How self-sabotage could be preventing you from achieving your goals

Are you holding yourself back from achieving your goals? Discover four common ways we self-sabotage – and how to stop.

Most people will have a well-rounded idea of what is meant by self-sabotage. Often, we’re easily able to observe a friend, loved one or colleague’s behaviour and identify the aspects which are self-sabotaging. Where appropriate we’re capable of taking them to one side and having a conversation to help them try and understand and address where they might be subconsciously holding themselves back.

However, when it comes to self-reflection in light of self-sabotage, we’re usually not so good at firstly acknowledging we’re indulging in self-sabotage, and secondly, identifying exactly which behaviours are resulting in our own self-sabotage.

We’re experts at convincing ourselves that we haven’t fallen victims to these behaviours, and often fail to address and correct them. This can be especially true when we’re building a new business or seeking to elevate our current career pursuits.

What is self-sabotage?

Self-sabotage is defined as any behaviour that gets in the way of your intent, goals or long term plans. This could be anything from sticking to a new diet or overcoming debt, to starting a new business or ending a relationship.

Self-sabotaging behaviours can take many forms, and they’re often quite subtle. They creep into our lives without us noticing and build from there, creating a well of self-defeating habits that are difficult to overcome.

If you’re feeling stuck in a rut, your to-do list is never ending or you feel restless over the lack of progression with a task or project you want to move with, you could be indulging in self-sabotaging without even realising it.

Four ways we self-sabotage (and how to stop)

To help you stop holding yourself back from the goals you want to achieve, here are four common ways we self-sabotage – and how to overcome them.

1) Procrastination

Do you often find yourself putting things off? Does something more ‘urgent’ always come up that means you miss that deadline to apply for your dream job, or that grant to boost to your business?

Did you miss the cut off for enrolling on that leadership course because work suddenly got hectic? Or maybe you don’t want to start that new fitness regime until the start of a new month?

This is procrastination, and it’s one of the biggest ways in which we self-sabotage. By prioritising other, less important, activities, our goals and plans are put on a permanent hiatus.

How to overcome procrastination

Procrastination is one of the most commonly identified self-sabotaging behaviours. If you find yourself overindulging in this one, make sure you start implementing ways to overcome it.

Positive affirmations are a great way to motivate yourself to get things done. Create a list of at least three things you can achieve in one day and stick to them. If you can achieve those three things that help you move further towards your bigger goals, than you will have been successful.

This simple exercise is also a brilliant way to stop procrastinating over work projects or tasks.

2) A negative mindset

We’re all sometimes inclined towards negativity bias; a negative mindset is one of the hardest things to spot in ourselves, and it’s often someone else pointing it out that shakes us up and gets us out of our funk.

Even when we’re moving from success to success, it only takes one misstep to makes us feel like a complete failure. If you’re a high achiever, it’s easy to dismiss a pile of positives in favour of focusing on one negative.

How to overcome a negative mindset

Surround yourself with people who can tell you honestly when you’re being negative! Make sure you give them permission to snap you out of it and call you out on negativity bias.

If you feel your mind slipping towards the negative, take a break. Make a list of all the good things and wins you’ve had in the past week, month or year and remind yourself of all the good you’ve achieved.

3) Feeling your achievements aren’t deserved

Imposter syndrome is a real pain in the proverbial. If you suffer from this form of self-sabotage it might take a lot to overcome it, but it can be done!

For those plagued by imposter system it often feels like the higher you climb, or the more success you gain, the further you have to fall when you eventually do fail. It’s really difficult to comprehend the idea that you won’t fail, and that your success has not only been hard earned, but is also well deserved.

How to overcome these feelings

Think about all the things you put into place to get to where you are. All the long hours, the commitment to professional and personal development. Make a list of all the tangible actions you created to get you to where you wanted to be.

This will help you build a solid foundation in your mind of how hard you worked to get to where you are. Employ the assistance of a mentor who can help you understand why you deserve to be where you are – and help you identify new areas to work on too.

4) Focusing on perfection over getting it done

We all want to do our best work, there’s no question about that, but perfectionism can actually be self-sabotaging when taken too far.

The trouble with perfectionism is that it’s never ending. You can spend hours going back and forth, tweaking, editing, re-tweaking, starting from scratch – it’s a vicious circle.

Perfectionism becomes self-sabotaging if you find you’re never meeting those deadlines because of it, or if you’re putting off doing something because you’re waiting for the ‘perfect moment’. If you’re missing out on achieving your goals because you don’t think what you’re producing is ‘good enough’ you are in fact self-sabotaging your chances of success.

How to overcome perfectionism

Understand why perfectionism is so important to you. Often our ideas of self worth are tangled up tight in the work we do.

Rejection and failure can be debilitating when this is the case, so our focus on being perfect rather than getting things done can be a way of protecting ourselves from this. In doing so however, you deny yourself access to some of the biggest learning opportunities that are only available to us through rejection and failure.

Working on accepting that failure is a wonderful part of your personal and professional growth is a great way to overcome this one. (Read five surprising reasons why you should fall in love with failure.)

How are you self-sabotaging?

Do any of the above sound familiar? The good news is that once you start to shine a light on how you might be self-sabotaging, you can start putting in place positive actions to overcome these behaviours and start progressing with your goals!

Make sure you invite friends to help you on your journey to combatting self-sabotage, and take stock regularly of how far you’ve come in whatever it is you’re aiming for.

Elaine Mead is a passionate education and careers consultant, and is particularly interested in empowering young women to be their professional best. You can follow her on Twitter and read more of her articles on medium.