How to Stop Self-Sabotaging Behavior: 8 Tips To Reach Your Goals

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How to Stop Self-Sabotaging Behavior | If you have a habit of setting goals, diving straight in, seeing initial success, and then engaging in self-sabotage behaviour once you've almost achieved your goal, this post is for you! We're digging into all of it - what does it mean to 'self-sabotage', why do we do it, common examples, and our best life skills, tips, and hacks to help you recognize the initial signs of self-sabotage so you can stop the behavior and get back on track ASAP.

Are you your own worst enemy? It may seem surprising, but most of us self-sabotage great opportunities, partners, and friendships because we fear getting hurt or don’t feel worthy. If this sounds familiar, you could be following the same patterns of behaviors that are preventing you from moving forward and accepting change. Read on to learn how to stop self-sabotaging behavior and believe you deserve everything wonderful this world has to offer – because you do!

What Is ‘Self-Sabotage’?

“Why does this keep happening to me?” Ever feel like no matter what you do, opportunities keep slipping from your fingers? Well, you could be self-sabotaging. It involves behaviors and beliefs that disrupt your ability to achieve your life goals. While most of us engage in this destructive behavior from time to time, self-sabotaging involves a consistent pattern of thoughts and actions that undermine our intentions and success. Unfortunately, this behavior can become a habit, and you may not know when you’re doing it.

Why Do We Self-Sabotage?

We unfortunately self-sabotage and disrupt our progress for various reasons.

  1. Traumatic childhood. If you grew up in a dysfunctional family and have unhealthy attachment patterns, you may self-sabotage to protect yourself from any perceived failures or hardships. 
  2. Poor relationships. Your relationships play a significant role in your self-esteem. For example, if you had an ex who emotionally abused you, you might adopt the same patterns in your next relationship to protect yourself. 
  3. A cruel inner critic. Your internal dialogue can cause procrastination, decreased productivity levels, and poor decision-making. 
  4. Fear is the backbone of self-sabotaging behaviors. Indeed, it creates procrastination, cognitive distortions that lead to catastrophic thinking, and distorted beliefs about yourself and the world around you. 
  5. Inherent negativity bias. Often subconsciously, to protect ourselves, we may look for problems and imagine new difficulties. 

7 Common Ways We Self-Sabotage

Okay, so what does it look like? Here are a few common ways we get in our own ways.

  1. Staying in relationships well past their expiration due-date
  2. Picking the same types of partners over and over again that cause pain
  3. Putting off tasks and missing deadlines – habitual procrastination
  4. Holding oneself to impossible standards – perfectionism
  5. Negative self-talk that prevents you from achieving your goals
  6. Not taking proper care of yourself
  7. Resisting change and staying within your comfort zone

How to Stop Self-Sabotaging 

1. Increase your awareness

The first step to stopping self-sabotaging is building awareness of when you’re doing it. Many often engage in this behavior subconsciously – they have no clue. To increase yours, it’s best to spend time in self-reflection. For example, try journaling your thoughts about moments you lost opportunities or how you feel about yourself. Do you feel worthy of receiving a new career or great partner? As you develop self-awareness, you’ll have more information to make necessary changes.

2. Consider what you’ll lose

This tip can be a bit intimidating, but it’s worth it. Ask yourself, “What will I lose if I continue self-sabotaging”? Maybe, you’ll lose a dream opportunity, friends, or a great partner you deserve. We often focus on short-term gains and forget about the long-term impact. Yet, reflecting on and answering the question of what consequences you’ll face will help you think about the long-term impact of your behaviors. It might also motivate you to make real changes in your life.

3. Observe your thoughts

If you’re prone to anxiety, you may be hyper-cautious of threats or anything outside your comfort zone. As a result, you may perceive problems as bigger than they actually are and may resort to procrastination or feelings of dread/fear to cope with them. Yet, knowing your thoughts and patterns of thinking will help you understand the root causes and help you learn how to stop self-sabotaging behavior. And one way to do this is through mindfulness. It involves quiet periods of self-reflection to understand more about your thoughts and resulting actions. When you have a free moment, sit quietly and notice any thought that arises. Don’t judge it, and instead, acknowledge it. Write down what comes up for you after sitting in silence.

4. Learn to love small improvements

If you self-sabotage, you’re also more tempted to set unrealistic standards and strive for perfectionism (it’s also helpful to learn how to stop perfectionistic thinking). These behaviors, unfortunately, create a battle between not living up to your expectations and becoming angry when you don’t achieve big results. Instead, learn to love the small improvements you make. For example, if you want to shift careers, be proud of each step you make. Maybe celebrate strengthening your CV, applying for one job a day, or taking a free webinar to improve your skillset. Each step forward counts.

5. Realistically set goals

If you often struggle to accomplish your goals, you may need to set realistic goals. Setting realistic goals keeps you motivated, prevents procrastination, and helps you avoid disappointment. When setting goals, reflect on what you want for yourself. For example, what changes do you want to make? What is your purpose? After establishing your goals, create specific small action steps towards completing them.

6. Strategize to limit procrastination

Unfortunately, procrastination breeds self-sabotaging behaviors. When we procrastinate, our stress and anxiety levels increase, especially when a deadline is close and we find we’re losing time. It can create a vicious cycle between missing opportunities and turning up the self-criticism volume. To avoid this, try a few strategies to help optimize your workload and stop procrastinating;

  • Complete the final steps of a project first. 
  • Work in 15-minute intervals. Once you complete 15-minutes, you’re more likely to buzz past and keep working. 
  • Manage your to-do list with set due dates and work on the time-sensitive ones first – remember each step forward counts. 

7. Find the cause and effect

Are you always ignoring emails until the very last minute? Or perhaps you wait until a week before the deadline before starting a project? When you notice how you sabotage, write down the details, and focus on the cause and effect. For example, “I wait until the last minute to complete a project. I try to work hard and complete them the night before, but get overwhelmed and give up“. This example explains how you sabotage plus the emotion and the consequence. Afterwards, put what you’ve written in a visual spot and work on breaking the habit. For instance, instead of waiting until the last minute, complete one chunk at a time weeks before the deadline.

8. Focus on your strengths

Despite what your inner critic says, you have several amazing gifts and talents. If you don’t believe this, look back and review your successes. Every single accomplishment in your life, whether big or small, was possible because of your strengths. Therefore, embrace what you’re good at and eliminate time spent thinking about what you’re not. Additionally, adopt a growth mindset – it involves believing that you can improve anything with time and dedication. Nothing is out of your reach.

Above all, practice self-forgiveness and self-care. You can’t make changes if you’re burned out, overwhelmed, or unwell. It’s important to prioritize your needs, care for yourself, and forgive yourself for any past mistakes. You can hit the refresh button and decide to change. If you’re struggling to learn how to stop self-sabotaging, use this list of tips as your guide.

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How to Stop Self-Sabotaging Behavior | If you have a habit of setting goals, diving straight in, seeing initial success, and then engaging in self-sabotage behaviour once you've almost achieved your goal, this post is for you! We're digging into all of it - what does it mean to 'self-sabotage', why do we do it, common examples, and our best life skills, tips, and hacks to help you recognize the initial signs of self-sabotage so you can stop the behavior and get back on track ASAP.

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