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The "Art" Of Self-Sabotage

Spanner In The Works - Self Sabotage

I don’t know about you but I feel an immense level of satisfaction when I’m able to get up earlier than I need to knowing that I have plenty of time to get ready for whatever I have planned for the day. This extra time allows me to make a "proper" cup of coffee, sit and read the newspaper (yes, I still get a physical newspaper!), watch the news on T.V or have time to make a proper breakfast. So why if I have all this extra time do I end up making the same mistake over-and-over again of leaving the house late and in a mad panicked-rush?

There’s an adage that says "Work expands to fill the time available… and I guess that’s true of my morning routine: just 5 minutes extra in the shower, a 10 minute snooze or 5 more minutes on Facebook – after all, I have all this extra time thanks to getting up early. And then before I know it I’m running late.

This habit of self-sabotage isn’t limited to my morning routine, I quite often mess up my prospects when it comes to work and fun things too. The big questions is why do we do this to ourselves and how can we stop ourselves falling foul of this behaviour in the future?

First we need to understand what self-sabotaging behaviour is to then best understand how to stop it.

What Is Self-Sabotage?

To avoid doing something we must first need to understand what the self-sabotaging bad behaviour is and the damage it can do.

Self-Sabotaging comes in many forms from comfort eating, self-medicating with alcohol and drugs to the most common form of procrastination and the most extreme of self- harm.

The problem with self-sabotaging ourselves is that we know we’re partaking in this behaviour – we can see ourselves doing it in an almost "out-of-body" like experience and yet we still continue on with the process and behaviour.

Self-Sabotage can be as simple as eating "just one more biscuit", thinking you may as well finish of that bottle of wine as there’s "only a glass and a bit left" or having five more minutes on Facebook because after all you got up early so have spare time, right? whatever your guilty bad behaviour is the resulting failure is still the same.

Self-Sabotage stops us from achieving our goals, it’s a form of safety net we can use when things go wrong so we can say "I knew that wasn’t going to work out" even though we’re the ones who have caused the failure in the first place!

So, why do we feel the need to keep exhibiting this behaviour and how can we stop it?

The Main Causes Of Self-Sabotaging Behaviour

The reasons we exhibit this behaviour are simple but understanding them – and the motivations behind them can help us break the chain.

So, what are the causes?

Bad Habits

Sometimes we get into a habit or routine that forms a bad habit rather than a good one. Whether this habit is smoking or drinking (too much depending on your thoughts), eating the wrong foods, sleeping in or not exercising along the plan you’ve set, by doing this you’re setting yourself up for a failure one way or another.

You Don’t Feel Worthy

Maybe you don’t feel you deserve to achieve your goal. Perhaps you feel that you haven’t "earned" the right of achieving what you set out to so you don’t put in 100%, or come up with excuses.

You’re "Used" To Failure

Perhaps for one reason or another in the the past you’ve not met your goal (this is particularly common with smoking or weight loss goals) so because you couldn’t do it before you won’t do it now so it’s "okay to give in".

You’re A Bit Of A Control Freak

Sometimes in order to feel comfortable we feel the need to micro-manage a situation to the extent where we lead ourselves into a situation where we’re so overwhelmed by the details we can’t see things in the "bigger picture". This leads to all sorts of problems as we’re so focused on one thing we don’t see the other problems that are raising their heads.

Fear Of The Unknown

I must admit, this is probably my biggest cause of failure and self-sabotage.

If it’s not comfortable or familiar it’s all too easy to think that you’re not interested enough, it’s not worth your time or it’s not worth doing just in case you fail as you don’t know the layout/circumstances. This is a sure-fire way to self-sabotage as we don’t know all the variables or possible outcomes: you never know, it could be the best thing that’s happened to you. But then again if you don’t try you can’t fail, right?

Not Seeing The "Bigger Picture"

Sometimes, especially if we’re in "control freak" mode, we can’t see the other outcomes and ramifications that our inactions may cause. This leads to problems and issues creeping up on us that helps lead us to our failure.

