The Avoider Saboteur

The Avoider Saboteur

June 20, 2023

#mentalfitness #positiveintelligence #stressreduction #avoidance #coaching #mentalfitnessbootcamp #reduceburnout #mindset #mindfulnesspractice



I like stories and I hope you do too. In each of my forthcoming newsletters I am going to tell a story about one of the 9 accomplice Positive Intelligence “Saboteurs.” Saboteurs are the negative thought patterns we humans develop that create a large part of the stress and anxiety we feel on any given day.

The simplest way to understand these Saboteurs is one at a time, so we will assume for each of my stories that the main character suffers from a very strong, single saboteur influence, say at the maximum level of 10, (Or, “up to 11” for This is Spinal Tap fans) with very little competing impact from other saboteurs. That is not likely in real life but gets across the clearest representation of each saboteur persona. It is also rare for the saboteur to have the same level of impact across all life categories, but I wanted to give you a glimpse of each. And I will also throw in some individual personality traits for fun as the personas I write about are all based on real people.

This month is one of my favorites, the Avoider. The avoider is a very popular saboteur leading up to April 15th every year, (I wonder how many tax extensions come from people with the Avoider Saboteur?) I personally have been known to go to great lengths to avoid tasks I find unpleasant, substituting a new task like suddenly finding cupboards that must be cleaned out RIGHT NOW, or other ways to put off the inevitable. I can laugh at myself when the avoider is upon me, or at least when I recognize that it is, but unchecked, it can cause a lot of stress and unhappiness. Here is one such story.

Once upon a time there was Anna…

Anna was a successful graphic designer working for a large agency. She had a close supportive family, and an active social life. At work, she enjoyed design and was passionate about creating beautiful and effective visuals for her clients. She had a knack for finding the positive and really very pleasant aspects of any project, and she avoided dealing with the negative and unpleasant ones. Anna’s easy-going spontaneous personality made her instantly relatable and fun.

However, Anna suffered from a high level of impact from the Avoider Saboteur, one of the 10 internal Saboteurs that undermine or derail us, according to Positive Intelligence, where the concept is defined. The Avoider Saboteur focuses on both the positive and pleasant in an extreme way. It is a form of denial that enables us to avoid difficult and unpleasant tasks and conflicts (you know, the things we really ought to do), but at the same time also rewards us, when the real reward is getting the job done. When Anna successfully avoids unpleasantness, she feels the relief and pleasure anyone might feel at that moment, but later, she will often feel upset and anxious about what she avoided doing or procrastinated about, and she can also feel suppressed guilt, fear, and resentment. Does this sound familiar at all? Not yet? Stay tuned.

Anna's Avoider Saboteur was created early on by the overuse of some of her important innate strengths. These strengths are useful to her and part of her positive personality, but unfortunately when the saboteur got a hold of her strengths, it caused some pain for her and others. The story begins well, but the dark side of the Avoider Saboteur will appear at work, in her home life, and in her relationships.

Avoider at Work

At work, Anna's strength was that she was optimistic, cheerful, and easygoing. She always looked on the bright side of things and made her colleagues feel good. She was good at finding creative solutions that appealed to her clients' preferences and emotions. She was also good at avoiding unnecessary stress and drama. She never minded trying a new approach and was always open to new ideas. Never getting stuck on one right way, or one particular idea, even if it was her own.

However, despite all these strengths, Anna avoided anything she thought of as an “uggy” task, anything overly challenging, dull, or unpleasant. She would put off doing research, writing reports, or giving feedback. She would also avoid confronting issues or conflicts with her clients, colleagues, or boss. She would rationalize her avoidance by telling herself that it was not a big deal, that it would sort itself out, or that someone else would take care of it, because, after all, they usually did.

Avoidance at work caused Anna to miss opportunities, lose credibility, and damage work relationships. Her clients would sometimes complain that she did not deliver what they expected or that she did not listen to their feedback. Her colleagues would sometimes resent her for not doing her share of the work or for leaving them in the dark as to her status. Her boss would sometimes criticize her work performance. She was praised for her creative designs and flexible style, but was told she could also be unreliable, undisciplined, or unprofessional in how she managed her accountabilities. Anna’s career progress was stunted.

