Over the summer, I’ve been writing about real coaching topics – from finding flow to setting intention to reframing failure, cracking motivation and so much more. My friends, I really hope that my Monday morning posts have served you. I hope to keep sending you more as the year goes on and circulating the good stuff.
It’s September now and it’s back to school and work for most of us. September is a new beginning in a sense – start of the new school year, new renewals and a time to re-check and audit where we are on our long-term goals. Perhaps, we had a few big goals set for the year and this is a good time to check where are with them. The question is have we been in flow with our goals or somewhere along the way did we self-sabotage?
Self-sabotage is defined as creating unnecessary problems for one’s self, interfering with our own goals. Self-sabotage is any behaviour, thought, emotion or action that holds us back from getting what we consciously want. It is the conflict that exists between conscious desires and unconscious wants that manifest in self-limiting patterns of behaviour.
So take a second and think about this – did you self-sabotage any of your goals this year and if so, how? The most common ways of self-sabotage are procrastination – putting off activities that bring us closer to our goals, because we are afraid we might fail or we are afraid we won’t get that instant gratification, buffering – indulging in activities like over-eating, over-working, binge drinking, binge Netflixing and so on and not showing up to take massive action towards our goals. Another way we self-sabotage – quitting halfway. So as part of self-sabotage we procrastinate because we’d rather not work than work. We don’t show up because we’d rather not experience the rejection and we’d rather hide under the covers and buffer away tough emotions. Does this all sound familiar?
One of my goals for this year is to read more books on personal development and growth and to share interesting thoughts and excerpts with you all. Over my summer holidays, I got a chance to read an interesting book –The Healthy Mind Tool Kit by Alice Boyes and today, I want to share some thoughts with you from her book on how to tackle self-sabotage. To stop self-sabotaging ourselves, we need to figure out our patterns of behaviours and then find creative ways to counteract them and form new habits. There are three particular strategies I found particularly helpful. The following are in her words:
Know your typical thinking patterns
Our personality and life experiences predispose us to dominant modes of thinking, but these can be biased in ways that are unhelpful in the majority of situations. For example, people who are prone to anxiety tend to be hypervigilant to signs of threat, and detect threats that aren’t really there. This happens to be one of my personal patterns of self-defeating thinking. The way this manifests for me is that problems always seem bigger than they really are; whenever anyone asks me to do something, I (internally) overreact and perceive whatever is being asked as more onerous than it is.
How do I deal with this? Knowing my thinking bias, I factor it into my judgments. I discount my initial reaction and go back and review requests with fresh eyes. I explicitly say to myself, “My brain is reacting to this as if it’s a threat, when most likely it’s actually an opportunity.”
Use strategies to combat avoidance and procrastination
When we procrastinate or avoid, our anxiety about whatever we’re avoiding tends to increase. Many times, people who procrastinate don’t think to use a strategy for getting started—even though many exist (and are outlined in my book). By identifying your six or seven favourite strategies, you’ll always have one that’s relevant and feels achievable in a particular situation.
Some strategies for getting started include:
- Use project to-do lists to outline every step involved in a particular project. Save your daily to-do list for things that truly need to be done that day. Project-specific to-do lists help you utilize small scraps of time. If you have five or ten minutes, you can do a tiny step from your project-specific list.
- Shrink relatively unimportant tasks to the bare minimum required for getting them done. Perfectionists habitually expand the scope of projects to the point that they become unwieldy.
- Try “last things first.” Sometimes the typical final steps in a task are easier to start with than the typical first steps.
- Pretend you’re going to outsource a task and write the instructions you’d give someone else. This can help you simplify your expectations if your demands of someone else would be more reasonable than your demands of yourself.
Practice acceptance and self-care
Making changes in your life requires time and energy. You can’t ask this of yourself if your psychological bank account is already in overdraft. Sometimes people get into a trap of thinking, “When I’m being more self-disciplined or more productive, then I’ll do more self-care.” But, if you’ve run yourself to empty, try it the other way around: Allow yourself to have more experiences of pleasure before you think you “deserve” them. Otherwise, you’ll continue to run yourself into the ground and engage in self-sabotage.
So my friends, if you find yourself self-sabotaging and holding yourself back, pick up a copy of this book and have a read. You can also work with a life coach who can do thought work with on this area. Understanding the roots of self-sabotaging behaviours can help us find solutions that will make our lives more successful and less conflicted.
Author: Poornima Nair, Life Coach at InsideOut