps you will travel far on your individual pathway to happiness.

For effective strategies in avoiding Self Sabotage,  I recommend the Free Trial Sessions of the Self Mastery Course 





Voices In My Head


Is it normal to have voices in my head?  Actually, yes.  And it doesn’t mean you are crazy or need medication.


From a separate interview about her backround:

Jon Ronson: Let’s back up a minute and talk about what happened to you. Whenever I tell anyone your story, I always begin with a bit of a narrative flourish: You are just a regular student somewhere in England. And then one day you got out of bed and … what happened?

Eleanor Longden: Well, essentially what happened was that — although I couldn’t possibly have known it at the time — my whole life, and the life I’d expected to have, was about to change beyond all recognition. This brewing catastrophe began in a relatively mundane way; the appearance of a single, neutral voice that calmly narrated what I was doing in the third person: “She is going to a lecture,” “She is leaving the building.” I was startled at first — very shaken. It was quite a weird sensation. But I got accustomed to it pretty quickly, because it was so unthreatening. I knew what voice hearing was, of course, but this didn’t seem anything like the types of voices you read about in the media or see in films — frenzied, violent voices that drove people to acts of destruction. And after a while, I even began to find it quite reassuring. Owing to a series of childhood traumas, I was a very confused, anxious and unhappy teenager, and the voice started to feel like a reminder that in the midst of crushing unhappiness and self-doubt, I was still carrying on with my life and responsibilities. I wondered whether other people had similar commentaries but just never talked about it. Also, although this took a bit longer, I began to feel that the voice was very closely connected to my sense of self, in that it reflected emotions I couldn’t express. So, for example, if I felt angry and had to hide it, then the voice would sound frustrated. It began to seem vaguely fascinating, creative even – how my emotional world was being externalized through this voice.

Jon Ronson: So this story is about to get hugely worse. But before it does, let me ask a question. I remember when I was a kid once or twice hearing a kind of weird babble of voices in my head. Like there was a party going on and a whole bunch of people were all talking at once, and I couldn’t make out what anyone was saying. It didn’t bother me at all. I think a lot of people have had a similar experience: hearing a voice just as they’re falling asleep, or whatever. Before everything got worse for you, is that the kind of thing we’re talking about? Something as innocuous as that?

Eleanor Longden: That’s a really interesting question, because what research actually suggests is that voice hearing (and other unusual experiences, including so-called delusional beliefs) are surprisingly common in the general population. The recognition of this had led to the popularity of “continuum models” of mental health, which suggests different traits and experiences are all part of human variation — not strictly categorical in terms of “us and them,” “sane and insane,” “normal and abnormal.” However, I do think life events play a vital role in determining who becomes distressed and overwhelmed and who doesn’t. This might include experiences of abuse, trauma, inequality, powerlessness, and so on, but it can also include the immediate reactions of the people around you. If you don’t have people who will accommodate your experiences, support you, and help you make sense of what’s happening, then you’re much more likely to struggle.

Jon Ronson: So when did you first notice that the voices were becoming less threatening? Can you remember a moment when the voices became noticeably nicer?

Eleanor Longden: It happened gradually — and some voices took longer to change than others. But primarily it was when I stopped attacking and arguing with them, and began to try and understand them and relate to them more peacefully. It was about putting an end to the internal civil war I mentioned earlier, because each of them was part of a whole: me! I would thank them for drawing my attention to conflicts I needed to deal with. I remember one very powerful moment, several years down the line, when I said something like, “You represent awful things that have happened to me, and have carried all the memories and emotion because I couldn’t bear to acknowledge them myself. All I’ve done in return is criticize and attack you. It must have been really hard to be so vilified and misunderstood.” There was an immensely long pause before one of them finally responded: “Yes. Thank you.”  The full interview is here at The Guardian.

Related Article:  The Voice in my Head 

You may also want to check out the free trial sessions of the Self Mastery course which can help you understand and calm what goes on in your mind.


How Change Happens


How Is Your Change Going To Happen?

