Let’s say you’ve been going to the gym every weekday morning for three months. You’ve lost 10 pounds, you’re sleeping better, you feel strong. You no longer get winded going up a flight of stairs. It’s the best thing you’ve ever done for yourself. Then one morning, you press snooze on your alarm. And you do it again the next morning. And the one after that.
Maybe you decide to speak up more in meetings. It’s a little awkward at first, but soon, you’re pretty good at voicing your opinions. And, to your delight, you’re being taken seriously. In fact, a couple of your ideas have been implemented. Then one day, an opportunity to say something arises, and you don’t speak up. Nor in the next meeting. Or the one after that.
Why did you stop doing the thing that was working so well?
Chances are, you hit one of your tripwires.
Our tripwires are manifestations of our limiting patterns of belief and behavior. They are almost always fear based – that is, they arise out of fear – but they disguise themselves as something else; usually rationalizations, problems, and vague plans to start again on Monday.
Here are some classic tripwires:
Unrealistic expectations and goals – Setting ourselves up for failure by denying the reality of the situation we’re in, and what reasonable outcomes may be.
Rigidity – The firm belief that there’s one way to do things, one right answer, one right kind of person. Resistance to new people, ideas and situations.
Procrastination – Continually putting things off, even though the delay makes life more difficult in the long run.
Screw-it mentality – Seeking pleasure now vs. fulfillment of future self.
Escapism – Avoiding life through excessive Netflix, daydreaming, and being so optimistic, you’re essentially off in a La La Land of hopes and wishes.
Self-medication – Using food, alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping, etc. for a temporary high and relief from stress, pain or anxiety.
Defensiveness – Sharp tongue when fearful, refusal to ask for feedback or take advice. Dismissal of opinions that differ from one's own.
Impatience – The feeling that everything must happen immediately or that if effort doesn’t produce results immediately, it’s not worth doing.
Distraction – Inability to stick to something for an extended period of time. Constantly chasing the next new thing.
Perfectionism – having unrealistic expectations of self and others. Belief that others are constantly judging negatively.
What to do about tripwires:
Chances are, you’re already aware of at least one or two of your trip wires. Think of a time you broke a promise or commitment to yourself. Did those same conditions exist? Hmm. Maybe you’re onto something.
Once you know what your trip wires are, you can watch for them, and plan a way to step over them without falling down.
To ensure I’m not setting unrealistic expectations, I will… (pass them by friends and colleagues for a reality check).
If I catch myself being overly ridged, I will… (come up with at least 3 alternatives to every problem/solution)
To keep myself from procrastinating, I will… (do the least fun things on my to-do list first thing in the morning)
Will you still trip? Yup, from time to time. But, with practice you’ll get pretty good at leaping over your tripwires. And that sure beats falling flat on your face.