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Mental Fitness

Discover Your Saboteurs: How to Overcome Self-Sabotage for Stress-Free Peak Performance

Discover your Saboteurs to stop self-sabotage

Published May 14, 2024
by Positive Intelligence

On the journey toward personal and professional growth, one of the most significant obstacles is not external challenges but internal enemies. Known as Saboteurs, these critical inner voices undermine your confidence, creativity, and resilience.

Saboteurs represent automatic and habitual mind patterns, each with its own voice, beliefs, and assumptions that work against your best interests.

Saboteurs are a universal phenomenon — every person is afflicted by Saboteurs that undermine effectiveness and happiness. The question is not whether you have them but which ones you have and how strong they are. 

The great news is that you can significantly reduce the power of these mental foes. The key to weakening Saboteurs is identifying them and exposing their hidden beliefs, patterns, and lies. Doing so allows you to create a “mug shot” of your internal enemy, profiling it the moment it shows up so you can diminish its credibility and power over your mind.

Identifying and intercepting your Saboteurs is crucial for improving performance, relationships, wellbeing, team dynamics, and organizational success. It starts with understanding the origin of Saboteurs and how they affect you.

The Origin of Saboteurs

Saboteurs start as your guardians to help you survive the real and imagined threats to your physical and emotional survival as a child. By the time you are an adult, you no longer need them, but they have become invisible inhabitants of your mind. 

Your Saboteurs’ thinking, feeling, and reacting patterns become soft-coded in your brain through neural pathways. When these neural pathways are triggered, you are “hijacked” by your Saboteurs, and you feel, think, and act using their patterns.

Saboteurs come in ten varieties: Judge, Avoider, Controller, Hyper-Achiever, Hyper-Rational, Hyper-Vigilant, Pleaser, Restless, Sticker, and Victim.

How Saboteurs Affect You

Saboteur patterns are often rooted in fear, anger, regret, shame, guilt, obligation, and negative self-talk, and your Saboteurs will claim this is good for you. For example, the Judge Saboteur tells you that constantly badgering you over your mistakes and shortcomings causes you to improve and achieve. But ultimately, you will waste precious vitality and energy beating yourself up and suffering through the negativity.

The reality is that Saboteurs cause you unnecessary stress, anxiety, self-doubt, frustration, restlessness, and unhappiness. Research shows that only 20% of people achieve anything close to their true potential due to the destructive power of their Saboteurs. The Saboteurs’ deeply ingrained patterns hinder your ability to perform at your best, feel your best, and nurture healthy relationships.

Imagine you accidentally put your hand on a hot stove. At that moment, it is good to feel pain briefly to alert you to take corrective action. Negative emotions, similar to physical pain, are only helpful for a quick second to warn you. But if you stay stressed, frustrated, or unhappy, you’ll be tunnel-visioned and incapable of finding the best solutions to problems. Saboteurs do their best to keep you in negative emotions for more than a second or two, holding your hand on the hot stove.

Identifying Your Saboteurs

The first step in overcoming Saboteurs is awareness. It’s essential to recognize the specific Saboteur patterns within your mind and understand how they manifest in your thoughts, emotions, and actions. This self-awareness is a powerful tool that allows you to take control of your mental narrative and break free from limiting beliefs.

The Saboteur Assessment is a free, five-minute assessment that identifies your top Saboteurs. You’ll receive a full report on the makeup of your Saboteurs, with detailed definitions and explanations of the 10 Saboteurs. Here’s a brief overview of each of them:

The Judge, Your Master Saboteur

The Judge is the universal Saboteur that afflicts everyone. It is the one that beats you up repeatedly over mistakes or shortcomings, warns you obsessively about future risks, wakes you up in the middle of the night worrying, and gets you fixated on what is wrong with others or your life. Your Judge activates your other Saboteurs, causes much of your stress and unhappiness, reduces your effectiveness, and harms your relationships.

The Accomplice Saboteurs

The Judge works with one or more Accomplice Saboteurs to hijack your mind and cause most setbacks.


The Avoider focuses on the positive and pleasant in an extreme way, avoiding difficult and unpleasant tasks and conflicts.


The Controller has an anxiety-based need to take charge and control situations and people’s actions. When this is not possible, it causes high anxiety and impatience.


