A Coaching Power Tool By Karin-Ann Holley, Life Coaching for Educators, NETHERLANDS
Flip the Saboteurs: Hyper-achiever and People-pleaser
During my ICA journey, I encountered a second coaching program called Positive Intelligence by Shirzad Chamine. I went through the 6-week training program and found it life-changing. The simplicity of the model, its easy application, and its profound impact made me want to continue my growth in this area and used it as a tool in my coaching practice.
The program consists of three basic steps:
- Identifying negative self-talk (saboteurs).
- Doing mindfulness exercises (PQ reps) to be more present and calm and training the mind to focus and disregard negative self-talk.
- Being intentional about choosing positive responses instead of reacting negatively to a situation.
Everyone has saboteurs, so the tool can be applied to any person. However, to use the tool, it is helpful if people are familiar with the terminology. People living with strong saboteurs generally have more negative feelings for long periods of time. Saboteurs originated during our childhood as a way of coping with challenging situations. But as adults, the coping mechanisms and habits no longer serve us, and in fact, keep us stuck. Change is extremely difficult if a person doesn’t recognize their negative beliefs. So having people identify their top saboteurs, speeds up the self-awareness process, and makes them feel less alone if they understand that everyone has saboteurs. We start to realize that saboteurs are not who we truly are (our essence or true self) and we can choose to not listen to our saboteurs.
My top two saboteurs are the Hyper-achiever and People-pleaser. I did coaching on both of these topics, but I struggled to answer the questions:
- If I’m not in hyper-achiever mode, what am I doing instead?
- If I’m not in people-pleaser mode, what am I doing instead?
This led me down the path of creating a Power Tool for the saboteurs, trying to find “opposites” of what a person would be doing if they were no longer being hijacked by a saboteur. Saboteurs take people’s strengths and misuse, overuse, and abuse the strengths so that they no longer serve a person, but instead cause anxiety, stress, and other negative feelings. If our strengths are not misused, then we are able to use them in a way that is helpful to ourselves and to others. It liberates us from being stuck in negative thought patterns, and we can start creating new narratives about ourselves and who we are. The “opposites” aren’t characters like the saboteurs. Instead, they are descriptions of our strengths in states of doing, being, or feeling; they reflect ways in which we can get closer to our essence. We start the sentence with “I am…”
Power Tool – Flip the Saboteurs
Description of the Power Tool, With Accompanying Coaching Questions
You want life to always be easy, pleasant, and enjoyable. You avoid things that are unpleasant, difficult, or afraid of. You have a tendency to procrastinate and to stay away from conflicts. As a result, problems may become bigger, and feelings of anxiety may creep in. You also feel bad for not getting things done, and you get frustrated with yourself, and your “laziness”.
You are someone who takes action despite the discomfort. You face your fears, and accept that you will feel nervous, anxious, bored, challenged, and/or scared for a while. Ironically, once you get active, your confidence increases, you start feeling successful, and it becomes easier for you to do and continue doing. The danger or threat may even become a non-issue.
Avoider vs Active – Possible Questions
- What are you avoiding?
- What is driving your avoidance?
- What tiny steps can you take to move forward?
- How will get into action impact the way you feel?
- How will get into action impact other parts of your life?
- What can you do regarding the discomfort/fear you feel when getting moving?
You like to be in control because you feel things go better this way, outcomes improve, and in general, life is better. The need for control might be because we feel the need to show and prove ourselves, it’s faster and more efficient, or we think others won’t step up and do a good job. However, as a result, you find that other people pull back, become passive, and don’t show initiative or growth. Your influence on others actually becomes less. You might feel high levels of stress and work very hard to keep everything under control.
By letting go, you become more relaxed, go with the flow, and allow spontaneity into your life. You leave room for others to come up with ideas and take action. Your relationships improve because you show that you trust others to also do a good job, get things done, and have valuable ideas. You become more accepting of their faults and imperfections. You accept that things might go “wrong”, but that there is also opportunity and growth in failure. And you go even a step further to realize that just because people do things differently doesn’t mean they are “wrong”. You accept that there are more ways of doing things.
Controller vs Letting Go – Possible Questions
- What motivates you to control?
- What is wanting to control everything/x/y/z doing to you and your relationships?
- What might letting go look like or feel like for you?
- How might you benefit from letting go?
- How might the people around you benefit from you letting go?
- What are some steps you can take to let go?
