Yeah, this morning I actually dumped my oatmeal over onto my laptop keyboard. Even though my manager likely believes it was a part of a passive-aggressive ruse to get a different, lighter work laptop, it really was an accident (as were the Trojan horse virus and the broken wi-fi card. This laptop and I were not destined to be together…)
As an exercise, though, let’s assume that I might have sub-consciously attempted to sabotage my laptop in hopes of getting a new one. It’s a good metaphor for something I’ve been pondering quite a bit lately, which is the concept of professional self-sabotage. You know, when a lot of good things are happening to you in your job, and suddenly you say something completely off-the-wall in front of the CEO, or you inexplicably melt down in front of your peers, or you suddenly deliver a completely unintelligible, nonsensical presentation that you thought was brilliant? Yeah, that.
There was a great article by Barbara Stanny in Forbes a few months ago on this topic. She explains that one reason people unintentionally self-sabotage: each of us has an Upper Limit Problem, i.e., we max out on how much good stuff we can stand. Stanny quotes Gay Hendricks’ book, Big Leap:
“Each of us has an inner thermostat setting that determines how much love, success, and creativity we allow ourselves to enjoy… The minute we exceed that setting—by making more money, experiencing more love, drawing more positive attention to you
rself—you trip your upper limit switch.”
The solution, argues Hendricks, is to sloooowwww down, take a deep breath, and realize what is going on, which is that we are “upper limiting” (I’m pretty sure that is a candidate for entry into Webster’s as a verb). In my lexicon, “upper limiting” would be called “getting ready to jump off the cliff”. And I have to say, I do find myself racing for that cliff sometimes, especially when things seem to be going really, really well on the job.
How do I stop myself racing towards the cliff Thelma and Louise style? Well, I reach out to trusted advisors – my direct manager, my professional / career coach, my mentor, or a trusted colleague. And I ask them just to listen to me dump all my angst, worry, stress, etc. And once I’ve laid it out there, the abundance of good happenings inspire less overwhelm, and maybe a little more gratitude. Whew.
So, back to the oatmeal in my laptop. I knocked my cup of oatmeal over, I think, because I was trying to multi-task – eat breakfast, edit a power point deck, and dial into a conference call. I was on the road towards that cliff, maybe. So, the oatmeal in the laptop was the universe’s way of slowing me down. Of course, now I need to replace said keyboard. That will be the thing that keeps me in check tomorrow. That, and lunch with my mentor.
So, FOT nation, how about you? What are your strategies for preventing self-sabotage on the job? Please share in the comments.