I had minor arthroscopic knee surgery a few months back.  I visited a physical therapist afterwards to help with the recovery.  He gave me a few exercises to do. Then instructed me on a timeline to get back to my goal of playing basketball.  Since basketball involves a lot of jumping impact and turning, he suggested that I don’t try that for a few months.  He started me off with an exercise of just standing on one foot.  Then standing on one foot while slowly leaning forward and back. At first this simple exercise didn’t seem like it would do much to get me to my goal. But it only seemed that way because I didn’t know how much I didn’t know about the subject.
As I am standing on one foot I notice the muscles firing in the ankle.  The nervous system is sensing balance and giving feedback for muscles in the foot to engage and contract.  The same is happening in the knee and hip.  He said the nerves in my knee were re-learning to measure movement, balance, and sending signals to the muscles to adjust. The muscles, little ones, were making tiny micro-movements to help keep me stable.  The same thing happens while standing on two feet, but it’s not as noticeable. I hadn’t realized that so many little things are happening just to stand centered and balanced. It was all happening at a speed faster than conscious thinking. I thought the problem was in my knee, but the Physical Therapist saw it as a whole system that needed improvement.
A similar number of things acting together as a system act keep you emotionally and mentally centered and balanced as well. Most of these we don’t notice.  If you are caught up in drama, it is likely that more than one thing is causing you to be upset, angry, jealous, or unhappy.  If one muscle is weak, others engage to compensate and we can still hold it together.  It’s when several things aren’t working that we fall down physically, and emotionally.   That’s okay.  It’s a normal set of causes and consequences, just like injuries to the body, they happen sometimes.   And like rehabbing my knee, you’ll need more than one exercise to get out of your emotional drama, centered, stable, and strong again.
I asked the Physical Therapist if I should start running on grass.  I thought the softer landing would be better than pavement. The Physical Therapist told me I wasn’t ready for running yet. Then told me that grass had too much chance of a gopher hole or something uneven. My knee wasn’t ready for an off balanced step at running speed, turning an ankle, and then putting extra pressure on the wrong part of my knee. I hadn’t thought of that.  He thought a flat surface like a track would be the best place to start.  I’d need to build up strength in these smaller muscles first. I’d also need to get my nervous system developed to respond and compensate faster for uneven surfaces.
I know about guiding people to develop mindfulness, change thoughts, beliefs, and emotions, but I don’t know how to rehab a knee.  I learned that it would take a few more months than I would have imagined. That was helpful. My thoughts about what was best for my healing weren’t what was best for my healing.  I didn’t have enough experience to think through issues like developing automatic micro-movements and gopher holes.  In my lack of understanding I had made the solution too simple. The same assumption of simplicity often happens in our attempts to change our thoughts, beliefs, and emotional reactions.
My client Jack occasionally interrupts me when I am answering his question.  He’s a very smart guy, but maybe a bit impatient.  It came time in his process to figure out what was going on.  He applied some of my exercises to the practice and he discovered part of his mind was anxious for answers, anxious for change, anxious for the painful emotions to stop hurting.  From this desire to stop hurting emotionally was the impulse to get an “answer.”  It turned out that his desire for change had also concocted an idea of how this change would come about.  It seemed all his years of schooling had trained him to look for the “right” answer.  Get the “right” answer and the problem gets solved. His mind has the simple answer that if it knew just the right thing that his emotions would change.  But his emotional healing wasn’t a math problem or a history question on a test.  Can you imagine me asking my Physical Therapist, “What do I need to know in order for my knee to get better?”  It’s not a question of, “what do I need to KNOW?”  It is a question of, “What do I need to DO?”
I would hope he would inform me that it didn’t matter what I “knew”.   I could “know” all the right exercises, names of the muscles, anatomy of the knee, but that wasn’t going to get me healed.  What was going to get me healed was doing the exercises to retrain and strengthen my whole leg.  Jack tries to get his mind mentally and emotionally fit by getting answers. That’s like trying to make my knee better by reading books.
I thought playing basketball might be a good way to get my knee in shape for playing basketball.  Bad idea.  I need to strengthen my whole leg with individual exercises first, and then work up to complex movements like basketball.  I had to retrain my knee system by isolating areas. When I work with people on changing their thoughts, beliefs, emotions and behaviors, it is also a matter of retraining different parts of your mental and emotional system so that it automatically does things.
In the Self Mastery program there are individual exercises for changing and strengthening different parts of the mind.  Sometimes you are stretching to a new point of view, sometimes more mindful of emotions, and sometimes you practice standing still, like refraining from doing old patterns.  Stand on one let for a while and you’ll see how much is getting strengthened by standing still.  Sometimes the exercises in the Self Mastery Course may seem simple, or aren’t the answer you are looking for.  Standing on one leg is a long ways from playing basketball, but it will help you get there. As you build strength with the beginning exercises you’ll be better prepared for the more complex practices that come later.
Jack’s automated way of thinking has already told him that these simple exercises aren’t the answer he is looking for. His automated mind thinks the changes he is looking for will come in the form of an answer, some bit of information. When you get an “answer” everything is solved is the paradigm his mind operates by. His mind is fixated on hoping to get some concept explained to him that will then make his mind operate differently.  It won’t.  This is just one expectation dynamic that gets in the way of his healing.  It keeps him asking questions and then interrupting instead of actually DOING something different. His assumptions, impatience, and questions are all part of his old routine of emotions and behaviors.  His mind will do the same thing with any answer. It will first be afraid that he won’t get it. Then it will hope the answer will save him from his fear and emotional pain.  Then his mind will create disappointment and frustration that the answer he got didn’t change his emotion. Frustration and disappointment will drive his mind to look for more answers.  It will take more than an idea in a book for his mental muscles to change this pattern.
Do you have an idea about how your change is going to happen, or is supposed to happen?  Do you dismiss certain methods of change because you have the thought, “That’s not what I am looking for,” or, “That won’t work for me.”  It’s interesting to me that people who don’t have experience in changing their beliefs can be such an expert on what will work and what won’t work.   I guess I shouldn’t be surprised anymore.  I went into the Physical Therapists office with ideas about what might help me rehabilitate my knee even though I’d never done it before.  I’m glad I dropped my assumptions about what would make me better.

