Full text of human behavior expert Peter Sage’s talk: How To Eliminate Self Doubt Forever & The Power of Your Unconscious Mind at TEDxPatras conference. In this powerful talk he explains some of the hidden reasons and unconscious patterns that cause us to self-sabotage and explains what we can do to change them.
Best quote from this talk:
“If you don’t start filming as the star of the movie in your life, by default you’re going to end up as a film extra in somebody else’s.”Peter Sage
Listen to the MP3 Audio here:
Peter Sage – Human behavior expert
Thank you. Why is it that intelligent people procrastinate? Why is it that people that are so self-motivated often self-sabotage? And why is it that no matter how many new business opportunities we get or new skills we try to learn, many of us just are simply finding different ways of earning the same amount of money or achieving the same kind of level of success as if there was kind of a glass ceiling above our head that we’re trying to break through but didn’t know how?
Now, one thing we do know is, it’s not down the lack of resources or opportunity. We live in a time in history where there are more resources and opportunity than ever before. In fact, there’s many people that have access to resources and opportunity that really never get the battle to shoulder and take a swing at life, and the results are mediocre or disappointing.
And then there is the other people those who have access to virtually no resources or no opportunity and, against all of the odds, went out and created magic for the rest of us to go Wow! and stand in awe of.
People like Colonel Sanders who retired broke at 65, before starting KFC. Obviously Oprah, people like Helen Keller or even Albert Einstein who dropped out of school at 15 and then failed the entrance exam for the Zurich Polytechnic.
No, you see if you want a masterclass in taking away the excuse that resources and opportunity are the root reason why you are not successful, go study any of the lives of the people on screen.
You see, as human beings, our nervous system is hardwired for comfort, whereas the essence of what makes us us, some would say our soul is hardwired for growth. And it’s managing that dynamic tension between how good a comfort zone feels and the innate calling of our potential that lies outside of that, that causes the frustration for most people and keeps them on that hamster wheel of mediocrity.
So how do we unravel that?
Well, let’s look at the human brain. See, what separates us from almost all of the animal kingdom, the crowning achievement of human biology is the front part of the brain, once known as the neocortex of the frontal lobe. And that neocortex operates at a brain wave length of alpha or beta. One of the challenges is that, that doesn’t get turned on until we’re about seven years old.
See, kids operate in delta and theta which is why babies sleep so much, and why kids live in that magical fantasy world where they’re operating at theta with no critical thinking.
Now, it also means that children are very impressionable, and why Aristotle is widely quoted as saying that, ‘give me the child for seven years and I’ll give you the man’.
But what happens when we drill down on that? Why is that important to why we procrastinate or self-sabotage?
Well, I’ll give you an example. Let’s say it’s dad’s turn to take little Johnny shopping and the kids, and you know mom’s busy that day and he’s kind of frustrated; he’s got to go out and get the job done. And yeah… one thing you need to know about dad: he’s got his own stuff to deal with right now. He is figuring out how to pay the credit card bill that was higher this month than he thought. He’s worried about whether the boss is going to be downsizing soon. And he’s still reeling from the lack of intimacy that morning caused by a fight that he had with his wife. He is dealing with the stuff as we all do.
Now, little Johnny doesn’t live in that world. And so when they get to the checkout, now as every good retail psychologist knows, they place the products at the eye height of the people you’re trying to sell to. And so Johnny sees the toys, and Johnny wants the toy, and he’s like, “Daddy, daddy, can I have a toy?”
And daddy comes out of his mind fog and says “No, you can’t have a toy,” but his daddy is thinking he can afford it but that’s now it’s just not the time.
But as parents will understand children are prime examples of the ability to be persistent, are they not?
So little Johnny says “Daddy, daddy, I want a toy; please can I have a toy?”
See, little Johnny doesn’t live in a world of credit card debt. And in his frustration on dealing with his stuff and trying to handle the kids and all the other stuff, Daddy snaps out and says “Listen, you can’t have a toy; you don’t deserve it. You’re not good enough; you’ve not behaved enough today.”
And daddy thinks that’ll just keep him quiet while he goes back to dealing with his big world problems.
But what’s happening right now is quite significant. You see, little Johnny doesn’t hear dad’s frustration, all Johnny hears is that ‘I’m not good enough, I’m not worth it and I’m undeserving’, and probably spends a large part of the rest of his life unconsciously acting out that behavior to justify why he’s right, including self-sabotaging if the threat of success comes along to challenge that model of the world.
You see, when it comes to being able to work with psychology and after thousands of hours of working with people all over the world, I’ve come to know that the undisputed first law in psychotherapeutic intervention and in other areas, the undisputed first law of personal growth is this: that people will never rise above the opinion of themselves.
Now, one of the challenges is that opinion is largely formed in our childhood years sub-7, from the perception of where we think we did or didn’t get love from the people we most wanted it from.
