5 Common Self-Sabotaging Behaviors to Avoid

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Do you constantly self-sabotage by engaging in behaviors that take you further away from your goals? How can you stop doing what you know is hindering your progress?

Self-sabotage is engaging in behaviors that prevent you from achieving your goals. While the way you sabotage is unique to your personality and life circumstances, the patterns of self-sabotaging behaviors are not that different from person to person.

Keep reading to learn about some of the most common self-sabotaging behaviors and how to stop doing them.

What Is Self-Sabotage?

We all want to achieve success in different areas of our life, but our actions don’t always align with our own best interests. Even when we have all the skills and resources at our disposal, we often fail to do what is necessary to make our goals a reality. Furthermore, sometimes we engage in self-sabotaging behaviors that actually contradict our best interests.

With this in mind, here’s a look at some of the most common ways we sabotage our own success and happiness.

1. Instant Gratification

Perhaps the most common self-sabotaging behavior is choosing instant over delayed gratification. This isn’t totally your fault because it’s wired into human biology: The human brain hasn’t evolved to respond to future rewards: It’s evolved to respond to what’s good right now. This is what economists call “delay discounting”—we’re hooked on instant gratification and not willing to wait for future gratification. The longer we have to wait for something good, the less we want it. 

To stop sabotaging yourself over instant gratification, you need to stop discounting the future—or at least lower the rate at which you discount it. You have to wrap your mind around the idea that the future is just as important as the present—maybe even more so. 

In her book The Willpower Instinct, Stanford University psychology professor Kelly McGonigal suggests a two-step plan to help override your tendency to discount your own future: 

1) Imagine that a long-term goal that you’ve been working toward is already yours. Maybe you’ve finished writing your novel and sent it off to be published, or you’ve completely given up alcohol, or you’ve been attending yoga class steadily for a year. Picture your future self enjoying the benefits of having achieved your goals. 

2) Ask yourself if you’re willing to give up that image of “happy-future-you” for the fleeting impulse that’s tempting you right now. 

Willpower Hack: Make Your Temptation Hard to Get 

Immediate gratification is alluring, so make it hard to access. Give your willpower a window of opportunity by making temptation a little more difficult to achieve. 

For example, if you have to walk downstairs and down the hall to stick your hand in the candy jar, you’ll be less likely to indulge than if you merely have to reach across your desk. Similarly, if you don’t carry your credit cards when you go downtown, you won’t return home with purchases you can’t afford. And you’ll be less likely to procrastinate on writing your novel if you invest in software programs like MacFreedom, Anti-Social, or ProcrasDonate, which limit your access to email, social networks, or even the entire Internet. 

TITLE: The Willpower Instinct
AUTHOR: Kelly McGonigal
TIME: 42
READS: 87.9
IMG_URL: https://www.shortform.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/the-willpower-instinct-cover.png
BOOK_SUMMARYURL: the-willpower-instinct-summary-kelly-mcgonigal

2. Perfectionism

While having high standards is necessary to drive progress, having expectations that border on perfectionism can actually thwart it. When you focus on achieving a perfect outcome, you risk becoming short-sighted and getting stuck on one project or endeavor instead of moving forward. 

To reorient your focus from perfection to progress, Matthew Rudy, Jason Selk, and Tom Bartow, the authors of Organize Tomorrow Today, recommend assessing what you’re doing well and what you can improve on

However, many people do this ineffectively because they assess themselves with a perfectionist mindset. They focus only on their shortcomings and ignore their accomplishments.

To help you focus on what you’re doing well as well as the ways you can improve, try writing an evaluation of your progress every day. You can refer back to the successes you’ve recorded whenever your confidence needs a little help. 

You should center your evaluation around the daily tasks you’ve completed: 

Step 1: At the same time every day, write down three things you did well in the last 24 hours and one thing you can do better in the next 24 hours. 

Step 2: Write down one action you can take to make the improvement you identified in Step 1. 

Step 3: Give yourself a rating from one to 10 based on how well you completed the three prioritized tasks on your to-do list. 

3. Procrastination

Procrastinating may help you experience short-term relief from the fear of working on certain tasks. In the long-term, however, procrastination makes you worse off. According to psychologists Lenora Yuen and Jane Burka, the authors of Procrastination, there are five ways procrastination sabotages your growth and well-being. 