Avoider at Home

At home, Anna's strength was that she was fun-loving, adventurous, and spontaneous. She loved to try new things, explore new places, and enjoy life. She made her family and friends feel happy and excited. She was good at creating memorable experiences and celebrating special occasions.

Unfortunately, Anna's Avoider dark side at home was that she often neglected her responsibilities, commitments, and obligations. She would put off doing chores, paying bills, planning ahead, or taking care of herself. She would also avoid dealing with problems or challenges that arose in her personal life. She would rationalize her avoidance by telling herself, as she did at work, that it was not important, that it would work out fine, or that someone else would handle it.

This caused Anna to experience stress, guilt, and anxiety. Her family and friends loved her easy-going, fun approach to life but would sometimes worry about her well-being, financial situation, or future plans. She tended to disappear when someone needed help moving, or a driver was needed to take Grandma to the doctor. Family and friends would sometimes feel hurt by her lack of attention, support, or accountability. Or they might sometimes doubt her sincerity, trustworthiness, or loyalty. Anna’s relationships were loving but not fully realized.

Avoider in Love

In romantic relationships, Anna's strength was that she was affectionate, generous, and charming. She loved to make people feel good about themselves and appreciated by her. She was good at expressing her feelings, giving compliments, and showing gratitude.

However, Anna’s romantic dark side was that she often avoided intimacy, conflict, and vulnerability. She would put off having deep conversations, sharing her needs, or addressing issues. She would, for example, in prime avoidance mode, always be late to have coffee with a possible new romantic interest. In her mind, she figured she might as well get them started off with the right expectations, since Anna was generally late to most appointments. She saw herself as a free spirit. In dating, she would also avoid facing her own emotions, fears, or insecurities. She would rationalize her avoidance of addressing feelings by telling herself that it was not necessary, that it would ruin the mood, or that the other person would agree that it was “not a big deal.”

This caused Anna to miss out on true connection, growth, and fulfillment. Her partners appreciated her laid back approach but could sometimes feel frustrated by what felt like her superficiality, evasiveness, or inconsistency. One of the people she dated, told her their relationship caused a feeling of loneliness, that it didn’t feel like she was fully present, empathetic, or committed. Her relationships would start strong but tended to fizzle out quickly. Anna was known to complain about how her dating relationships never seemed to go anywhere and her friends sympathized but also recognized this was part of the “Anna pattern.”

What happened next?

Avoidance was becoming a greater problem in Anna’s life. Things seemed to be getting worse over the next several months. And then…Anna experienced a painful time when she suddenly was suffering the consequences of her avoidance in different areas of life. Within a short period of time, Anna faced serious concerns about her performance at work, and serious damage to her most important (romantic and personal) relationships. The pattern was so clear to see that even Anna was not able to avoid it.

Happy Ending

Luckily Anna heard about a book called Positive Intelligence, and after reading it, she took part in a PQ Mental Fitness Bootcamp where with the support of her coach and her Pod (Bootcamp colleagues), she learned how to increase her mental fitness, intercept the Avoider Saboteur, and embrace her own Sage wisdom.

As our story ends, Anna was able to reclaim her strengths of flexibility, creativity and sense of fun and enjoyment to help her in all aspects of her life, work, and relationships, while learning to turn down the volume of the saboteur’s voice telling her to avoid important tasks. She learned that some tasks are less important and can be delegated or avoided. But the critical ones need to be handled in a timely manner so that she has more enjoyment in her life and less pain and stress. Ironically, it turned out that focusing on eliminating discomfort actually caused her most of her discomfort. Weird how that worked! Life for Anna got much, much better. And for those who cared about her too.

Feedback? Resources

I hope you liked Anna’s story. Poor Anna, I was worried about her! I’m so glad she got a happy ending. Do know anyone like Anna in your own life? Does a colleague or family member have some Avoider Saboteur impact? If you want to learn more about Positive Intelligence and how to overcome your own Saboteurs, here are some more resources.

And…If you curious how much the Avoider Saboteur impacts you, take your Saboteur Assessment here: Saboteurs | Positive Intelligence. You will see what level of impact 0-10 you have for Avoider as well as the other 8 accomplice saboteurs.

·       Contact me: [email protected]. I can help you understand your results.

And you will hear from me soon, to tell the story of the Controller Saboteur and the next hapless saboteur victim in its thrall. Meanwhile, add your comments about Anna’s tale, and thanks for reading!

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