The Hyper-Achiever depends on constant performance and achievement for self-respect and self-validation and quickly discounts the latest achievement, always needing more.


The Hyper-Rational creates an intense and exclusive focus on the rational processing of everything, including relationships. It can cause the perception that you are uncaring, unfeeling, or intellectually arrogant.


The Hyper-Vigilant creates continuous intense anxiety about all the dangers around you and what could go wrong, causing vigilance that can never rest.


The Pleaser indirectly tries to gain acceptance and affection by helping, pleasing, rescuing, or flattering others. As a result, you lose sight of your own needs and can become resentful.


The Restless spurs constant busyness and a search for greater excitement in the next activity. As a result, you rarely feel at peace or content.


The Stickler thrives on perfectionism and a need for order and organization taken too far, causing anxiety trying to make too many things perfect.


The Victim causes you to be emotional and temperamental as a way to gain attention and affection and creates an extreme focus on internal feelings, particularly painful ones.

Overcoming Your Saboteurs

You must build and exercise three critical mental muscles to conquer your Saboteurs.

Saboteur Interceptor Muscle

Remember, if you’re in negative emotion for more than a second, you’re in Saboteur mode. The Saboteur Interceptor Muscle allows you to label your thoughts and emotions at that moment as Saboteur and let them go. You must have studied your Saboteurs and discredited their lies and limiting beliefs to exercise this muscle.

Self-Command Muscle

To strengthen the Self-Command Muscle, do PQ®️ Reps every day. A PQ Rep is a 10-second hyper-focus on one of your senses. This powerful way to command your mind will quiet the region where your Saboteurs live and activate the area where your Sage (positive self) lives. Every time you feel a Saboteur response or stress, do PQ Reps to pause and choose a more positive response. Visit the PQ Gym for guided audio sessions to help you learn how to do these proven exercises.

Sage Muscle

Your Sage is the one in you who handles challenges with a clear and calm mind and positive emotions. It uses the five primary powers of Empathize, Explore, Innovate, Navigate, and Activate. You’ll have access to these powers once you’ve activated your Sage brain through PQ Reps.

Additional Tips for Minimizing Saboteur Influence

1. Practice self-compassion: Cultivate a mindset of self-compassion and understanding. Acknowledge that everyone experiences Saboteur tendencies and that it’s okay to make mistakes and learn from them.

2. Challenge limiting beliefs: Question the validity of your Saboteur-driven beliefs. Ask yourself if these beliefs are based on facts or assumptions. Practice challenging negative self-talk with positive affirmations.

3. Seek support: Surround yourself with a supportive network of colleagues, mentors, or coaches who can provide perspective, guidance, and encouragement. Share your challenges openly and leverage collective wisdom to navigate obstacles.

Building Mental Fitness to Stop Self-Sabotage

The PQ Program offers a structured approach to overcoming Saboteurs and shifting the balance of power in your mind from negative to positive. Program participants build a foundation of mental fitness by strengthening three critical mental muscles: Saboteur Interceptor, Self-Command, and Sage.

The PQ Program provides the tools to rewire your brain for greater resilience, performance, wellbeing, and relationships through app-guided modules, assessments, daily practice, and coaching opportunities.

In a team setting, the PQ Program helps participants understand the Saboteurs at play, allowing for improved communication, collaboration, and conflict resolution. When each team member is aware of their own and others’ Saboteurs, they approach challenges and disagreements with greater empathy and understanding, leading to more effective teamwork and problem-solving.

In an organizational setting, the PQ Program helps leaders foster a culture of psychological safety where team members feel empowered to express ideas and explore new possibilities. This reduces stress and enhances overall wellbeing and job satisfaction, boosting productivity across an organization.

Conquering Saboteurs: An Ongoing Journey

Overcoming Saboteurs is not a one-time task but an ongoing journey of self-discovery and growth. By understanding the impact of Saboteurs, implementing strategies for intercepting Saboteurs, and cultivating a lifelong mental fitness practice, you and your team can overcome self-sabotage and unlock your full potential for performance and happiness.

Discover Your Saboteurs

The first step to conquering your Saboteurs is to identify them and expose their lies and limiting beliefs.

Take the Saboteur Assessment
Saboteur Assessment animation

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