How to Escape Self-Sabotage

Leadership / September 10, 2021

Self-sabotage means holding on to behaviors or beliefs that hold us back from being our best selves. It’s not as uncommon as you might think. In fact, everyone engages in it to some extent. But successful people do so less often, and they know how to be aware of it and deal with it when they do. Self-sabotage may have a profound negative impact on your career if unchecked.

Many people sabotage their careers because they are anxious about failure or a future they can’t control. To avoid negative outcomes, they stay in their comfort zone and don’t advance. This becomes a downward spiral. Their unhappiness causes them to withdraw more, and that withdrawal makes them more unhappy.

Self-sabotage presents itself in several ways. We may procrastinate, holding off on important work or decisions out of fear. We may become a perfectionist and never finish anything for fear of not being good enough. We may avoid setting goals or doing new things altogether, preferring to stick to our comfort zone. Or we may simply carry on as normal, but harshly criticize ourselves all the way, until we cannot bear the pressure.

Becoming aware of these behaviors is the most important step towards changing them. But what practical steps can we take to turn it around, if we already find ourselves engaging in one or all of these?

Reflect and Observe

One helpful approach is to begin by observing your own thoughts and behaviors as closely as you can. Take the time to watch how you react to stress and challenge in your daily life. If we take the time to watch ourselves, we can identify the places we need to change.

Become Friends With Your Mind

There is a part of your mind that criticizes and berates you sometimes. It’s easy to become angry or resentful at this, which just creates a cycle of negativity. Realizing that this part of your mind is trying to protect you can help. When you have a negative thought, try to determine what your mind is trying to protect you from. Thank your mind for this, and then try to figure out a way that you can protect yourself and still get what you want. Negotiate with that critic.

Mix Goals With Meaning

Many of us have trouble working towards our goals because we simply have no investment in those goals. Do your goals in life mean something to you? Do they make you excited? Passionate? Do they align with your values? If your goal doesn’t feel meaningful then it makes sense that you won’t be motivated. Start from meaning and work forwards.


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