Your worth and identity are tied to what you achieve. Only when you succeed do you love and accept yourself. When you fail, you experience failure as a blow to your identity. Your motto is “When I achieve X then I will be happy.” But when you get to X there is already a new goal to go after and happiness is always fleeting. You put a lot of pressure on yourself to succeed. As a result, you might have high levels of stress and anxiety and feel mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted. Others around you will feel ignored and that it’s all about you and your goals.
Instead of only focusing on the outcome, you enjoy the process. You ride the wave and learn to relax, and check in with yourself regularly. Instead of achieving, your focus is on being. You are present, at the moment, and are mindful of what your body and emotions are telling you (which might be to slow down). You redefine what success and failure mean to you in order to allow you to enjoy the process of learning. Your relationships also improve as you are more present for those around you. Ironically, your performance will improve as you work smarter instead of harder, and you’re able to set priorities for yourself.
Hyper Achiever vs Being – Possible Questions
- When does the hyper-achiever in you come out?
- What are its effects on you? On others?
- What does success/failure mean to you? What new definitions can you come up with that might serve you better?
- How might you be able to disconnect your identity from success/failure?
- What can you do to be more present and enjoy the process?
- How can you go from achieving to being?
You believe that your rational mind always knows best. Emotions just get in the way of making good decisions. However, your rational approach can be off-putting to others. You struggle in your relationships to empathize with others, acknowledge their feelings, and connect with them at a deeper level. Others might think you are cold, arrogant, and intellectually superior. They don’t feel heard or seen by you. You also struggle to identify your own emotions, feeling numb. As a result, you may not experience intense happiness or joy.
You realize that even though the rational brain is a powerful tool, it’s only one side of yourself. Humans are messy, irrational, and emotional beings, and there is beauty in this authenticity and imperfection. Connecting with your own emotions will allow you to respond better to conflicts, deepen your relationships, and understand others better. Ironically, your decisions and actions will improve as you take into account what others are feeling, and you are able to empathize with them more. Your own life becomes “richer” as you allow your emotions to be more present.
Hyper Rational vs Feeling – Possible Questions
- What feelings can you identify within yourself?
- Where in your body do you feel certain sensations, tightness, discomfort, relaxation, etc.?
- What might your life look like if you paid more attention to your feelings and those of others?
- How might empathizing with others and acknowledging their feelings change your relationships?
- How can you be more emotionally present in your interactions with people?
You are someone who is overly cautious, sees danger everywhere, and tries to plan for it. You generally feel quite anxious and are focused on what could go wrong. Your anxiety might influence your relationships with others, by crying “wolf” or by making others feel anxious as well. You struggle between making distinctions between real, big dangers and smaller, non-dangerous situations. When the danger does present itself, you are too tired to see it and/or react adequately to it.
Careful and Carefree
Having some sense of vigilance is good, but it should be balanced with an understanding that unexpected things will happen, and it is impossible to plan for every risk. You accept that “bad” things will happen, but perhaps they aren’t so bad and are really opportunities to learn something, to grow, to connect with others, etc. You learn to accept what’s happening without judging whether it’s good or bad. You don’t want to feel anxious and worried all the time, instead, you choose a more carefree and accepting attitude which will reduce your anxiety and help you relax. As you are fully present to what is happening (instead of worrying about what ifs) it will be easier for you to spot actual danger.
Hyper Vigilant vs Careful and Carefree – Possible Questions
- When does the hyper-vigilant in you show up?
- How are the anxiety and worry impacting your relationships, your work, your holidays, free time, and personal development?
- What are you missing out on when you spend all your time worrying about what-ifs?
- What dangers/threats are real and which ones are very small, and can you let go?
- What is the difference between planning and over-planning?
- What things can you do to feel and be more carefree?
- How can you release yourself from judging situations as either good or bad?
- What fears / “dangers” might you want to face in order to help you get over them?
You do things for others because you want to be liked by others. You think that you will only get love and happiness by putting others first. You say YES to everything and tend to ignore your own boundaries, wants, and needs. Others may experience you as fake and when you’ve gone past your limits you might feel others are taking advantage of you, becoming irritable and resentful, negatively impacting your relationships.
In a partnership, there is open communication about the wants and needs of both people. You express your boundaries and respect those of others. You address challenges and conflicts. You realize that sometimes the needs of a person are actually that you do not help them or intervene. You don’t have this constant desire to be liked, you feel confident with who you are. You do things for others because you want to. You want to serve, no strings attached, and nothing is expected in return. Love and acceptance start with the self.
