You have big goals. You have big dreams. Perhaps your goal has been to lose 50 pounds, or start a side hustle. But something always prevents you from getting started, or achieving your goal.
Months or years pass and you either haven’t started, or you haven’t finished what you set out to do.
The most likely culprit is self-sabotaging behavior. And for many of us, our self-defeating actions – basically, getting in our own way – goes unnoticed. Our lives drift further and further from what we really want.
What Is Self-Sabotage?
Self-sabotaging behavior is any action that gets in the way of achieving our goals.
If your goal is to lose 50 pounds, binge eating a box of cookies or skipping the gym are self-sabotaging.
If your goal is to start a business, then catching up on your favorite Netflix show, or putting off getting started is a sure way to sabotage your goal.
Why Do We Self-Sabotage Our Goals?
There are several reasons why we sabotage our success.
The big one is that we are naturally wired to resist discomfort. There’s a big part of us that craves comfort, and familiarity. When we have a goal that takes us outside of that comfort and familiarity, we feel deep resistance – even if we truly WANT our goal.
As miserable as it feels, being 50-100 pounds overweight is simply easier, and more comfortable, than making a permanent shift in our diet and sweating it with workouts that we’re not accustomed to – for an extended length of time.
Starting a business pushes you out of your comfort zone. But it is far more comfortable to just keep collecting a steady paycheck at a job you absolutely hate, and then numb that feeling of dissatisfaction and lack of fulfillment with “retail therapy”, shutting your brain off with TV, or playing games.
We justify our self-sabotaging behavior with excuses: “I can’t work out because I have a bad knee, or I can’t afford a trainer.” “I can’t start a business now because I don’t have time/a supportive spouse/the know-how.”
Impostor Syndrome is another reason we self-sabotage. Impostor Syndrome strikes people who are moving into a new, unfamiliar space of success or power.
Our fear is that we are not actually qualified, or suitable for our new position. We feel that we might be a fraud, and will be exposed, or fail.
This, of course, is a mindset issue, and often does not reflect the true situation.
It is normal to feel uncomfortable, and to even question our abilities, when we take on responsibility and influence that we are not accustomed to. And then it’s all to easy to sabotage what we’ve achieved by playing small, or quitting.
A sense of inadequacy is a symptom of impostor syndrome, and if we feel inadequate, if we don’t truly believe that we deserve the success we want (or achieved), we’ll retreat to a more familiar, comfortable place by sabotaging our success.
Three Tactics To Overcome Self-Sabotage
I don’t think that it is possible to completely overcome self-sabotage. It is a deeply rooted human behavior. I do it, and we often see highly successful people exhibit self-sabotaging behavior from time to time.
However, self-sabotage can be managed and minimized.
One way to overcome self-sabotage is to become mindful of it. Simply becoming aware of your own behaviors that block you from achieving the goals you want in life is powerful.
Some of these behaviors are obvious. Watching TV or playing a video game instead of working on growing your blog or business is an obvious self-sabotaging behavior.
But so is procrastination. So is justifying why you can’t do something with excuses like lack of education/knowledge, not living in the right city, or knowing the right people.
Spending money on things that give you a rush of temporary happiness is a clear sign that you are self-sabotaging your goals.
For the next 7 days, commit to keeping a journal and write down three things you want to accomplish each day. If you don’t accomplish all three tasks, explore (in writing) what prevented you from completing your three goals for that day?
What took up your time? How did you feel when it was time to work on these tasks? What did you do instead? Why?
2) Stack Empowering Beliefs, Challenge Limiting Beliefs
Stack your beliefs. Since self-sabotaging behavior is often tied to feelings of low-self worth, or inadequacy, you can manage limiting behaviors by tackling your limiting beliefs.
A great way to do this is to take your journal and write down at least 50 achievements that you have made in your life. Some people call this a “brag book”.
However, these achievements do not need to be epic. They can be simple things, too. Did you graduate high school? Did you go to college? Did you lose 25 pounds 10 years ago? Did you do all three of your tasks yesterday?
Write down every single thing that you have accomplished in your life, from childhood to now, and don’t judge whether or not they are truly significant. Just keep listing until you have at least 50 achievements on the page.
3) Overcome Perfectionism
Done, Not Perfect. Another way to overcome self-sabotaging behaviors is to overcome perfectionism.
The way that perfectionists sabotage their efforts is when they either give up, or they destroy what they’ve accomplished when they veer off course.
For example, if you are on a strict diet and you cave into temptation and eat a donut, you’re much more likely to completely go off your diet for the rest of the day. (The thought process is this: “Well, I already screwed up and ate a donut for breakfast, so it doesn’t matter what else I eat today.”)
Tracy and I have seen this happen over and over in our years of coaching people with health and weight loss. And I’ll admit, we’ve done this ourselves – numerous times!
For bloggers, this might manifest as spending copious amounts of time perfecting the design of their website. Or spending hours reading every bit of marketing advice on the Internet to get assurance, but they aren’t actually growing their business.
Or maybe they do a product launch that fails, so they give up instead of learning from the experience, doubling down on their dream, and getting resourceful by figuring out what went wrong and getting help fixing it.
Self-sabotage is a subconscious behavior. We don’t necessarily choose to derail our trajectory toward success. We never choose to move away from our goals rather than towards them.
It takes effort and commitment to become mindful of our self-sabotaging behavior, and willingness to embrace discomfort to challenge these behaviors.