  • First, it leads you to perform poorly on tasks. Procrastinators often save tasks for the last minute or miss deadlines altogether, leading to poor performance at work and school. 
  • Second, procrastination causes you to miss important opportunities. Procrastinators often delay life-improving decisions, such as switching to a better career.
  • Third, procrastination strains your relationships. When procrastinators delay chores, assignments, and decisions, they frustrate and disappoint their colleagues, friends, and family. 
  • Fourth, procrastination compromises your physical health. Procrastinators’ health suffers when they avoid exercise, fail to plan healthy meals, and postpone doctor visits. 
  • Finally, procrastination hurts your self-esteem and mental health. Many procrastinators feel guilt and shame about their tendencies, which degrades their self-esteem and mental health.

4. Victim Thinking

When you look at life from a perspective of a victim, you believe that:

1) Bad things regularly happen to me.

2) Someone or something else is to blame.

While there may be some truth in these statements, engaging in such thinking is pure self-sabotage. If you blame others you will never create and build your own success—and you’ll be a “slave” to others who use you to achieve their own goals. Furthermore, by blaming others, you give them control over whether you succeed; thus, you’ll never be in control of your life. Finally, when you take the role of victim, you’ll never be secure or learn your own capabilities because you believe you’re helpless.

Until you stop thinking like a victim, you’ll have nothing but problems. However, when you approach situations as an actor rather than someone being acted upon, you can take charge of your life and begin to proactively shape your destiny.  

TITLE: The 10X Rule
AUTHOR: Grant Cardone
TIME: 26
READS: 198.2
IMG_URL: https://www.shortform.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/the-10x-rule-cover.png
BOOK_SUMMARYURL: the-10x-rule-summary-grant-cardone

5. Working Yourself to Burnout

In an effort to progress faster, many people try to cram every minute of their lives with productive activity. Furthermore, some people regard rest as unimportant and may even feel guilt over taking some time off. While making the most of your time may help you speed up your progress initially, sooner or later, you’ll hit the point of burnout, which will set you back and may even thwart all the effort you’ve put in. 

According to Greg McKeown, the author of Effortless, the way to avoid burnout is to work in a regular pattern of exertion and relaxation. For example, you can try working in the morning, in shifts no longer than 90 minutes, with short breaks in between. Studies have shown this to be the best way to be productive both mentally and physically, as it allows you to recover throughout the day and avoid fatigue.

How to Avoid Burnout: Reject Hustle Culture

Like McKeown, Brené Brown believes that the hustle culture we live in is bad for our physical and mental well-being. In her book The Gifts of Imperfection, Brown argues that an antidote to hustle culture is overcoming this pressure to be productive. To do this, you must reject societal expectations and prioritize your physical and mental health. When your body is telling you it’s tired, listen to it instead of trying to push through the pain. In the long run, this will make you a healthier and more productive person. Furthermore, recognize that your worth isn’t tied to how productive you are. You’re worthy no matter how much you achieve, and you don’t need to push yourself to the point of exhaustion to prove that.  

Final Words

We all engage in self-sabotage, sometimes consciously but more often unconsciously. To stop sabotaging yourself, you have to ask yourself: What am I doing on a consistent basis that prevents me from achieving my goals? Most likely, you already know the answer, you’re just in denial about it.

If you enjoyed our article about self-sabotaging behaviors, check out the following suggestions for further reading:

The Big Leap

The Big Leap, by psychologist and personal growth coach Gay Hendricks, aims to help you overcome the psychological barriers to success and fulfillment. Hendricks asserts that, while we all have an innate call toward our most successful and fulfilling life, even highly successful people are often unable to achieve beyond a self-imposed limit, a “happiness threshold.” As you achieve greater success, Hendricks says you reach this threshold, which triggers self-sabotaging behaviors.

You Are a Badass

You were born to be a badass, but are you getting the most out of your life? In You Are a Badass, author Jen Sincero helps you identify and change the self-sabotaging behavior patterns that are stopping you from living up to your potential.

Creating a better life requires only one simple shift: Going from wanting to change your life to deciding to change your life. This book will explain why you are the way you are, how to change what you don’t like, and how to love yourself as you create a new, awesome life.

5 Common Self-Sabotaging Behaviors to Avoid

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Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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