Self-Sabotage: End It To Win It! Success is an elusive beast. No matter what type of goal you are pursuing– relationship, financial, fitness, career, etc.—you will encounter obstacles. That is a fact. However, for most people the biggest obstacle blocking their path to success is them. The University of Scranton, Journal of Clinical Psychology conducted a study to determine the number of people that actually achieve their New Year’s Resolution. The research determined that an astounding 92% of people who make resolutions fail to stick to them. This rate of failure is steeped in a lack of and waning motivation and counterproductive habits—like staying up too late, playing computer games instead of working or spending money frivolously in lieu of paying bills on time. If you ever find yourself asking, “why do I keep doing this to myself?” You are indeed sabotaging yourself.
You are sabotaging your own success.
From the moment you set a goal, you subconsciously engage in behaviors that are designed to impede your progress. As humans, we have an inherent inclination to self-sabotage. The tell-tale sign that you are your own saboteur is when your progress grinds to a halt for no apparent reason. The skill, ability and desire are present, but some intangible inhibits your ability to move forward. Do you recognize any of these sabotaging behaviors?
- Dwelling on “What If…” and “If only…”
- Fear: fear of success, fear of failure, fear of change, fear of what others think, etc.
- Self-doubt and low self-esteem
- Procrastination: “I’ll start it tomorrow”
- Negative self-talk
In an inspiring video commencement speech, actor and comedian Jim Carrey explained our inclination to inhibit our own success this way: “You can spend your whole life imagining ghosts, worrying about the pathway to the future, but all there will ever be is what’s happening here and the decisions we make in this moment… So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect, so we never dare to ask the universe for it.”
Ending the Cycle of Self-Sabotage
Whatever your personal self-sabotaging behavior is, you MUST overcome it if you want to make the most of your career, relationships, health, wealth and become the best version of yourself. Below are four practical steps to end the cycle of self-sabotage and engage in winning behaviors:
1. Break large goals into small manageable chunks.
Large goals are accomplished incrementally. Research shows that the most effective way of accomplishing your most difficult goals is by focusing on more easily achievable, measurable and results-oriented objectives. When setting your goals, make sure they follow the SMART framework. Your goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable Relevant and Timely. Once you reach one goal, immediately begin working towards the next. This allows you to leverage the powerful momentum that positive achievement brings.
2. Don’t rely on willpower
Self-help gurus and life coaches claim that if you want something bad enough you can achieve it. And that just isn’t true. You can’t simply will your way to success. If willpower was enough, we would all be millionaire superstars, with rock hard abs and the perfect mate. We all want it—but very few of us are able to do what it takes to achieve it. In a survey released by the American Psychological Association, lack of willpower and loss of motivation were the top reasons people cited for failing to make positive changes. The portion of the brain responsible for willpower is easily overloaded and exhausted. Instead of merely trying to “will” your way to success, researchers suggest targeting and training other parts of the brain responsible for linking positive emotions to new habits by conditioning yourself to new behaviors.
3. Eliminate self-deprecation and negative self-talk
When you allow yourself to engage in negative self-talk, you erode your self-confidence and self-esteem. And with every failed attempt, slip up and misstep, you feed your negative thoughts and validate your own doubts. You convince yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t chase this dream. And as you continue spiraling down, you become more frustrated, discouraged, angry, disillusioned and despondent. These feelings imprison and paralyze you. You find yourself trapped and unable to move forward and break free. As you hear the negative conversation beginning within your mind, try to pause and write down all your negative thoughts, however silly or unrealistic they may seem. Challenge and counter each thought you’ve written down with a positive one. This process disproves your negative theories and quiets worry and fear. It allows you to question your assumptions, put them in the proper perspective and align them with positive beliefs about what you can accomplish. It is a conscious and active assault that will quiet the negativity and allow you to keep moving forward.
4. Celebrate small wins
In order to win big, you must establish a habit of winning. Your brain needs to win and it needs to win often. The book, The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work proves how powerful celebrating small victories can be. Authors, Theresa Amabile and Steve Kramer of the Harvard Business Review conducted a study of 238 employees from seven different companies. The study measured the impact that acknowledging small victories has on long-term and sustained success. The study showed that tracking and celebrating small milestones, enhanced motivation, increased positive emotions and attitudes and improved overall performance and comradery. Psychologists have found that any accomplishment–no matter how small–activates the reward circuitry of your brain. When this pathway is opened, key chemicals are released giving you a feeling of achievement and a sense of pride.
When your skills, beliefs and behaviors are aligned, you position yourself to do whatever you set your mind to. By placing yourself in a more centered state of mind, you are better able to go after our goals and cope with any worries, fears and doubts that may arise. You can control and shape your own destiny, rather than live one prescribed to you by your fears.