Just Who is Sabotaging You?

I’ve never been too interested or convinced in conspiracy theories….which means I am SOL in today’s current culture. There’s a new conspiracy theory every day, it seems.

In the middle of all the hucksters who populate the social media midway, I have actually found a sane voice that is talking about a conspiracy that makes sense to me. And the reason it makes sense to me is that it has been revealed that I (me, David A., my own damn self) am the chief conspirator! And it turns out that I am conspiring against myself.

I always suspected it, myself, that is. Or as my Texas grandmother would quip, “You are your own worst enemy!” But, she was only partially right.

I came across this “conspiracy theory” a few months ago while working with a bunch of United Methodists…. back when they had at least the premise of being that. I was speaking to a session of UMC pastors of a midwest conference, on Emotional Intelligence and the use of coaching as a modality of continuous improvement. In preparing for the event, I was informed by one of their leaders that they had been using an assessment tool that identified one’s inner “saboteurs”, a term used for defense mechanisms that one has adopted as a part of one’s efforts at survival and fitting into the social setting. These are internal voices that appear to warn and chastise us as to our “proper” behavior, or in my world, voices that tell us how to gain an “atta boy!” affirmation. These mechanisms have served us well in the past but they become default settings that we go to without conscious assent. Without our noticing it, we slowly become inauthentic.

I researched this tool and found that this Saboteur assessment was developed by a Stanford professor, Dr. Shirzad Chamine, who works primarily in the business world. He engages with business types who find these saboteurs blocking and frustrating their efforts to achieve high levels of productivity and satisfaction.

Dr. Chamine has identified ten types of saboteurs. He has framed some accessible terms for these ten: The Judge, The Avoider, The Controller, The Hyper-Achiever, The Hyper-Rational, The Vigilant, The Pleaser, The Restless, The Stickler, The Victim. The names of each Saboteur tips his hand as to what is implied. Which one feels familiar to you? Which one makes you cringe with reluctant self-recognition? Truth is, we all have pieces of these, but two or three tend to dominate our thinking.

He counsels people to embrace the thing that I have called the “superpower” of leaders….Self-Awareness! By becoming aware of these Saboteurs, you can discover ways to identify them in your everyday interactions, and then stop them in their tracks. In working with my group of United Methodist pastors, they found this assessment to be revealing of their tendencies of reaction when they are interacting with others. So, they got that. Now, the trick is coaching them up on what to do when they see the Saboteurs coming for them.

This brief exposure to the incredibly profound insight of Dr. Chamine led me to contact the good doctor. Typical of my personal proclivity to follow my curiosity, I have managed to get connected with him, studying with him to master this paradigm of human behavior that has much promise. His popular book, Positive Intelligence, outlines his theory and gives some practical suggestions of how to change your behavior to your benefit. In my way of thinking, this “conspiracy theory” is a hell of a lot more useful than the ones that tell you about a global kaballah plotting the world takeover, or a pizza parlor in Baltimore with Democrats in the basement defiling children. But, hey….that’s just me.

If you are interested you can go to the website, http://www.positiveintelligence.com to access the free Saboteur assessment. And, you can check out the larger theory concerning the role of positive intelligence in one’s success and happiness. While the Saboteur angle was my initial attraction, I found myself captured more by his positing the notion of a Sage that is within each of us. This Sage is able to be activated in one’s encounter with the world in order to deal more creatively with what is happening in the present moment.

The Sage has five specific attributes that become a gift to us:

  1. Empathy- the ability to “feel with” the Other, affording you insight into the perspective of another human being.
  2. Explore- the ability to follow one’s curiosity into the depths of what is going on, rather than a mere casual apprehension based on past experience.
  3. Innovate- the capacity to imagine new solutions to problems that are presented.
  4. Navigate- the ability to make conscious, intentional decisions among a variety of options.
  5. Activate- the capacity to move into action that is focused on a strategy and plan of action.

These five “superpowers” of the Sage sounded a lot like the work I have been doing on Creative Interchange. What fascinates me is the capacity to recognize the Saboteurs that we are dragging behind us from our past and the promise of gaining the awareness of our capacity to creatively engage with our Sage in the present moment, the Now. This is actually the strategy that Dr. Chamine is proposing: to identify the Saboteurs that can hijack your best intentions, to interrupt those typical response patterns, and then to engage your Sage in order to creatively get at your goals and initiatives. Sounds like a plan!

I am currently in a eight-week process of operationalizing this process in my own life. I am, of course adding my spin of Creative Interchange to see how that might fit and enhance this strategy. It is using a high-tech app on my phone to prompt me throughout the day, reminding me of my particular Saboteurs, and encouraging my development of new habits that will raise my Positive Intelligence. Again, if you are interested, check out the website and give it a shot.

And, just for grins, what did your Saboteur just whisper in your ear?

2 thoughts on “Just Who is Sabotaging You?

  1. Good Holiday David (although I don’t know if it is a Holy Day for Episcopalian),

    On this fifteenth of August (in a part of Belgium ‘Mother Day’, which has more sense than the commercial one in May) I see a challenge for you, hopefully you’ll accept it.

    You mention Creative Interchange in your blog. The challenge I see is that you become the ultimate applier who transforms the message of Creative Interchange into a successful product in a movement from the genius (Wieman) to the interpreter (Charlie) to you. Others have been appliers, like Michael (whom you call Mike) and even myself. What lacked until now is the ultimate application format and I see that translating Dr. Chamine’s strategy into Creative Interchange language adding your own ‘zest’ could be exactly what we’ve been searching for.

    As you rightly say, the “superpowers” of the Sage are the Force of Creative Interchange and, may I add, the powers of the Saboteurs form the cage of the bird (in other words, Charlie’s Vicious Circle). Your challenge consists in forming a synergy out of three books: The Chicken Conspiracy (Vicious Circle), The Ascent of the Eagle (Creative Interchange) and Possitive Intelligence (the so-needed Strategy). Why not write your own book as spin-off of your synergizing the three?

    May the Force be With You!



    1. Thanks, for your brilliant add. Today, is indeed the Feast of the Assumption in the Roiman tradition, and the Feast of St. Mary in the Episcopal. It was the day I chose for my ordination to the priesthood in 1985 at the Cathedral in Atlanta. Bishop Judson Child allowed me to choose the day, which I did out of my devotion to Mary the Receptive. I did and still do have much to learn from her. Blessings on this day, my brother in Creative Interchange.


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