How to Beat Self-Sabotage
Do you lie in bed at night beating yourself up for all the ways that you’re failing in life?
The new diet’s not going to plan…
You’re still not standing up for yourself…
That mountain of unanswered emails is growing by the day…
Some people seem to have life handled, and perhaps you’re wondering how they manage to be so strict with themselves?
So in control?
You’re not alone.
You’re not the only one who suffers from self-sabotage, and there is a solution… however, to beat self-sabotage, you need to understand what you are doing.
You need to know HOW you are sabotaging yourself – because it comes in a whole range of flavours!
A voice in your head tells you that you’re not good enough, you’ll never amount to anything. Whatever you do, there it is telling you that you should have done better or it was just luck.
It’s hell-bent on dragging you down and keeping you in your place at any cost.
But where does it come from?
Maybe the voice in your head is parent or schoolteacher. Perhaps it’s your voice. Still, though… where does it come from?
I don’t like to use neuroscience to answer questions like this. It’s like trying to answer the question of ‘why is my phone ringing?’ by talking about the chips and circuits inside the device.
Instead, a better answer is probably in the form of a metaphor… and the best metaphor is that there are entities in your mind which are ‘person like’.
When these ‘person-like’ entities (these parts of your mind) get out of control, people develop multiple personalities.
By the way, it’s not something you need to worry about; multiple personalities are very rare.
However, having a part of you that criticises everything you do and drags you down into self-loathing is very common.
“So what can I DO about it?”
Parts of the unconscious mind are autonomous units (that’s why I said they were ‘person’ like). They think for themselves, they have their own opinions and contribute whatever they want to your internal dialogue.
The best thing you can do is treat that part of you with the same respect you’d treat anyone else – which is probably a good deal more respect than you treat it with now!
Why should you do this?
Why respond to that derogatory, self-sabotaging voice with respectful decency?
Well, what kind of person do you want to be?
Do you want to be the kind of person who flips out in the face of criticism and shrinks under the spotlight?
Or do you want to be the kind of person who allows everyone to have their own opinion and calmly attempt to reason people into seeing things from your perspective?
You see, it’s very difficult to get someone to change their opinion if they don’t respect you. If they don’t take you seriously.
The same is true with the parts of your unconscious mind.
If you want the voice that puts you down to start seeing some of your more positive qualities, then you need to show them to it.
YOU, as a conscious mind, need to go first.
The unconscious response will surprise you.
Beat Self-Sabotage, The EASY way
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What do you want to do?
Is it enjoyable?
I’ve yet to meet someone who was procrastinating about something they truly wanted to do in the moment.
Procrastination is about delayed reward.
You want to look great on the beach, so you need to push those weights. You want that promotion, so you need to get that report done.
But do you like pushing weights or writing reports?
Maybe you do… hang tight if you have the ‘I know I’ll enjoy it when I get into it’ type of procrastination.
However, if you don’t enjoy whatever needs to get done, then your best bet is to make a deal with yourself.
Go inside and check with the part of you that has to do the task.
Different parts of your mind do different tasks. That’s why most people would have to think pretty hard about which pedal in the car is the gas pedal. But when they’re in the car they just know – the part of them which drives is in control at that point and knows which pedal to push.
Try this – take a moment and do it now:
Go inside and ask the part of you that will have to push the weights or write the report (or whatever) what it would like in exchange for doing the task.
It’s like making a deal with kids to help them to understand delayed reward. “Do your homework; then you can watch TV”.
Make sure it’s something the part wants to do and don’t give the reward unless you do the task.
Don’t overthink this, go inside and ask the question now, “What do you want in exchange for doing the task”?
ADDED BONUS: the reward will be something you want to do, so it’s win-win. But remember you don’t get the reward unless the task is done.
The OTHER type: “I know I’ll enjoy it when I get into it.”
Ok so maybe you’re procrastinating about something that you’ll enjoy when you start, which is slightly different but you already know the answer… just START!
But, let me give you another little helping hand: You don’t have to start the main task.
Let me explain…
Have a whole report to write, but you’re watching repeats of Big Bang instead?
Write one email so that the part of you that enjoys writing takes control (the technical term is ‘comes into the executive’).
Want to go to the gym but finding it hard to get off the couch?
