Getting Past Self-Sabotage

When we look closely at your stuckness and avoidance behavior, much of it is self-sabotage. We are literally undermining ourselves and stopping ourselves from doing the things we want to do and getting the things we want to get. 

I asked independent professionals on a business forum how they tended to sabotage themselves.  This is what they said:

My favorite way is to procrastinate a good chunk of the day, and then near the end of the day I alternate by beating myself up for procrastinating or telling myself I'll start fresh "tomorrow" or "Monday" (and while yes, I do sometimes start fresh, also many times I repeat the cycle). And all the while I'm doing this I'm aware of the cycle (sigh).

I will often get 90% of the way there, and then stop. Or I'll leave an email to reply to "later" and then lose track of it. Even though I have systems in place to not do that.

Procrastination, or hiding when I'm feeling down, don't like writing notes or anything when feeling bad, because people pick up on it. Especially when it's a marketing piece.

I start a lot of things and get momentum going, and then I think of a new creative idea to start something completely different and switch my focus to that start up. Summary: Start a lot of things but don't see them to finish – a constant battle.

MY ADD/Scattered/Shiny New Object syndrome pattern. Oh, I have tons of FUN, but don't get accomplished what I set out to.

Making myself a hostage by not setting or sticking to boundaries that I set when I have a choice, then complaining about it, of course.

My form of sabotage is to overload on sugar. That brings in all the bad habits of procrastination, distraction, hibernation, laziness, being disorganized, etc.

Overworking is my most common form of self sabotage.

Completing things. I get 97% there, and then I often either stop, or work on "making it perfect". I know it's to do with "not good enough" thinking. 

The desire to see my vision manifest how and when I want it, instead of trusting the process and being in flow with life. This also comes from a belief that everyone will eventually come to the blissful conclusion that I was right all along and that everyone should have accepted my gracious and profound wisdom from the very beginning.

I'm more of an "Oh, it'll get done tomorrow (or whenever)" kind of gal. When there's a true deadline or event to prepare for I'm good, but the day to day of marketing, planning, looking ahead and scheduling/following through on tasks? Hmmm, but there's that pile of books over there, and food shopping to do, and gee, I think I need a new pair of sneakers, now that I'm back to the gym! Oy...

I could write a book on the ways I have sabotaged myself  Most of them I never called that. I was always "working things out in my mind before I actually did the work." That was my self-story.

I'm sure you can relate to many of these. We've all sabotaged ourselves. What we often don't realize is how deeply this reaches into our lives. 

Gay Hendricks calls this "The Upper Limit Problem" in his book, The Big Leap. He suggests that people have an upper limit when it comes to feeling good, and when we get close to that upper limit, we put on the brakes. Examples of upper limit behavior are worry, blame/criticism, conflict/argument, and injury/illness.

Most of us will experience that upper limit problem in many areas of our lives: money, relationships, health, productivity, success. We are willing for things to be good up to a certain point and then we find a way to screw things up. 

But why would we have that upper limit problem in the first place? 

If we can answer that question, we have a chance to get beyond self-sabotage. 

Luckily, we can find the answers in The Unstuck Process. It all starts with a belief, or what I usually call a "limiting, constrictive, fearful belief." That kind of belief is dictating the upper limit to us:

I'm no good at writing articles. So we don't write many articles and never get very good at writing them. 

I don't have the willpower to stick to a diet. So we don't find a coach or support system to make sure we stick to it. 

I'm creative but don't like to complete things. So we start a lot of half-done projects that never produce any substantial results. 

These beliefs are like commands to ourselves to do things ineffectively. "Thou shalt not be too successful." And we swallow these self-sabotaging beliefs hook line and sinker. Stuckness and avoidance behavior follow close behind.

OK, but I still haven't explained WHY we have these beliefs. When you look at them a little more deeply, they just don't make sense. Why are we not giving ourselves messages that are empowering and expansive?  How did these negative thought-viruses infect our minds?

In the first draft of this article I did my best to explain why. It's all about past experiences of pain, conditioning that turns into habits, etc, etc. All of that may be true, but then we're left with an explanation, not transformation. This is why I don't include this exploration in the Unstuck Process. 

So how do we deal with all of this then?  

We tell the truth about sabotaging behavior through inquiry, by answering the questions in The Unstuck Process. We're interested in what's happening now, not in the distant past. 

1. Identify the fearful belief, realize it's not absolutely true and admit it's not working for us. 

2. Look at the real costs of holding onto the belief, right now in our lives.

3. Examine the payoff and see that it's made up; it's not real. We are grownups now. We have more skills, resources and possibilities. 

4. Imagine what it might be like to live without those limiting beliefs and start to see some light at the end of the tunnel. 

I've had long-standing problems with my back. I've lived with some degree of pain for almost 30 years. The belief I identified was, "Whatever I do for my back won't work anyway."

Is that true? No, I've actually done some things that have helped. That belief keeps me from trying new things. It keeps me lazy.

What are the costs? My back continues to hurt and I complain and suffer because of that. 

What is the Payoff? Well I believe I get to avoid any more pain by just doing nothing.

Is that payoff real and does it work? No not at all. If I don't do anything, the pain gets worse, not better. Avoiding doing something doesn't work at all.

When we are stuck in the fear of experiencing pain, we can't think rationally. We can't see new possibilities. Our creativity is closed down. But when we look at things from reality, not fear, we see new ways to approach things. 

We can learn to be better writers and not take criticism so personally.

We can get some hands-on help with losing weight. Why should we try to do it all by ourselves?

We can complete projects because we see that the payoff of completing them is so much more fulfilling than avoiding them. 

And we can keep trying things to ease our pain. When I realized that much of my pain is triggered by sitting most of the day, I bought a special device that lets me raise my computer monitor and work standing up. 

Now that worked! And there are so many other things I can do when the belief, "Whatever I do for my back won't work anyway," is exposed for the lie it is. Whole new worlds of possibility open up when we tell the truth about how we are making up our reality. 

Take Action: 

Identify one common sabotaging behavior and do the complete Unstuck Process with it. Don't try to "get better" or "fix yourself." Just get at the truth of what's going on, what's driving that sabotage, what it's costing you and what are you getting out of it. Then imagine what it might be like if you could no longer have that sabotaging behavior in your life. Have fun!