Hmm… I usually let people sit with that one for a while.
It also mirrors the first law of relationships, which I firmly believe, states that no one can ever love us more than we love ourselves.
Now, one of the other challenges on that is that, we are also creatures of habit. Now what does that mean? That means that the prefrontal cortex, that neo-cortex, that frontal lobe that serves all of that executive decision-making is prime real estate. In fact, the brain weighs 150th of the bodyweight but takes up 20% of all of the calories.
So, when it comes to using that frontal lobe, evolution has some shortcuts. It says, well, clearly you’re using intelligence to make the decision, so it should be a good decision. So, when you choose the fries instead of the salad, it doesn’t care, its job is to adapt.
And if you make that decision over and over again, then rather than take up critical thinking which is meant to serve you intelligently, it hands it over to the midbrain. And it becomes an unconscious behavior or pattern or what we also call a habit.
See, now you order the fries just because it’s what you do, you don’t even question it. Now, that can be very useful when it comes to learning yeah or not learning how to have to walk every day, but it also sets up some challenges.
You see, we suddenly arrive at work on our day off, we don’t know why. Or you know we suddenly get home and realize where did the last two kilometers or two miles of driving go? Wow! How did I avoid all of the crazies? Good old midbrain at work.
But the deeper challenge to that as creatures of habit is the fact that we’re using our conscious brain only a small amount of the time, that critical decision-making, the rest of the time like 95% of the time is what I call people ‘sleeping awake’.
If I’ll give you an analogy… well, you imagine that the conscious mind is an ant, here he is, cute little fella. Ants are industrious, they’re hard-working, they’re determined, they’re going to get the job done; this is your conscious mind.
In fact, this particular ant went to a personal development seminar last week. He set his goals and he’s marching north confidently in the direction of his achievements. The problem is he’s marching over the back of an elephant that’s heading south… ‘our unconscious mind’ with all of our limiting patterns, limiting beliefs and all of the other unresolved self issues that go on there.
We start to see why we self-sabotage.
See, how do you get that elephant moving in the right direction?
Well, let me give you another example, another analogy. The mind is like a compass needle. In fact, it can only point in one direction at a time. But when we’re operating from our ends, that 5% of the time where we’re conscious and using free will we can grab that compass needle, we can point it anywhere, that’s what freewill allows us to do.
If we’re feeling down, we can go choose to watch a comedy or call a friend who can cheer us up. If we’re feeling low on energy, we can go put the kettle on and make ourselves a coffee or a drink.
But 95% of the time we’re not doing that. And as soon as we let a hand off of that compass needle consciously, it will always drift back to its default magnetic north, which unfortunately for most people is more negative than positive.
See, and that leads us to our third challenge, and that is something you may want to really tattoo on the inside of your eyelids. And that is that ‘Environment trumps will’.
What do I mean by that? I mean that our intention will always be beaten by our environment over time. For example, let’s say that yeah, you’re a music fan but you don’t like jazz. Yeah it’s for the other people; you’re kind of a country-and-western kind of guy or girl.
And you listen to Country and Western in the car going to work but your car’s broken down this week, so your good neighbor around the corner that works at the same place has offered to give you a lift. So you’re going to share the 45-minute drive to work and back for the next five days, but they listen to jazz.
Now, I don’t care what you think consciously, within three days I know what’s going to happen. Within three days in the car you’re tapping your feet to the beat. Within five days you’re humming it in the shower.
You see, we don’t get to choose whether or not we get programmed, we are programmable by design. And we can only choose how we want to be programmed.
Another way of saying that is you can have all of the intention to be as warm and hot as you like, you can raise your body temperature. You can like put on some big clothes. But if you choose to live in a freezer, the environment is going to win over time.
In other words, you can read all of the positive affirmations, you can stand in front of the mirror and say that you believe in yourself. But if you live with somebody who is constantly pulling you down, somebody who is reminding you of why you’re not good enough and why it won’t work, at some point you’re going to start to believe it.
That is the law of conformity. If you hang out with nine recreational drug users, I’ve got news for you, you’re most likely going to become the tenth.
If you hang out with nine positive people that look at life through the lens of how we can, not why we can’t, to hold up a mirror for each other’s greatness, to be midwives to each other’s dreams instead of stealing them, you’re likely going to become the tenth or you’ll leave the environment.
It’s the 95% law; the law of conformity.
So how do we change that?
Well, there’s three tips that I want to share with you that will help turn this around. You know and I’m pretty simple guy, so I want to give you some pretty simple tips and I’m breaking into three things.
The first is stop putting the wrong things in. You see as I said, we are adaptation machines. Our bodies… our physical bodies adapt to our environment; we don’t get to choose that. We only get to choose the environment we put them in. If it’s the gym or McDonald’s… the body doesn’t care; its job is to adapt.
