Know Your Payoff

by Mark Ivar Myhre on November 8, 2010

The main energy that stops us from having more success in our lives is our payoff.   (Or payoffs.)

Knowing your payoff helps clear the pathway in front of you; it sets the stage for any technique such as forgiveness to be more effective.  Or at the very least, it gives you a clear target; it gives you something to focus on… something to handle.  Something to end.

So what exactly is a payoff? It’s like a bribe you’re getting paid under the table.  It’s what you secretly pay yourself.  It’s what you secretly want to happen – what you secretly INTEND to have happen – even though you may say otherwise.

“I say I want success but secretly I have NO INTENTION of succeeding.”

We all have some sort of secret payoff of one kind or another.  They’re just too enticing.

It takes courage to admit you even have one (or more).  But unless you’ve worked consciously (and diligently!) to end them, they WILL be present in your life.  They’re too insidious.

The more loudly I proclaim I have no payoff, the harder it will be for me to change things.  And in fact, that’s the whole purpose of having payoffs in the first place – to prevent change.

Study the following list of the major payoffs and see if any hit home with you:

1. Avoid something.

Usually, it comes down to avoiding intimacy, love, happiness, gratitude, ownership and/or responsibility.

We all have a tendency to avoid responsibility in one form or another; at one time or another.  If success stands as a matter of choice – if I hold the power to create it or not, that means I must be responsible for my success.  It’s up to me.  And that’s a scary thought.

Plus, I might have to be grateful; or I might become happy.  Or maybe I risk feeling intimate with someone or something.

It’s so much easier to believe the world holds power over me.  Then I get to avoid responsibility and avoid dealing with the world in a mature way.  I get to avoid making choices.  I get to avoid taking a stand.  I get to avoid the intimacy that might expose me and humiliate me.

When you look at it that way, avoidance doesn’t seem so bad!  Who wants to risk humiliation?  Maybe the lack of success isn’t so bad after all…

But there’s a price to pay for avoidance: you never live up to your potential.    Basically, it’s the POSITIVE energies we avoid – even though we call it avoiding the fear and the pain.

2. Blame.

When you don’t succeed, you get to blame anything and everything under the sun:

“It’s the world.  It’s my parents’ fault.  It’s the terrorists, the communists, the liberals, the angry drivers, the Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the neighbors, the lack of affordable health care, the trial lawyers…  it’s THEIR fault!”

Some people become addicted to blame, and couldn’t go a day without it.  A day without blame becomes like a day without sunshine.  (Or a day without misery!)

Blame, like any other payoff, compares to getting a brand new American Express card, going hog-wild with it, and never giving a thought as to how you’ll pay it back.  It’s a cheap thrill to blame, until the bill comes due.

The price you pay for blame: You find it much harder to love or accept yourself.  Your confidence lags, and your ambition suffers.  And you give your power away to the object of your blame.  It’s like reaching into your wallet, pulling out your money, and giving it to whomever or whatever you’re blaming.

3. Righteousness and entitlement.

When you don’t have success in your life, you get to justify ANYthing – any behavior you want – because, hey – “I really AM failing here!”  I can be as righteous as I want, and hide behind my failures.

I have the right to do anything I want because I’m entitled due to my failure.

“I really am a victim – and now somebody owes me something!”

It’s fun to be righteous, in a pathetic sort of way.  But the price?  You’re not being real.  It makes you a phony.

Plus, you have to stay angry, hurt and scared.  You have to be miserable, and you have to stay miserable.  But at least that’s your right…  you have the right to be in misery.

4. The ego guarantee.

This payoff, while seeming a little obtuse, can actually be the most stubborn.  Basically it means “I’m not going to open my eyes to look at the beautiful sunset until you prove to me it’s there.”

It’s demanding a guarantee before you’ll even take action.  It involves creating an impossible condition that must be met before you’ll do anything.

“I’m not going to try this technique until you prove to me it will work.”     Despite the perverted satisfaction it may bring, the price you pay is the inability to DO and to BE whatever you want.

5. Self-pity.

Lack of success offers the perfect opportunity to feel sorry for yourself.  Who could blame you?  People really will give you sympathy when you’ve failed.    It’s a match made in Heaven!  (Well, made somewhere… )

“Poor me, my life is such a mess. I feel so sorry for myself…”

Failure is bad enough by itself, but when you open a bottle of pity and – glug, glug, glug – pour it all over yourself, then you really become weak… and helpless… and rooted to the spot.

