The dictionary defines sabotage as an attempt to deliberately destroy, damage, or otherwise obstruct something. When we sabotage ourselves, it’s often sneaky and can go virtually un-detected until we realize that we’re unhappy, or feeling unfulfilled, or that we’re hurt in some way.

One of the sneakiest saboteurs I know of is our nasty habit of entertaining negative thoughts. Thoughts that see the glass as half-empty, our world as un-fulfilling, other people as treacherous.

Sabotage Is Unhealthy

Entertain negative thoughts often enough, with sufficient energy, and your health will suffer. Science tells us that such negative thinking depresses our immune system, which in turn can lead to a host of unwelcome disorders: cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, arthritis, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, frailty and functional decline, to name but a few.

The sneaky aspect is that often these thoughts are partially grounded in reality. My flight was canceled this morning, customer service was having a dickens of a time re-booking some 80 passengers, and the upshot is we were all considerably late to wherever we were headed.

Glass half-empty? You bet. In that moment, my world was certainly un-fulfilling, and the notion that my luggage wouldn’t make it to my destination was “treacherous.”

In and of themselves, such thoughts are harmless. Sabotage occurs when we dwell on them – we end up rehashing negative events, looking ahead with trepidation, distrusting everyone and everything on a regular basis.

Negative Thoughts Hold Us Back

The ensuing sabotage of our otherwise happy, healthy lives prevents us from trying new things, exploring new activities. We shy away from the unfamiliar, even if a part of us really wants to try it.

We say to ourselves, “I don’t know how,” as if people who know how were somehow born with the ability. We say, “I’ll be terrible at it.” Everybody is terrible at something new – it takes perseverance and patience to get good at things.

We say, “I’m inadequate,” or “I’ve never done anything like this,” and with that we squash whatever dream we had. As we move through our 60s, 70s, 80s, and beyond, we are prone to even more such talk.

What a shame. How dreadful to sabotage dreams, dash hopes and aspirations before they even get off the ground.

How life would have been different for Quin Bommelje, if, at 60, she had said to her husband, “No, I don’t think we should try ballroom dancing. I mean, come on, look at us! We’re not dancers, we’re in our 60s, what’s the point of taking ballroom lessons?”

Well, the point is that once she and her husband started dancing, Quin discovered she really enjoyed it. At 71, a mere 11 years later, Quin won the America’s Got Talent Golden Buzzer award with her dance partner, Misha. Her message to all: age is irrelevant to living your dream.

Yet age is only irrelevant if you don’t allow those sabotaging thoughts to intrude. Counter every negative thought with a positive “Yeah, but,” as in, “Yeah, but it might be fun,” “Yeah, but you never know; I might just get good at it.”

Build Yourself with Positive Thoughts

Never let yourself say, “That’s all very well for those people, not regular people like me.” Not so. In my research of seniors, I’ve learned an essential, profound truth: they are without exception “regular people.”

Some are able-bodied, some are not so, some are long-time active individuals, some have never dappled in exercise. All of them are just like you and me, with one critical difference – they never let sabotaging thoughts interfere with their desire to be or do whatever it is that makes their hearts sing.

As for my canceled/re-booked travel today, I reversed my negative thinking and put an end to my self-sabotage by reminding myself that I’ve flown umpteen times and always made it to wherever I needed to go in sufficient time.

That the airlines are well intentioned, in the business of satisfying customers, and eventually all would be well. And by the time my little red suitcase and I were reunited at the right destination, my sabotaging thoughts were long gone.

What self-sabotaging thought most often pops into your head? What would you love to do but you tell yourself you can’t? What happened when you pushed aside negative thoughts? Were you surprised about what you had accomplished as a result? Please share your stories and comments with our community!

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