Thirty seconds of running on the spot. Don’t even get changed; just start running.
You know you’ll enjoy it when you get into it so don’t commit to anything too significant before you start to enjoy it.
Just get moving and watch as the motivation surges.
#3 ‘What’s the point?’ Thinking
Has defeatism become your norm?
“Why bother, it’s doomed to failure. I won’t enjoy it anyway.”
Maybe you’re even reading this article and thinking “It won’t work for me” – before you’ve even tried it.
It’s the voice in your head that seems so inescapable.
But let me ask you, do you have to agree with that voice? Or argue with it?
Are they the only options?
There is actually something else you can do…
But I wonder, do you know someone who is a total bummer?
They’re cynical about everything. It doesn’t matter where you are or what you’re doing…. it sucks for them.
And they try to make it suck for YOU too!
You’ve tried reasoning with them. You’ve tried illuminating them, showing them the positives.
Their skill at finding the cloud in every silver lining is remarkable.
So you stop listening.
You figure: “That’s just who they are”.
You tune it out. You don’t take it personally, and you get on with whatever you were going to do, knowing that they will point out all the negatives.
You learn not to engage with it. Never to agree with the negativity – that only starts the deluge.
You don’t let their negativity stop you from doing what you want to do. You simply tread carefully around it.
It’s like tiptoeing through a minefield, but as long as you don’t slip into the trap of agreeing with the negativity, then everything is ok.
So why is it any different with the voice in your head?
Why do you agree with these negative sentiments?
This is probably the reason:
Because it is a thought in your head, you conclude that it is YOUR thought. Therefore it must be true for you on some level.
You grew tired of arguing with it, so you started to agree with it.
That was just easier.
It’s time to step back and disengage with the negativity. Don’t try to push back as that will sap your energy.
Don’t agree with it any longer.
Just acknowledge that the voice in your head (more accurately the part of your unconscious mind) is entitled to its opinion.
You don’t need to take ownership of that thought just because it’s in your head.
How perfect do things need to be?
But of course, you know that 100% is very rarely possible. Imagine getting 100% on a creative writing assignment… the mark would be meaningless.
We live in a world which is shades of grey, and no matter how much of a perfectionist you are, you have come to accept that 100% is usually not possible.
So you try to get everything as perfect as you can, right?
Maybe you read through every email five times, just to make sure. Or you spend 1 hour looking in the mirror just in case you missed something…
It’s pretty exhausting to be a perfectionist.
And you’ve probably realised that the exhaustion causes mistakes, so your perfectionism can be self-defeating.
You need a better strategy.
Or more accurately, you need to embrace the strategy you are already using.
You see, you have already adopted a ‘good enough’ strategy. Otherwise, you would still be stuck on one of the very first tasks you ever attempted.
Now it’s time to start owning and WORKING that strategy so that you can outperform the 100% strategy (which never gets you 100% by the way).
You can do that with some very basic maths…
Perhaps you’ve heard of the Pareto Principle (keep reading even if you have)?
It states that 80% of a factory’s output is created by 20% of its workers. And it holds true for pretty much every field of human endeavour.
It also means that 80% of your output is created by 20% of the effort you put in.
Here’s a thought experiment you can do. Just for a moment, put the need to get 100% aside and think this through:
Think about all the tasks you need to complete in an area of your life (I’m going to use the example of completing a project at work).
What is required to produce the lion’s share of the output? I.e. what is the bare minimum you could get away with doing?
Remember, put your feelings about 100% to the side for the time being.
What is the bare minimum that your boss would accept and how much effort would it take?
For most people it’s pretty low – for most perfectionists, the boss just wants you to get the bl***y thing done!
Perhaps it would take 20% of the effort to get to that bare minimum level (by ignoring all the complications and so on).
That means you have done 80% of the task with only 20% effort.
I know what you’re thinking… “80% is nowhere near enough!”
Ok, no problem – do another pass.
Look at what’s left and see if you can get 80% of the result from 20% of the effort. If you can, then you have achieved 96% of the result.
Still not enough? Ok, one more pass and you are up at 99% of the output from less than 60% of the effort.
You are surpassing the quality you achieved with the 100% strategy for little more than half the effort.
Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it!