Most of us have goals, both big and small, short and long term but what keeps us from meeting our goals? Why are some of our goals achieved whereas others stay at the bottom of our To Do list nagging away at us for months or sometimes even years?
Setting yourself SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) can help you to make goals you are more likely to meet but for many of us, the problem isn’t what goals we set for ourselves but the way in which we prevent ourselves from achieving them. You may have the most attainable, realistic goals in the world yet find yourself sabotaging any progress you have made, taking yourself back to square one consistently.
What is Self-Sabotage?
Self-sabotage is a behaviour (or set of behaviours) that create problems and often get in the way of your long-standing goals. The most common forms of self-sabotage can be procrastinating, comfort eating or self-medication (for example, relying on alcohol). This behaviour can feel like it helps in the moment, yet ultimately the feelings of guilt associated with them can cause yet more problems especially when the same cycle repeats time and time again.
These methods of self-sabotage can prevent you from getting where you want to be. You may know what you want and be pretty sure of the path you need to take to get it, but it’s not uncommon to be stuck in a rut of self-sabotage.
Negative self-talk is something we have all probably engaged in at some time. When you are exposing yourself to this sort of negativity on a regular basis, it can lead to self-sabotage, and can stop us achieving our goals and dreams.
What’s worse is that we usually don’t recognise that it’s even happening. Instead, we attribute our lack of success to just not being good enough. This, in turn, strengthens the negative messages we feed ourselves, and we get caught in a self-sabotaging cycle that can be very difficult to break. NO magic pill or wand can get rid of self- sabotage for good but you can lessen its grip on your life and this starts with recognising the negative messages you send to yourself.
Breaking the cycle of self-sabotage
Self-sabotage is never worth it. Take a moment to think. Was there ever a time you submitted to a trigger and ended up feeling better for it? Probably not. Afterwards, you more than likely experienced feelings of failure and guilt. The reality is that our willpower is limited and making mistakes are perfectly normal and shows that you are human.
The next time you feel yourself about to submit to self-sabotage, go through the following steps:
Recognise your triggers
In order to prevent yourself from sabotage, you need to be able to recognise what your triggers are by asking yourself questions like these;
- What goals have you had for yourself for a long time and never been able to accomplish?
- What do you consistently fail at, for no obvious reason?
- Are there particular areas in your life where you find yourself procrastinating or putting off making a decision?
Think about rationalising the situation. The last time you gave in, did the outcome make you feel better? Probably not.
Determine your feelings leading up to the event
For example, if a work colleague were to offer you a cupcake, would you feel pressure to eat it? Then guilt after finishing it? When these feelings, start coming on, try to look at them without judging yourself. You may find it useful to write down the situation and what emotions you are feeling, use the information to look for patterns in your behaviour in the future.
Realise that you are not your emotions
Whether it’s the urge to comfort eat/drink, whichever way your self-sabotage manifests itself, remember that you’re not a failure for feeling this way. You cannot control your feelings BUT you are responsible for the way in which you deal with them.
Get to the root cause of your feelings
Are you feeling particularly stressed when you start to jeopardize your goals? Are you near a deadline at work and feeling the pressure? Dig deep and figure out what you need to do to fix the problem.
Distract yourself with something else
Focusing your attention on something other than how you are feeling right now. Go for a walk, listen to some music and think about how much better you will feel the next day if you manage to keep yourself on track.
Unfortunately, it is not an easy task to navigate your way through and you may fail the first few times you try to prevent self-sabotage. You will not stop this behaviour overnight. Talk to yourself how you would a friend, treat yourself with compassion. Instead of beating yourself up the next time that you give way to self-sabotage, take note of what went wrong and try to improve next time, practise does make perfect.