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Self-Sabotage: 3 Sneaky Ways You Block Your Own Success

You’re the Problem

Here’s why I’m writing this. A lot of great people I meet in life are working and working - but not quite getting anywhere.

It feels like someone’s pushing them back the second they start to level up.

And of course, someone is shoving them back. It’s them. SELF. SABOTAGE.

I see self-sabotage all over the place. (Even in own my mirror sometimes.) It’s no crime. But it’s something you can and should address.

So - what is self-sabotage?

Well, says it’s when we allow certain habits “to continually undermine our success and happiness…when we do something that gets in the way of our intent, or of our bigger dreams and goals.”

Sounds about right. But I think another feature of most self-sabotage is that it’s super sneaky.

Self-Sabotage Is Usually Hiding in Plain Sight

The tough thing about our self-sabotaging behaviors is that we don’t usually know we’re doing it. We may be aware of the biggies - like procrastination, perfectionism, stuff like that.

But self-sabotage usually wears subtler colors. And all we’ll know is that something’s not working.

In this blog, I want to shine some light on three self-sabotaging behaviors that don’t get as much attention.

To be clear - I’m not going to solve them all right here - not in one blog. But this is the first step. Because you can’t work on what you don’t see. So. I’ve plucked 3 sneaky, but common, self-sabotaging behaviors.

These are regular characters in the self-sabotage drama. So be on the lookout.

1. It’s All About the Goal

So much is made of goal setting and ambition - that we kind of set ourselves up for this one. And - yes - goals are awesome. They’re necessary. But they can, also, be a stealthy source of self-sabotage.

Setting too much stock in goals can leave you defining your quality of life by some far-away finish line. And not investing in the journey now.

And I hate to break it to you but…your life is mostly made of the journey.

When we over-invest in the endpoint, we make bad decisions about how we spend our actual days. We make unrealistic demands on the workweek. We can even build a whole business model that we hate - because we think the end will be worth it.

Ironically, this can actually bar you from hitting your goals- because you build a day-to-day business you dread.

You self-sabotage your progress by making the road itself unbearable.

Self-Sabotage and Starvation Mode

When you’re on the journey you spend more time approaching the goal than hitting it.

If you invest too much in the endpoint, that can feel like your starving for something all the time. This “starvation” makes a lot of folks pretend they’re wealthy now - in unhealthy ways.

This goal obsessed self-sabotage can trigger binge spending, self-medicating, or anything that makes it feel like you’ve already crossed the finish line.

The solution here is to build a journey that you love.

Make the work a big part of the reward. Create a life that’s meaningful not just in the payout, but in the doing.

And try to sample your goals in realistic, intentional, and affirming ways. If you want to own your own sailboat - go on the lake from time to time. Feel the joy that’s encoded in that goal without using it like a narcotic.

Not only will you have a better chance of getting somewhere if you attend to your journey. You’ll always be in a place you like to be.

2. You Can’t Learn What You Refuse to Learn

A key to success in business is learning. Not everyone loves that. And a lot of entrepreneurs self-sabotage out of a basic fear of the truth.

Folks, if you can’t look at your work honestly and see the holes - you don’t belong in business. Period.

This kind of self-sabotage takes a couple of different forms.

  • An owner who won’t be questioned, criticized, or swayed. They cannot be wrong.

  • An owner who hides from the market. If no one sees them, they can’t screw up.

  • An owner who tries to do everything alone. Bringing on help might expose them.

This is no way to do business. And it’s no way to live.

You self-sabotage your success by not learning, re-assessing, or collaborating. This method of avoidance can create a toxic network, kill your market visibility, and make you flame out from overwhelm.

In fact, research shows that fearing an accurate assessment of your work makes you self-sabotage in a whole bunch of unexpected ways, like a lack of preparation and deliberately putting roadblocks to your performance so you can excuse any failure (called self-handicapping).

I know hearing the truth can be painful - but it’s how you gain perspective and expertise. It’s the opposite of self-sabotage. It’s a building block to self-respect.

3. The Self-Sabotage of “Can-Do-Itis”

I, actually, just mentioned this in a live stream!

Can-do-itis is a popular method of self-sabotage amongst new entrepreneurs - especially if they have a service-based business. And it’s a particularly sneaky version of self-sabotage too - because it looks like you're working.

Can-do-itis is acting as though you can and must do everything any client asks. If you’re at all able to provide the service - you just cannot seem to say no.

This is lethal to your business. And it’s not that great for your sanity either.

This brand of self-sabotage starts off innocently enough. It’s just one small, slightly off-menu request. Yeah, you’ve been very clear about your niche, about what services you provide, could do it. It’s menu adjacent.

A sense of desperation, guilt, and old-fashioned customer pleasing makes you take the first request on. But…it never stays there.

It spreads to another off-menu request. For this person. For that person.

Bit by bit you’re niche dwindles. Suddenly, you’re a generalist. And people don’t hire generalists. They want an expert.

Notice It

This kind of self-sabotage usually goes unchecked because it’s a response to voices in your head. Not to the clients. The solution is to be aware of it.

Alivia Rose at the UK Council of Psychotherapy says that this voice of self-sabotage functions like a stressed out or toxic boss that expects you to stay after work for no pay. We obey without question.

“[T]he key is to start bringing some awareness to the situation…[w]e tend to find out there isn’t anybody doing it, that is our own quite pushy boss that we have inside ourselves saying ‘work, work, work’ endlessly, and we have to interrupt that by questioning ourselves, how rational is this?”

A good portion of my job as a business coach is just helping people notice these self-sabotaging scripts.

They seem like you’re building rapport with clients. Actually you're lessening your credibility, damaging your desirability in the marketplace, and - worst of all - you're hurting your self-esteem.

Slow down that demanding voice inside. Start pushing back.

You’re the Solution Too

So what’s the solution? Well, good news. You’re the problem…but you’re also the solution.

Simple honesty is a big help here. Slow down your brain when you see it happening. Journal about it. Keep a good, authentic watch on your motivations and behavior.

When you see it happening, think about what’s triggering the desire to self-sabotage your work. And don’t fall for the BS you’re so good at dosing yourself with.

It’s good to have a coach (yep, I said it), a mentor, or an accountability partner of some kind. Create a watchful group of people who care about you and your success.

And most of all, cut yourself some slack. Remember that no one is perfect.

The most important part of this is to stay in the game. Be willing to learn. If you’re willing to truly learn, you will.

Need help getting through your roadblocks?

Let’s talk about where you're heading.

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