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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Focus@will, 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.