Life Coach On The Today Show


People Search for Happiness on the Internet,,, and Find it.

Tuesday December 31st on the NBC’s Today Show and later on MSNBC about Gary van Warmerdam’s website and coaching. Life coach Gary van Warmerdam shares his perspective on happiness, and what it takes to make changes in your behavior, emotions, thoughts, and beliefs.


Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

To help you navigate the content of Gary’s Website here are a few areas you can start with:
If you are interested in making changes in your, thoughts, emotions, beliefs, or behavior by applying techniques and exercises, you go to the Free Trial sessions of his Self Mastery Course.
Listen  to some of Gary’s free  downloadable audio podcasts.
Watching some of Gary’s Youtube videos on various topics.
Interested in attending one of Gary van Warmerdam’s Retreats.

Or watch these videos to find out more about Gary and his events.


Gary shares briefly about what he focuses on during his retreats.

A negative thought often doesn’t go away just because we wish it would.  That’s because behind that one thought are other beliefs held in our mind.   Watch this video as Gary explains the layers that can hold our negative thoughts together.  When you learn how to identify these layers that were previously hidden to you, getting rid of those negative thoughts becomes possible and easier.


If you are interested in making changes in your life by applying Gary’s techniques and exercises, you should check out the Free Trial sessions of the Self Mastery Course.

Listen  some of Gary’s free  downloadable audio podcasts.  These can also be found on iTunes by searching “happiness” in the “podcast” section.

Or for watching some of Gary’sYoutube videos on various topics. 

There are also numerous articles listed on the left navigation column, and many more in this blog. Archives for the blog articles are in the right navigation column.

Hope this quick guideline helps.

Happy Hunting,





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