How Can We Over-Come Self-Sabotaging Behaviours

A lot of the problems behind self-sabotaging behaviour stems from negative thinking and thoughts. We may think things such as:

  • "I can’t cope with change yet"
  • "This is never going to work"
  • "I don’t have the time, I can’t possibly fit it in"
  • "I don’t have the experience or the talent"
  • "I’m not ready"
  • "I don’t deserve this"

All of these negative thoughts are just built around our own insecurities. If we can change these thoughts around and make them positive then we can begin to get out of our self-sabotage rut.

So, what can we do to get out of this self-sabotage routine?

Learn From Your Mistakes

So you spent too long on Facebook one morning, didn’t pre-make your lunch or check the traffic report before you left for work. Learn from what happened in the past and build good routines based on what you should do: make your lunch the night before, get up, check the traffic and relax with the extra time you have left.

Plan In Advance

If you sort all of your plans in advance then you can figure out what your response will be given a certain situation. You’re able to look at all angles of the problem an come up with a variety of contingency plans to cover all eventualities.

Think about the goal. If it’s getting to a job interview on time you may need to think about the weather, traffic, is there parking at the venue? Thinking about these things in advance will stop you falling foul of an avoidable issue and keep the stress at bay.

If we use travelling to an interview as an example you may subconsciously decide that the job isn’t for you, or you wont’ get it so you’ll start the process of self-sabotage without even realising it. You won’t bother to check your route to the interview, check traffic reports or where where you can park near the interview space. That way if you’re late and you make a bad impression it’s not your fault and it’s no big deal – you weren’t going to work there anyway.

Manage Your Expectations

Don’t think you’re going to get the C.E.O position on your first interview. Make sure that your expectations are based in reality.

If you think you’re shooting too high and setting yourself up for failure then reel everything back a bit. You can achieve things too soon which in the long run doesn’t help. Figure out the steps you need to attain your goal – sometimes the smaller the better.

Don’t Be Too Rigid

On occasion we get an idea in our head and we will stick to it no matter how out-of-line with our goals and ideals that thought may be, we carry on with the course of action because we feel it’s the right thing to do in a given situation, or it’s how we’ve always responded in the past.

We need to be flexible in order to understand situations that arise, and desired outcomes may not be an obvious occurrence.

Don’t fear failure

Too often we give up on something because we feel we may not be any good at it, that we can’t achieve our goal for any number of reasons. This links in to learning from mistakes: when we learn and take note from what happened in the past this can the affect future attempts at the same task.

Seek Accountability

Whether you set a goal with others or with yourself, you need to set a manageable expectation that can be achieved. Ask other people to check in with how you’re coping with your new task in hand, or provide yourself with a check-sheet so you can keep track of your own progress – accountability with others is more motivating though so consider that option first.

Keep A Log

Following on from keeping accountability, if you are beholden to yourself the you need a way to keep track of your progress so whether that be a calendar, notes or online form of tracking you need to keep a log of your progress.

Keeping a log will also alert you of any patterns of behaviour that may be causing your failure to achieve your goal.

Lower Your Expectations

Are you setting the bar too high too soon?

Some things need time to be worked on and achieved. Rome wasn’t built in a day and following that you won’t learn mandarin in a week.

May sure that your expectations meet your desired goals in terms of time and effort spent.

Key Take Away: You Are Your Own Worst Enemy

Whatever your fears, and whatever obstacle you may put in your own way to achieving your goals remember that you are the only person that can stop that from happening.

If you recognise your behaviours as bad habits and link them to the failed outcomes then you can start to build up a mechanism for overcoming these issues in the future

How you get over your procrastination and in-action is your choice (although if I were you I’d sign-up to my mailing list for some great free downloads)

Over To You

I hope you’ve found this post useful. If you have any questions or comments please post them below, drop me a tweet or use the contact form on the website.

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