But it’s the same with our mind. So stop putting the wrong programming in. In other words, if you think of the two biggest things that impact us unconsciously more than anything else, it’s the mainstream media and our peer group of who we hang with.
Let’s just touch on the media for a second. Now, for those of you that still think that the mainstream media is about reporting the news, I got news for you: You’re in Disneyland.
See, the job of the media is not to report the news, you’re kidding me, the job of the mainstream media is to stimulate another part of the brain called the amygdala, which is designed evolutionarily to notice negative before positive, so that they can hook your attention out of the mass of the crowd and record you as a viewing statistic to justify rate cards and advertising.
The media is not a charity. So I haven’t watched a news report or read a newspaper for pretty much 17 years now. Yeah, for those of you that still watch things like CNN, constant negative news… mm-hmm, I’ve got news for you, all right.
From what I understand, it’s all the same news, it’s the same news it was 17 years ago, it’s just happening to different people. So, you cannot watch the news and be positive. It’s like saying I want to be healthy and I smoke. It just doesn’t work; you can go to the gym as many times as you want but if you’re smoking you can’t be healthy, it’s a binary equation.
And if you’re being programmed by the mainstream media, you can’t have that default magnetic north move away from being negative, it is constant programming.
People say, “Well, how do you know what’s going on in the world?” Now you’re kidding me, yeah, everything’s going on in the world, a far better question would be: what do you want to choose to focus on?
Think of the Amazon rainforest at night. Yeah everything’s going on, but the media want to take your little flashlight in your hand and point is that ‘Oh my goodness, look at this, it’s a snake eating a rat, versus you saying yeah but have a look at this hummingbird being born, it’s a choice.
See, I have no clue what’s going on in the world. I have every clue what’s going on in my world. And if something is important enough it’ll find me.
So stop programming yourself with why the world won’t work and start taking charge of where you point your flashlight.
Now, the other thing is about peer group. Now some people say yeah, I could probably change my friends and some of us, maybe should, but I can’t change my family. Yeah, my brother is the most negative person I know. My mother-in-law is always telling me I’m not good enough for her son or whatever it may be.
Well, I know that we can’t change our family. And looking at the reasons why you chose your parents is another TED talk.
But the best advice I can give is, love your family, choose your friends.
Now, the second thing, start putting the right things in. Now we live in a time in society where there’s so much great information whether it’s a podcast, whether it’s inspirational interviews, whether it’s books or the lives of some of the people we looked at earlier. Every single day or at least every single week, if you want to take your compass needle and start re-magnetizing it in a positive direction by exposing yourself to the kind of information that supports your potential and your greatness on where you want to go.
Now, there is no excuse for not being able to do that now in a society where it’s so available. But if you’re not choosing to do that, by default you’re going to be hooked into somebody else’s agenda.
And if you don’t start filming as the star of the movie in your life, by default you’re going to end up as a film extra in somebody else’s.
And then the third point: get the things that shouldn’t be in there, out. What do I mean by that? You know, work with a decent mentor or a coach that understands how to navigate the minefield of human behavior, somebody that isn’t just going to teach you skills but somebody that can reach in and find those unconscious patterns and be able to rip them out for good.
I’ll give you an example. I had a client come to me a while back, who said, I want to learn time management. Now, a normal coach or what-have-you would probably teach them some good time management skills.
But within two minutes it was easy to see that time management wasn’t the issue. The real issue was his inability to deal with rejection. And therefore he was saying… yeah, he wasn’t saying no to people, because by saying no, it would trigger rejection response. And therefore he was saying yes to too many things and therefore there was too much on his calendar, and therefore he thought he needed time management.
You get the idea.
You see, when we’re able to start addressing things like our unconscious programming, when we start to create the best habits that we can by programming ourselves consciously, when we start grabbing that compass needle and bringing it over to the right direction so that the 95% of the time we are sleeping awake, we’re able to be who we need to be. That’s when we can start to achieve the real game in town which is ‘self-mastery’.
See, before you spend another penny on workshops or skills or anything, work on yourself. See, mastering the game of self throughout human history has been the number one recommendation of virtually everybody that achieved it, and then preached the benefits of it to people that usually weren’t listening.
But, by mastering our sense of self, we’re able to walk into a room where everything is descending into chaos and retain our center. When everything is breaking down around us with the eye of the storm, it’s like, ‘Move, I’ll handle it’. See, that is the best way that you’ll be able to handle uncertainty.
And when we commit to self-mastery, we give ourselves the best shot of becoming the best and greatest versions of our self that we can be. And then, we get to become the example and the invitation to others, not the imposition.
Nobody changes because you tell them to; people change because they’re inspired to change. And we can only inspire them by being the example and the invitation.
And at that point we have a chance of being able to really make a change in this world, make a difference, which is what the world needs right now.
And ultimately be the embodiment of what Gandhi said which was to be the change you wish to see in the world.
Thank you. God bless.