(Guest Post) Seven Strategies of Self-Sabotage

Guest post by ​Natalia Shoutova, Executive & Corporate Coach at Be Do Have Coaching

“We are what we repeatedly do” – Aristotle

Self-sabotage does not follow rules of logic. It often passes under our radar – we notice when others put sticks in our wheels, but not when we do it to ourselves. 

Self-sabotage is resilient and sticky. Like tax loopholes, when one self-sabotage strategy is closed down, another one will almost immediately take its place. Allowed to take root, self-sabotage will grow into a destructive habit. You intimately know your target (YOU), so you can hit your weakest spots and cause the greatest damage.

Which self-sabotage strategies are you harbouring?

1. Unrealistic expectations

  • Setting goals that are too general, unachievable or unquantifiable. Sometimes the goal is so overwhelming and nebulous it prevents us from even starting. Striving for absolute perfection (what is “perfection”?) and doing the same thing expecting different results also fall within this category. Unrealistic expectations destroy self-belief and motivation. Fear of failure becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • When your actions are not producing the results you want, stop and choose a different approach. Ensure that your goals are specific, achievable and measurable. Ask yourself: How will I know when I reach my goal?

2. Spreading yourself too thinly

  • Juggling is part of life. However, pick up one ball too many and all the balls are likely to fall to the ground. Taking on another client when you are already swamped, working on vacations, saying yes to looking after the neighbour’s dog may all tip the balance.
  • There are 24 hours in each day, so time management is about managing ourselves and prioritising what is important rather than fire fighting the urgent. Learn to say no, protect your time and focus, and minimise unhelpful distractions. Look after your health and fitness. Juggling is easier when you are on top form. 

3. Indecision and over-analysis

  • Sitting on the fence uses up your energy, focus and time. Analysing the same options multiple times does not create new possibilities. It creates a loop of analysis-paralysis.
  • Step back to get some perspective. Obtain an impartial opinion. Ask yourself: What is missing? What would help me make the decision? What would I do if I weren’t afraid?

4. Ruminating on past failures

  • There is much to be gained from past failures. Such as learning what to do differently next time, honing your coping strategies and simply knowing that you can get over obstacles.
  • What is not useful is churning events over and over, alternatively bathing in self-pity and self-criticism. You risk creating a habit out of failure. Regret and resentment are like anchors, they do not help us to move forward, but simply spin us round as the tide comes in and out.

5. Avoiding challenges and waiting for motivation

  • Often during times of imposed change clients bemoan to me that they like “security” and “stability”. Yet when I ask them what makes them fulfilled and motivated, it is generally when they are problem-solving or working on a challenging goal. Living and working in our comfort zone does not stretch our capabilities or fulfil our potential. There is a risk of becoming bored and unmotivated.
  • Lacking motivation? Begin the job in hand and motivation will appear. Still no motivation? Ask yourself if this is YOUR goal? What makes it important? Do not settle for stumbling from day to day. Strive for a bigger and more meaningful life experience. 

6. Downgrading your self-development

  • Keeping up with industry knowhow and technological advancements is not a bonus it is a must.
  • Own your career, become an expert in your field. Do not forget your personal self-development. In our fast-changing world, standing still is akin to moving backwards. Lifelong learning adds breadth to our life experience, and keeps us healthy, curious and active into the old age. In the words of Einstein: “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving”. 

7. Neglecting relationships

  • Building authentic relationships takes time and effort, but it is hugely rewarding. Businesses, families and communities are built on relationships between people. Have you noticed how unfriendly atmosphere at work can transform the perfect job into the worst job? Generally, we leave people rather than jobs.
  • Take time to cultivate your relationships. Remember that small gestures really make a difference (a smile), do not be afraid to ask for help (it empowers others) and liberally employ the most powerful word in the English language (“Thanks”).

Which self-sabotage strategy will you thwart today? 


About Natalia Shoutova: Natalia is an executive and business coach, and founder of Be Do Have Coaching. Natalia and her expert team use coaching, NLP, personality profiling and inspiring team-building events to help businesses and executives achieve their goals. In her spare time, Natalia is around the world sailor, pilot and keen photographer.

Photo: Natalia Shoutova

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