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8 Forms Of Self-Sabotage That Are Silently Complicating Your Life

8 Forms Of Self-Sabotage That Are Silently Complicating Your Life

Even though at times you yourself can be your only ally, the truth is most of us are constantly sabotaging ourselves in one way or the other. The first step to avoiding self sabotage, is identifying the things you are doing, that are working against you in the long run. Here are a few common examples of what could be holding you back from your true potential..

Holding A Negative Belief About Yourself

Despite the progress of neuroscience and psychology, there is much we still don’t know about our minds. One thing we do know of however, is the placebo effect. Which is perhaps, the perfect example to demonstrate the power a belief can hold. It can help you heal, it can alter your reality. Also, recent studies suggest that perhaps the way you view stress and choose to react to it, has more to do with it’s negative effects than the stress itself. It’s fair to say that beliefs can be very damaging as well.

If you hold a negative belief about yourself for too long, it can easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy. You are lazy because you decide to believe that “you’re just lazy”, and therefore never tackle the issue at hand. Or you’re just “socially inept” or “technologically challenged”. By harboring these beliefs not only are you demotivating yourself from even trying in the first place. The belief that it is harder for you to learn, can actually MAKE it harder for yourself to learn.

Having Preconceptions About Things You Have Not Tried, People You Have Not Met

A lot of the time things are completely different than you expect them to be. Sometimes realizing that is a pleasant surprise, and other times it can be devastating. Now personally I don’t believe it’s possible to completely stop having ideas and expectations about things, but at the very least be aware of when you’re spouting pure guesswork. And when you catch yourself, don’t be afraid to challenge your perception by actually trying, experiencing or meeting the thing or person in question. Make an actual effort to completely experience both the positives and the negatives, to get the whole picture. If you’re not careful, you can find yourself confirming your own theory misguidedly through the help of confirmation bias, but more on that later.

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Being Arrogant

Like it’s counterpart, arrogance can lead to staleness and inactivity. This article over at Neurobonkers suggests that being praised for intelligence as a child or adolescent in a certain way can actually lead to becoming less intelligent. Specifically, the way that tends to hone ones ego. The idea is basically that if you’re taught to think highly of your innate ability, instead of encouraged to keep honing your intellect, you will become comparatively less intelligent in comparison to your peers as you age because of lack of effort.

Arrogance is rarely a good thing, and it’s good to keep yourself in check. Even when you’re completely overachieving, try to focus on exactly what you’re doing right, and just keep moving, rather than getting caught up in yourself and your ego. That way you can also help other’s achieve the same at a later point in time, possibly in exchange for monetary compensation.

Discouraging Yourself Before Even Trying

See the trend here? Anything that get’s in the way of taking action and trying is usually a bad thing. Of course, if your goal in life is to jump naked off a skyscraper and learn to fly before you splat, it’s probably a good idea to discourage yourself out of trying. But in most mundane settings where effort and commitment are the usual roads to success, you can’t get anywhere without trying. So don’t work against yourself by talking yourself out of even taking a chance.

Having A Negative Outlook On Life.

When we really put our mind to it, most of us like to think that we’re capable of objectivity. Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to the idea of confirmation bias. It’s the idea that you have tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms your own ideas and preconceptions. For example, there’s two people, one who thinks his life is shit, and another who thinks life is all rainbows and pots of gold. If you have them experience the exact same thing, it’s very likely that they’ll interpret it in completely different ways.

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Let’s say they both have a day where they meet two new people, and then their microwave breaks down when they’re trying to heat their dinner. A negative person(me in the past) would have easily thought “Wow! I can’t even eat a microwaved meal in peace!!” And exaggerate the latter event, while the positive counterpart is more likely to focus on the positive and downplay the negative event. “I made new two new friends today, what does one cold meal matter!”

So in many cases, it’s simply a matter of what you choose to focus on. Focus on what you’re good at. What you enjoy most, and spend less time dwelling on the negative, and over time you will see a significant improvement in your general outlook on life.

Prioritizing Instant Gratification Too Much

From instant gratification like a chocolate bar every day and gaining weight, to being impatient and buying something on a payment for twice the actual price.

There’s a difference between living in the moment and completely sabotaging your future self. Which is why I never understood the “YOLO” thing which seemed to be used more as an excuse for bad decisions motivated by instant gratification, than truly appreciating that our time on earth is limited and that that’s all the more reason to make the most of it. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying yourself right NOW, but try to keep it at a level that doesn’t have you working twice as hard in the future just to try to maintain your current life.

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A few things to avoid: Overly excessive partying, insane payment plans, too much comfort food.

Maintaining Harmful Relationships

Harmful relationships can be anything. From douchey, poisonous friends to violent partners, there are many harmful relationships. The latter is a complicated issue that you can read more about dealing with here. (Advice from actual experts on the subject.)

But if you’re troubled by a bad friend, always finding yourself annoyed by them.. if he/she not only ruins your mood half the time you see him/her and constantly discourages you, but also frequently borrows money/stuff and never returns it.. there’s an easy solution: A clean break. Simply stop hanging out with them, make it clear that you have no intention of doing so ever again if you have to, and move on with your life. Life is short, and sure.. friends are precious, but that only goes for real friends. Don’t be afraid to prioritize your own happiness when someone is clearly working against it.

Postponing

In a way postponing little things like laundry and doing the dishes, is kind of like giving the finger to random strangers when you’re dunk. You know that it’s not a very smart thing to do, and there’s a chance of things becoming quite ugly, but you do it anyway. Except in this case, the hapless victim is your future self.

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A small percentage of us perform better under stress. And then there’s us who like to think that we do. Being an internet person, I have to admit that I feel like postponing tests and assignments until the very last minute has become the norm. In my Facebook feed I’ll often see stories about last second papers, and later the surprisingly decent grade they got. But perhaps non-internet-dwellers are more diligent.

I don’t know when postponing became cool, but I’ll readily admit that I’ve been postponing things for far too long. There’s a sense of peace and tranquility when you finish early that is a far, far stretch from the stress of an impending deadline.

Prioritize doing the things that you really need to get done. Little things like laundry and dishes can easily be done in small pockets of free time, maybe in the immediate aftermath of cooking dinner or eating lunch. For more time consuming things, like assignments and papers, set aside time well before the deadline. And when you get there, simply force yourself to get started. Try the pomodoro technique, and putting on some classical or instrumental music to help you get started. I like Erik Satie, Nujabes, Emancipator, and a variety of calmer movie soundtracks. You could also try [email protected], I’ve heard good things about it but never tried it myself.

As I mentioned in the beginning of the post, if you don’t manage to identify how you are sabotaging yourself, you won’t be able to do anything about it. Therefore it’s important to always remain vigilant. Be observant, notice the little things you do that add up over time to become huge annoyances, or even insurmountable obstacles down the road.

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Last Updated on March 21, 2019

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

1. Start Small

The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

Do less today to do more in a year.

2. Stay Small

There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

Why?

Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

Peter Drucker said,

“What you track is what you do.”

So track it to do it — it really helps.

But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

5. Measure Once, Do Twice

Peter Drucker also said,

“What you measure is what you improve.”

So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

6. All Days Make a Difference

Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

Will two? They won’t.

Will three? They won’t.

Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

What happened? Which one made you fit?

The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

7. They Are Never Fully Automated

Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

10. Punish Yourself

Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

11. Reward Yourself

When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

In the End, It Matters

What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

Keep going.

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More Resources to Help You Build Habits

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
[2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
[3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
[4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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