People Pleaser vs in Partnership – Possible Questions
- During which circumstances do the people pleaser in you show up?
- What is your motivation for pleasing others?
- How would the perspective change if you asked yourself what the other person actually needs?
- What are your expectations in the exchange?
- What boundaries do you need and want to express?
- What things do you need to do to help yourself before helping this person?
You feel like to live fully you have to try and do many things. You’re constantly looking for the next thing that’s more interesting than your current situation. The grass is always greener on the other side. The flip side to this is that you’re never fully present. Others realize that you don’t commit and may start distancing themselves from you. You end up doing lots of different things, but nothing really well, nor do you focus on what really matters.
When you feel the urge to shift focus, you take that as an opportunity to really savor the moment and look for opportunities to explore and reflect on the present situation. When you’re grounded, you are fully present and aware of what is going on around you. You know where you are at, you are accepting of your situation, or you are carefully considering what next your steps might be. Your frame of mind is calm and thoughtful. You are able to focus on what’s important and choose quality over quantity. Your performance and relationships improve as you start investing in yourself and in others.
Restless vs Grounded – Possible Questions
- What is causing you to feel restless?
- How do you feel when you are restless?
- How is being restless impacting your relationships and your performance?
- What things in your life are really important that deserve more of your focus?
- What would change if you were more grounded?
- How can you get more grounded?
You think that perfection is necessary for your life for you to achieve happiness. The more imperfect things there are, the more anxiety you experience. The problem you’re having is that this means that you are spreading yourself thin. You’re spending too much time on things that don’t need to be perfect. As a result, you spend less time on the things that do deserve your full attention. Life feels messy and other people irritate you because they are not up to your standards. You focus on things that go wrong, and that isn’t perfect. Your anxiety and perfectionism may affect others by them feeling like they have to walk on eggshells around you; that everything they do isn’t good enough. They might stop trying and pull back from you.
Accepting and Appreciating
You accept that some things do not need to be perfect; that life is sometimes messy, and that’s OK. There is even perhaps beauty in the imperfection. Your drive for perfectionism is used for the things that really matter. You have more energy, are more relaxed, and you feel less anxious. Others notice this about you and also become more relaxed in your presence. They enjoy being with you and feel freer to be themselves and make mistakes. Instead of being irritated with other peoples’ standards, you’re appreciative of their efforts.
Stickler vs Accepting and Appreciating – Possible Questions
- What has perfectionism cost you?
- What are some things in your life that don’t need to be perfect?
- Which areas in your life would you like to give more attention to?
- What would being less of a perfectionist bring you?
- How will be more accepting and appreciating help you and your relationships?
You feel life is unfair and feel sorry for yourself. By telling yourself you are powerless, have no choice, you are a victim of circumstance; you try to soothe your pain this way. Complaining about life/others might also be a way of getting attention from others because you desperately want love and connection. You feel intensely and struggle not to be consumed and paralyzed by your emotions.
You realize that in any circumstance you still have a choice, and you aren’t powerless. You actually have many skills, talents, strengths, and experiences that you can tap into. It’s a matter of focusing on what is working in your life and doing more of that. You accept what life gives you and try to find a gift or opportunity in a situation. Your ability to feel deeply helps you connect with others without losing yourself in the process. Unconditionally loving yourself is key.
Victim vs Empowered – Possible Questions
- What strengths, skills, and experiences could you draw from to help you move forward?
- What is working for you?
- What gift or opportunity might be hidden in the situation?
- What can you learn?
- What/who can inspire you?
- What knowledge do you need?
- How does it feel different to receive love, vs. pity?
- How can you seek love and support without feeling sorry for yourself?
- What other narrative or story can you tell yourself that makes you feel more empowered?
Using the Power Tool
In a coaching session, sometimes clients feel stuck in one of the saboteurs and their mind is so focused on their fears and negative thoughts, that it’s difficult for them to see the positive.
Ways to Use the Power Tool:
- The coach asks the client to look through the list of saboteurs and choose which saboteurs are at play. The client thinks of what lies, beliefs, or negative thought patterns might be underlying their behaviors.
- The client reads the description of the saboteur and thinks about how their experience is the same or different.
- The coach and client use some of the questions to explore the saboteur mindset and discover what alternatives there might be.
- The client flips the card, looks at the title of the “opposite”, and describes what comes up for them.
- The coach and client go through more questions.
- The client reads the description of the “opposite” and talks about what resonates with them.
Chamine, Shirzad. 6-week Foundation Positive Intelligence Program.