Image by Aarón Blanco Tejedor
Self sabotage: when we do (or don’t do) things that stop us achieving our goals. It’s when we overeat when we want to be dieting, when we don’t study when we know the qualification will open doors for us, or when we don’t write that blog post or call that recruiter even though we know it’s exactly what we need to do next. It looks crazy from the outside but somehow our minds are able to contort around the contradiction and get comfortable with it. There are lots of reasons why we self-sabotage, but here are three popular types and some suggestions on how to break the cycle:
There is something about it that scares you
This is such a funny one and hard to catch in action as its happening. Much easier to spot when you reflect back on things, especially if its more of a pattern than a one-off. Examples would be: spending so long on job applications, you miss the submission date or setting such a high bar for what you do that nothing quite gets to it - so you end up not doing anything.
If this feels familiar, ask yourself the following questions:
Out of alignment with your values or beliefs
I find this comes up a lot with people I work with. There is a part of them that actually doesn’t want what they say they want. An example of this is someone who is unwilling to put themselves forward for a promotion because they have a belief that their boss will recognise and reward them for the great work they have been doing. This may also be fuelled by having values like “respect” and “fairness” that they assume drives other people’s thinking.
What I find helps is to explore those values and beliefs and see how they could map better to the person’s hopes and dreams. For example, helping them recognise that their boss is unable to be fair and respect them if they continue to keep their ambitions a secret or forget to remind their boss of their underused skills or unobserved achievements. I worked with someone who was totally unable to complete a task they declared was really important to them because somewhere in their minds was the thought that they would give up something else they thought was important. When we exposed this thinking, it turns out that there was a way to keep this important element in their lives and they completed the task in record time.
Waiting for the muse to strike
When I decide I want to do something like write a blog post, lose a couple of pounds or go to the gym after a long (multi-year!) break, I often get lost in preparing. My best avoider technique is “researching”, which I insist on, however trivial the topic. That can allow days to slip by and even weeks if I’m not careful. The danger here is that there is always some reason why ‘today’ and ‘now’ are never the right time.
If any of this sounds familiar, you, like me, need to get underneath this kind of procrastination if you want to get around it. You will have more success with yourself if you stop letting your inner spoiled child take the upper hand. Tell yourself that no one dies from lack of cake and, equally, all writers say the best way to write is to start writing. Enough with the fooling around. You need to push through by channeling your Victorian grandmother. This approach works for the times when we know what to do but just need a bit of self discipline.
Stopping self sabotage can be challenging. It can help to get some support with breaking old habits and behaviours. I can help. I work with a tool that has an incredible track record to help people recognise their saboteur thinking and introduce new, lifelong thought patterns. Want to know more? Book some time with me and I can answer any questions you might have.
25 years experience in helping teams build user centred products and services, now helping digital colleagues find their happy path at work