Breaking the Cycle of Self Sabotage

“Watch your thoughts; they lead to attitudes. Watch your attitudes, they lead to words. Watch your words; they lead to actions. Watch your actions; they lead to habits. Watch your habits; they form your character. Watch your character; it determines your destiny.”– Unknown

Often, when performing, auditioning, practicing or even in social settings, you think you have conquered a particular behavior/habit that has not been serving you well and yet when you let everything run on auto pilot, no matter what you are thinking, there it is yet again self sabotaging all your prior efforts to have made this change. So how does one change a habitual behavior or way of thinking?
Here’s the deal – you can’t change a bad habit. You have to replace it by firing up a new set of synapse that will, each time you use it, wrap a string of myelin around the two as they fire off their signal connecting them loosely together. Each time you use the new habit, you add another myelin string around this brain connection making it stronger and stronger. The old habit never goes away, it just atrophies. Pretty interesting, right? So think about what this process requires as you leave your old bad habit behind and start building a new more powerful and positive one.
Daniel Goleman and Tara Bennett-Goleman, author of “Mind Whispering: A New Map to Freedom from Self-defeating Emotional Habits” say about the science of creating habits. “The basal ganglia plays a key role in the formation of habits, both the good ones and the bad ones. As we keep repeating a routine of any kind, the brain shifts its control of the habit from areas at the top of the brain to the basal ganglia at the bottom. As this switch occurs, we lose awareness of the habit and its triggers. The routine springs into action in response to a trigger we don’t notice, and does so automatically. We lose control. So to change the habit we must first bring it into consciousness again. That takes self-awareness, a fundamental of emotional intelligence.”
When you became mindful of your self-defeating habit, you will begin to realize that it is your own fear of failure, or making a mistake that makes you panic inside and lose control of your own behavior. And it seems like you can’t seem to stop yourself from going to this negative place.
Here are some ideas of how you might kick off helping yourself become more aware of your unconscious unwanted bad habits and its triggers so you can start constructing a new one instead.

  1. Get up close and personal with the habit you would like to change. It won’t be easy, but start to recognize the routine or trigger that fires up that “take over.” If you are not aware of your unconscious habits, you can never create a more constructive one to replace it.

  3. Remember this is not personal or emotional – it’s a process. So observe your behavior, thoughts, feelings, actions, from a neutral, disassociated position. In other words take a step back out of all those emotional/negative things your internal “Brat” is yelling at you and leave them over there as you observe and take notes on this process from a neutral position.

  5. What would you like to replace this unwanted habit with? What habit would allow you to be more productive?

  7. Generate a clear, full blown picture, sound, feeling of what your new habitual synapses being wrapped with myelin will look, feel and sound like each time you use it. And then watch, hear and feel the old habit slowly wither away. And do this every time you are aware and conscious of it happening. Jump for joy and pat yourself on the back. And above all, remember that designing habits gets to be your choice from here on in. The more times you can consciously repeat the new habit, the faster it will take hold. This then will become the default reaction.

  9. Experience is always the best teacher so when you feel you have made a mistake or have failed at something, it might not be a habit that took you there. It could just be that you actually failed at something or made a mistake and that my friends, is just feedback. Rummage through what just went south and figure out if it was caused by a habit you intend get rid of, or you just need to figure out what worked and what didn’t, where you might want to make some adjustments or plain old “just don’t do that again”. If the latter is the answer, you need to find the lesson within it, what it offers you as feedback, then apply it to future situations.

In your own little internal kingdom you can start accepting that you are in charge. Sure we all have our limitations, but as long as we don’t think of them as inevitable or insurmountable we can make choices about how we do what we do. When emotions threaten to bubble up rebelliously, we know that we can harness and transform them through the power of intellect. They are recognized and acknowledged, and then we can choose to build a new habit to replace what wasn’t working and get on with life.
Now you know what I think about habits. I would like to know what you think about this subject. Until next time. Ciao, Carol

Carol Kirkpatrick

For as long as she can remember, singing and performing have always been in Carol Kirkpatrick’s blood. From her beginnings in a small farming town in southeastern Arizona, through her early first-place triumph at the prestigious San Francisco Opera Auditions, and subsequent career on international stages, Ms. Kirkpatrick has thrilled audiences and critics alike. “A major voice, one worth the whole evening.” (The New York Times) Since retiring from the stage, she continues to be in demand as a voice teacher, clinician, and adjudicator of competitions including the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.  Combining her knowledge of performance, business, and interpersonal skills, she has written the second edition of her highly regarded book, Aria Ready: The Business of Singing, a step-by-step career guide for singers and teachers of singing.  Aria Ready has been used by universities, music conservatories and summer and apprentice programs throughout the world as a curriculum for teaching Ms. Kirkpatrick’s process of career development, making her “the” expert in this area.  She lives in Denver, Colorado.