How To Defeat Self-Sabotage So You Can Get What You Really Want

By Susan Falcone
June 5, 2013 • comment(s)
Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)

You’re frustrated.

You feel stuck in a repetitive motion, running at a crazy pace on a hamster wheel—getting nowhere—and perhaps even running the wrong way.

How is that three years have gone by and you’re still in the same crappy job that you constantly complain about? Or you haven’t gone for that position that you know you’re perfect for?

And, five years later, you’re still miserable in your relationship but unwilling to stop dragging that dead weight around with you?

You know you have the potential for great stuff and want way more out of your life and career, but it never seems to quite work out the way you had planned.

But you try so hard.

Sadly, the very things you are doing to edge yourself towards getting what you want are likely the same exact habits and systems that are holding you back, and possibly making things even worse.

Did you know that the typical methods we use to create change or break bad habits actually tend to keep us in a constant state of self-sabotage, preventing us from getting what we really want? We work so hard to see our dreams and big ideas pan out, but we’re using ineffective tools that work as well as fad diets. Temporary improvements followed by stale setbacks.

Our intentions are mighty, yet our systems for achieving them are pretty outdated. So, we get stuck in a cycle of perceived powerless and disappointment, and often feel like we’re going backwards, or we give up altogether.

Research is finally showing that old paradigms of using perfectionism, shame, guilt, and fear really don’t do the stellar job of motivating us as was once thought. Matter of fact, those archaic methods are the very things that keep us stuck.

So, yes, you’ll have to rethink your methodology to make the big shift you’re looking for, but at least you’ll have a better chance at getting off the wheel of redundancy, and out of that glass box altogether.

Here’s what to look for and how to start making lasting change that sticks:

Get honest about your M.O.

In her book, Mindset, Carol Dweck Ph.D. says your chances of successful change rely less on your ability and your circumstances, and more on your belief system and how you believe things can or will change. Essentially, she puts people in two different groups—those with a fixed mindset and those with a growth mindset.

Psychoanalyst David Krueger, M.D., expands on this concept by suggesting that people who assume a fixed mindset tend to stay in their comfort zone indefinitely. They like to avoid challenges that don’t have an assured outcome because otherwise they might not meet their own standards or be accepted by those they are trying to impress. I would say that’s a pretty good example of self-sabotage. That M.O. basically ensures you will stay on that hamster wheel indefinitely.

If you have a fixed mindset you work with the assumption that growth and success are the direct result of your work product, performance, talent or intelligence. If it doesn’t work out the way you had hoped, or you fail altogether, then you think you suck, you’re stupid, and a giant loser. If you don’t get what you anticipated, you beat yourself up, blame someone or something else, or find every reason in the world why it wasn’t your “fault” because that smacks of epic failure.

When you’re operating from this failure/success point of view, your real motivation is, “Are people going to love me?”, “Are people going to accept me?”, and “Am I good enough?”

Here’s the shift in mindset that actually fosters sustainable change: People who have a growth mindset are not inspired by the fear of failure or the promise of success. They believe that wisdom and success are gained through each experience. So if they stumble, they assess the blip, modify their behavior and proceed in a different way. Subsequently, each behavioral modification increases their rate of success as they move forward—a sort of live and learn mentality. They don’t expect special attention or rewards. That’s not their motivation. Their motivation is simply a sense of forward movement (not fixed ideals) and the accumulation of wisdom as they work toward their ultimate goal. Because they accept their imperfections and are gentle and kind to themselves when they trip up, they move forward more successfully and are generally happier.

In other words, they modify as they go, avoiding the hamster wheel altogether.

Stop trying to be perfect

If you’ve adopted a fixed mindset, chances are you live in or frequently visit the Land of Perfectionism. It’s a huge trap, like that weird toyland Pinocchio went to before he got turned into a donkey. In his twisted pursuit to become something he wasn’t, he turned out to be something else altogether. A rather undesirable outcome, I might add. He turned into an ass.

The problem with perfectionism is that you’re trying to achieve an undefined and ever-shifting standard, so it’s a perfect setup for failure. In the process of trying to be the “winner” at whatever you’re trying to do, you’re creating an unattainable goal and trying to meet it in an unsustainable way. Perfectionism creates the perfect conditions for self-sabotage. There’s always someone better and more perfect, so striving to be the best at everything all the time is lost cause. Being the best is unnecessary for success, unless you’re trying to feed your ego. Your best is all that is required.

Artist Chuck Close said, “Never let anyone define what you are capable of with parameters that don’t apply to you.” That includes yourself.

Read the rest of this story on our blog at Forbes. 



Leave a Comment

Please Note: We moderate all of our comments before they are published to ensure readers the best possible experience.

Emails are kept private