Self-pity resembles a drug that helps numb you out; like a painkiller.  It can take the edge off the failure.  But feeling sorry for yourself comes with a price – you must abandon self-love and self-esteem.  Plus, pity is highly addictive.

It’s impossible to feel love when you’re feeling pity.  Plus, you ain’t getting NUTHIN’ done!  Nothing good comes from self pity.

6. Nobility of struggle.

We’ve all been taught – and indeed it’s well understood – struggle is a good thing. “It builds character” and all that nonsense.  “It’s noble to struggle.  It’s how you get ahead in the world.”

We don’t mind someone else having more money, more success, etc. than we do – as long as they had to struggle to get it.  But if they didn’t struggle – oh, how we hate ’em!

Struggle holds little (if any) value.  Remember, struggle amounts to wasted effort.

You waste your time when you struggle.

The nobility of struggle rates as a big fat lie.  The message behind struggle says – “I’m not good enough.  I don’t deserve.”

Feeling ‘not good enough’ and thinking you don’t deserve stand as the twin pillars of struggle.  And since we’ve all had our deservability and the ‘enough-ness’ beaten out of us in one way or another – struggle starts looking pretty darn attractive.

And like a drunken sailor on shore leave, we don’t stop to question the consequences.  “What’s really gonna happen if I struggle?”  The bottom line: struggle blinds me to my own value and all that attends that value.

7. Manipulation and control.

People manipulate because they don’t believe in themselves or their value.   Usually, it’s a cheap way to punish someone else, or to punish yourself.

I want to make you feel guilty – or else I want to feel guilty myself, so I don’t have to look at my responsibility.

“I failed and I want you to fix it.”

“I want you to be responsible for my life.”

The message being: I stated the problem, now YOU deal with it.

Many people manipulate others and even themselves.  It’s just so tempting, and so EASY.  It’s like taking candy from a baby.

And what about control?  People attempt to control out of a fear of losing love.  Control always comes out of the fear of loss.

If I’m afraid you’ll leave me, then I’ll attempt to control you.  Too bad it never works…

8. Prove something.

Many, many people hold the payoff of wanting to prove something.  Many believe it’s better to reaffirm what they ‘know’ than to learn something new (or to even let things be different).

“See? Told you so!! I knew it wouldn’t work. Just like I thought.”

Many would like to prove they really are a victim because of events from their past.

“My parents made me this way…”

“My ex-husband did it to me – and my fear proves it.  Look how scared I am.”

Rigid.  Judgmental.  Stubborn.  Lacking perception and wisdom.  Punishing.   Despite all these features, many people stand determined to prove something with their failures – and it’s always something detrimental.

(Why not prove what a wonderful gift this life is?  Think how much fun that would be!)

The price of proving something?  It locks you in place.  It’s hard to see the big picture.  It’s hard to express your talents.  It keeps you from growing and changing.

In fact, all these payoffs keep you locked into place.  And they’re all designed to keep you from knowing the wonder of responsibility and fun.

And please understand; everyone has payoffs.  It doesn’t make you a bad person; it shows you’re a human being.

The day I admitted my payoffs was the day my life changed direction, at least slightly.  It didn’t end the payoffs.  I didn’t stop doing it, or even slow down, for that matter.  (At least not right away.)

Instead, it helped me get my bearings.  It helped align me in the direction I really wanted to go towards in life.  It helped me in my journey home.  I just had to be okay with even having a payoff.

I had to love myself enough, I had to believe in myself enough, to even admit I had a secret reason for not succeeding in life.  Once I admitted my pity and manipulation, then everything shifted ever so slightly.

Payoffs are insidious.  Even admitting you have one can be a difficult proposition.  If you can see no payoff, it keeps the fear more nebulous, more of a mystery.  It keeps success out of reach.  You can see it, but you can’t touch it or have it.

But if you do see and admit to yourself that you have a payoff or two, it gives you one more handle on your fear.  It shifts the focus, the emphasis, and the power – FROM the fear and TO you.  You become the focus and the power.

If you have a payoff, then you also have the power to change things. If you have no payoff, then there’s little you can do to change.

If you have a payoff you can admit to, then you’ve taken a vital step to changing your life in a positive way.

For more information on how to work with and end your payoffs, go to –

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