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Wherever You Go, There You Are: A Key to Recognizing Self-Sabotage

Updated: Apr 26, 2023

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

Years back, whenever I was unhappy or overwhelmed, I would fantasize about getting into my car and driving — far far AWAY.

And then the buzz-killing words, “Wherever you go, there you are,” from a 1994 book of the same name by Jon Kabat-Zinn, would pop to mind and I’d feel sadder, more self-critical and stuck.

I heard in these words that I’d still be the same person on the other side of the long journey, unable to deal with things.

While I don’t believe that particular perspective anymore, because journeys can be positively transformative, the concept has an important truth to it that offers a starting place to facing our troubles more constructively.

Wherever we go, there we are.

YES! There we are, with all of our natural strengths, life-affirming values, patterned ways of being, and the qualities that make us, us. The whole beautifully messy package.

I’ve learned through coaching and the Positive Intelligence mental fitness model that:

We tend to be consistent in who we are fundamentally and in

how we react to what stresses, overwhelms, or scares us.

This is GOOD NEWS.

For those of us who want, perhaps even desperately, to be able to show up better for what challenges us — our work, our relationships, our home life — and to react better when life throws the inevitable curve balls, we can start with what we know to be consistently true about us.

But, how do we know what’s consistently true?

Six years ago, I took the Positive Intelligence saboteur assessment. It revealed my top negative reactive patterns to what scares and stresses me. My #1 saboteur? The “Avoider.”

While not a complete surprise to me (long drive, anyone?), it was the first time I’d considered this tendency to avoid and to put off until later (or never) through the lens of it being:

  • A pattern

  • Sabotage — sabotaging myself and negatively impacting others

  • One of only 3 go-to patterns for me that I can recognize as consistently being in the mix if negative emotions are present

The Avoider is one of 10 saboteur patterns identified through research conducted by Shirzad Chamine and his students at Stanford University on the brain’s reaction to fear and stress.

Here are the other nine:

  • Judge (#1 Universal Human Saboteur)

  • Controller

  • Hyper-Achiever

  • Hyper-Rational

  • Hyper-Vigilant

  • Pleaser

  • Restless

  • Stickler

  • Victim

Saboteurs are well-worn neurological patterns that develop in childhood as our winning strategies for creating a sense of psychological and physical safety. Every human has them, as our brains are literally hard-wired to survive first.

Unfortunately, these habitual reactive patterns backfire on us when we apply them as adults.

Case in point, while it may have worked for me as a child to disappear into my room as a conflict-free haven, or to not “rock the boat” in a family dynamic, it's a whole different story in adulthood.

How effective is it to get in the car and drive away from our issues as an adult? Or to do this within our mind? Does it take the pain away or prevent a negative outcome when we avoid the hard task or difficult conversation? Sadly, oh so sadly, NO. Avoiding the pain now compounds it later.

Each of the 10 saboteurs ultimately delivers the OPPOSITE of what is driving the response in the first place.

What a GIFT it is to know which patterns tend to trip us up. When we can see something, we can do something about it. The patterns we default to will never go away, but they can be minimized greatly.

Curious what your top saboteurs might be?

I encourage you to take the free Positive Intelligence saboteur assessment and see. This is where my own journey began, and it’s been transformative to say the least.

Wherever you go, there you are.

Collective sigh of relief that this is true. I invite you to exploit this truth starting here:

Learn to recognize mental patterns that get in your way of greater joy, healthier relationships (including your relationship with yourself),

stronger “performance,” and peace of mind.

Want to learn more? I recommend reading the best-selling book Positive Intelligence by Shirzad Chamine.

Or, to get immediate results in your life, consider taking the 6-week Positive Intelligence Program, where you will put mental fitness tools into daily practice and begin rewiring your brain to face challenges with the best parts of yourself at the wheel.

I am a Positive Intelligence Program Facilitator and offer the program on an intermittent basis to small groups. Check my Web site to see if there's an upcoming opportunity or reach out to me directly at

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