Self-sabotage is “any behavior, action, or thought-pattern that prevents you from getting what you want or being the person you want to be.” Most of us self-sabotage at one time or another: we decline an opportunity because we don’t feel we’re worthy, we continue a bad habit, we stay at a crummy job, we hang on to people who aren’t good for us. We let our self discipline go on hiatus. Sometimes we maintain or repeat these behaviors, creating a destructive cycle which jeopardizes any chance of future success.
Even when we do realize we are stuck in the cycle, we can be distracted away from simple things that will allow us to jump off the hamster wheel of self-sabotage. For example, if we are focused on beating ourselves up for the repetitive mistakes, it can be overwhelming to change them. Maybe we save face by justifying our behavior to ourselves and others, allowing the cycle to continue. Or we continue to make poor decisions because, subconsciously, we feel we don’t deserve the results that would occur from making better ones. These compensating behaviors may seem like simple things to change, but they manifest in such complex ways that we’re overpowered.
Thankfully, there are ways to break away from the cycle of self-defeating behavior, but first they require awareness and self discipline. If you recognize that you may be sabotaging yourself, try any or all of the following simple things to escape the cycle and live the life you deserve:
1. Stop Aiming for Perfection
It’s human nature to avoid negative circumstances, but if we perceive anything less than perfection as undesirable, we’re in big trouble. Why, then, do so many of us aim for completely perfect circumstances before we’ll take a risk? Hello? No one is perfect, but there is someone who could be perfect for you if you’re still single. The timing for a new business venture will never be as perfect as right now. You or the next guy will never be perfectly prepared to make that sales cold call, but the person who does call the prospect has a better chance of making the sale.
2. Don’t Focus on the Money
Here’s why Pete and I don’t worry about money so much anymore: When you’re worried about money, you don’t do your best work. Business or personal, you can’t focus on giving your best to building a relationship in which you’ll be an ally or a trusted adviser if you’re thinking about how much you’re going to make out of the deal. If you just “have to make this sale,” your buyer can smell that a mile away and you’ll exit the meeting empty-handed. Whether you’re a believer in the Law of Attraction or not, it pays to have faith that there will always be enough provided you are doing your best with your “right people.” While “do what you love and the money will follow” may be too simplistic, we can tell you from personal experience that feeling desperate about money will compromise behavior and decisions.
3. Quit Playing it So Safe
Simple things that we’ve always understood to be truisms deserve a second look now. Are you really more secure in a corporate job? Is it always safer to keep your options open? Many times we tell ourselves that more research = more choices = more freedom when we’re really avoiding commitment. Playing it safe is more often procrastinating against growth and progress in our book. Stop coming from a place of lack – feeling like you should protect what you have – and practice coming from a place of abundance – in which you realize there is always more available if needed, which will give you more confidence to proceed.
4. Ditch the “Should”
A lot of the messaging we’ve internalized is irrelevant. We’ve been conditioned to believe that we should get a certain amount of education, pursue certain types of careers, live in certain kinds of places, and behave in certain ways. If all this is so great, why are we so unhappy? Donna Freedman thinks other people’s ideas are keeping us where we don’t want to be.
How many of us have been told that we should settle down? What does that mean, anyway? Stop being disruptive by comparison with an average or something? We should make a bunch of money so that we could buy a house, a couple of cars, send the kids to college and be set to retire, right? This work-spend cycle is a hamster wheel, too. How’s that working out for you?
5. Confront Reality
Too often we’re finding that what may have worked in the past has no bearing on today’s reality. Wishing things were different doesn’t make them so. Yet, so many people self-sabotage because they act as though their idealized version of life is reality. If things really are so great, why is it that you don’t want to wake up and go to work in the morning?
An honest assessment of conditions in Stockdale’s POW experience would be far more than most people could withstand. Yet, it was imperative to muster the self discipline he describes in order to distinguish false hope from faith in oneself. Someone who is married to the wrong person may go on for years expecting their spouse to change, a form of self-sabotage that ensures their own happiness is on the back burner. Why should one spouse have so much power over the other’s lack of fulfillment? Others tell themselves that “someday” they’ll start their own business. If things are good enough to consider doing in the future, ask yourself what’s wrong with now?
6. Star in a Second Act
Any playwright will tell you Act I merely sets the stage. What do you really want to do? What does your ideal lifestyle look like? Consider yourself in Intermission. Think of simple things you can change right now to get where you’d like to be, and then incorporate an extended vision. Go for what Ramit Sethi describes as “Quick Wins” – the initial positive feedback that is so motivating. Then, he advises, focus on a Big Win: one of two or three things that would give you disproportionate rewards.
When we first thought about achieving location independence, we looked short and long term. Identifying the steps we had to take right now and where we wanted to be in several years kept our eye on the prize, but also allowed us to feel like we were regularly accomplishing. If you are having trouble translating your dreams into a concrete blueprint, consider hiring a coach to give you the necessary focus to write your Second Act.
This is an opportunity to make a transformation. You are the one who is responsible for your own life. Seek a new career, act on a dream you’ve deferred, experience the adventure you crave! Stop the self-sabotage cycle and make your break!