By Laura Gordon

Workplaces have enough challenges without us having to deal with saboteurs – but unfortunately, they’re there.

Sometimes colleagues are the culprits – draining the productive energy from the workplace with negativity or sabotaging one another through competitiveness or jealousy.

Sometimes it’s even bosses, like those who sabotage their teams through poorly defined communication or goals, whether intentional or not.

But did you know your biggest saboteurs, the ones that hamper you from being your best, are often created by you?

Your inner critic can be your worst enemy so it’s important that you learn to recognise it, so you can stop it from stifling your true potential.

That’s the secret to being happier, more capable and unleashing the real “magnificent you”, according to highly renowned author and Stanford lecturer, Shirzad Chamine.

His TED talk outlined his challenging and violent ghetto upbringing, admitting it made him judge himself as unworthy of love, as well as harshly judging those around him.

He said it took nearly three decades to realise this inner "judge" was like an invisible lens distorting his reality. And in his research he discovered a whole range of self-created saboteurs, which sometimes originate as coping mechanisms – like being controlling in order to feel safer, or playing the victim to seek attention.

I found his honest and often humorous talk so interesting and inspiring, I decided to enrol myself on a seven-week course which he led.

I’ll admit I like to be in control, and this can have all manner of positive benefits. But I was encouraged also to look at the potential negative impacts in order to best mitigate them.

This might include recognising and accepting that some situations are uncontrollable rather than letting them breed anxiety. Or recognising that others will feel resentful if they feel "controlled" and taking stock of this when working with others.

I can also be restless – I’m not in my comfort zone if I’m not busy – and this can be a real asset at times, making me very productive. But I was reminded that it’s important to take a step back and be present in the "now" as well as getting ready for what’s next.

I find that mindfulness is a wonderful tool for achieving that.

Something as simple as taking two minutes just to breathe, collect yourself and rebalance can be extremely powerful. f you’re feeling overwhelmed or harassed it can be the perfect way to lower your heart rate and reprogramme your thoughts.

Diarising and reflecting on how things have played out can also be useful.

Of course, everybody has their own saboteurs and yours may be different entirely, so the key here is self-awareness. earn what they are and you’ll learn how to tackle them head on.

Another expert who talks about a similar concept is Professor Steve Peters, bestselling author of The Chimp Paradox. He discusses our irrational behaviours (which he likens to a chimp) versus our rational behaviours – and he points out that while you can’t control your chimp, you can still manage how you behave as a result.

The course I attended, and The Chimp Paradox have two things in common, in that they put the spotlight on mental fitness rather than physical fitness.

We all know eating well, sleeping properly and exercising are important but let me assure you, mental fitness is just as important. Neglecting it can have a knock-on effect on your physical health too.

So, the next time you think about self-care, make sure mind management and self-awareness are factored into your "training" regime and you’ll unlock a world of potential.

Laura Gordon is a CEO coach and group chair with Vistage International, a global leadership development network for CEOs