Do you ever feel frustrated because you have an awful lot of ambition, but no tangible results to show for it? If so, then you are probably sabotaging your success without even realizing it. Read on to discover how self-sabotage happens and why your gut instincts cannot be trusted.
1. You put short-term desires before long-term success.
“Woo-hoo, I exercised today! I deserve a cookie.”
“I actually managed to save a few hundred dollars! Time to buy a new wardrobe.”
These quotes demonstrate a common form of self-sabotage, which is “treating yourself” with rewards that are in direct conflict with the long-term value you are trying to put into practice. A person who values their health wouldn’t use exercise as an excuse to eat junk. A person who wants to become wealthy wouldn’t splurge on unnecessary wants as soon as they manage to save a bit of money. Rewards are a good way to stay encouraged, but those rewards should not undermine your goal. Setting such a precedent could make a massive dent in your long-term progress if you get carried away with it. Since it will take a larger dose of a reward to satisfy your cravings as time goes on, you might eventually find yourself taking two steps backward for every step forward. Don’t risk it.
2. You overestimate your capabilities and ability to commit.
“I know I haven’t exercised in a long time, but I’m totally going to train for an hour every day next year!”
“It’s been years since I have cooked at home, but it’s time to change. I am going to prepare home-cooked meals every day!”
These quotes demonstrate overconfidence in one’s abilities, which leads to extremely unrealistic expectations. If you eat fast food every day and haven’t been to the gym in over a year, then it is absurd to think you’re going to be able to follow a strict diet and training routine. You would have to willfully ignore a past history chock full of failures to believe that would be possible. Please understand that I’m not trying to make you feel bad about yourself. I just want to save you from disappointment. If you bite off more than you can chew, then you will merely set yourself up for failure. This experience could be so demotivating that you end up deciding you might as well give up. You probably won’t drop a waist-size in a month and you’re sure as hell not going to change all of your poor health habits overnight. Small changes stick better. Be patient.
3. You kid yourself into believing you’ll do better “tomorrow.”
“I’m already halfway through the week and I haven’t exercised yet. Oh, well. I’ll hit it hard next Monday!”
“I know I shouldn’t eat all of this pasta, but that’s okay, I’ll just be sure to make REALLY good decisions tomorrow.”
These quotes demonstrate an insidious form of self-delusion that enables people to procrastinate indefinitely. Let’s be honest. Out of all the times you have said you would work out on Monday, how many times did you actually follow-through? If you can claim a success rate above 50%, I will wire you a thousand dollars. Okay, I’m not serious about the money part (NOT because I’m wrong –because you couldn’t possibly prove it), but you get the point. I played the, “I’ll work out on Monday,” game for an entire semester of college and it wasn’t pretty. My success rate was closer to 10%. To truly believe that you will do better “tomorrow,” you would have to delude yourself into thinking your future self will (somehow) be more disciplined than your present self. I hate to break it to you, but your present and future self are actually the same person. The more you kick that commitment to the next day (or week), the more likely you will keep doing it.
4. You do things that appear to be productive (but really aren’t).
“I reorganized my underwear drawer and made a To-Do list. Time to take a break!”
“Too bad I didn’t work out today, but hey, at least I read a bunch of fitness articles online!”
These quotes demonstrate how easy it is to kid yourself into believing you did something “productive,” even though it resulted in no forward progress whatsoever. Procrastination is so clever that it can disguise itself in tasks that appear to be productive (but really aren’t). If you work from home and have projects with impending deadlines, then reorganizing your underwear drawer is the last thing you need to be doing. If you spend a lot of time reading fitness articles despite the fact that you rarely apply the advice they contain, then you are wasting your time. If an activity doesn’t result in forward progress, then you need to be brutally honest with yourself. You’re probably just mentally pleasing yourself in a misguided effort to feel better about your inaction and consequential lack of results. Harsh, but true.
5. You lie to yourself so much that your gut instinct can’t be trusted.
“I am better/different/smarter. This would never happen to me.”
“Man, I can’t believe some people are dumb enough to delude themselves like this! Poor chumps.”
These quotes demonstrate the fallacy of believing you are “superior” when you are far more likely to be average just like everybody else. Indeed, people who are overconfident are the most prone to make the mistakes discussed in this article, because their exaggerated (and often unfounded) belief in their abilities makes them arrogant. Arrogant people feel like they are better than everybody else, so they won’t be mindful of these forms of self-sabotage, and thus will be even more susceptible to them. Talk about irony!
Remember these five steps if you want to stop sabotaging your success.
Have you noticed any of these forms of self-sabotage in your life? If so, I’d be curious to hear your thoughts in the comments. If you know a friend who could use a reality check, please share this article in a thoughtful email or social media share.
Featured photo credit: sascha lindner via flickr.com