“I have a tendency to sabotage relationships; I have a tendency to sabotage everything. Fear of success, fear of failure, fear of being afraid. Useless, good-for-nothing thoughts.”
Michael Bublé (Canadian Singer/Actor)
“Leaders who are kind of insecure or egocentric, they basically sabotage themselves.”
John C. Maxwell (American Author, The 21 Irrefutable Laws Of Leadership)
“Most of the shadows of life are caused by standing in our own sunshine.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson (American Poet)
No matter who you are or what goals you have, your biggest obstacle in life is you.
You are your own worst enemy.
You are your biggest critic.
Part of this is because our brains are wired to value negative information twelve times more than positive information.
That’s right, negative information is stored in your long-term memory bank almost immediately, while positive information has to be held in your awareness for up to twelve seconds to be remembered long-term.
This is called Negativity Bias, and it affects all us.
It causes us to hold on to, ruminate on, and recall negative experiences more quickly.
It’s a self-loathing maneuver that only serves to undermine our progress and keep us stuck in bad habits.
This keeps us held back, timid, and destroys our self-confidence.
It is an insidious pattern that, when left unchecked, will be an unconscious set-up for failure.
You Are Your Own Worst Enemy
Psychological Science research showed that when placed under pressure, people will default to what is familiar… “the devil they know”.
Participants chose safe, familiar options even if the outcome was negative rather than solutions that might have had more positive outcomes.
Researchers summarized that in an attempt to ameliorate stress, participants would actually make familiar choices that would exacerbate stress.
The devil you know, meet your own worst enemy.
The Association for Psychological Science commented on studies on self-Sabotage, noting that the familiar is something people choose automatically.
They then explain this automatic choice as being an instinct, or “gut response”, even though these choices were part of a self-sabotage mission.
“Not only is familiarity a maladaptive guide to what’s beneficial, it can lead to choices that actually exacerbate stress — increasing the likelihood of more poor judgments, and then more, in a destructive cycle of self-defeating actions.”
Not just the familiar or habitual, but self-perception plays a role in whether we sabotage our own success or not.
Research in Science Daily discusses how self-perception around flexibility of abilities plays a key role in determining who would embrace success and who would retreat into self-sabotage.
In this research, it was determined that those that felt as though their abilities in the workplace were fixed or unchangeable would become anxious in the face of impending success and retreat from opportunity, with a decrease in their overall work performance.
Those who believed they could adapt, and that their ability could change, were less prone to self-defeatism and moved forward to success more easily.
How To Exchange Self-Sabotage For Success
Success is a mental game.
You have to believe that you’re worthy of it and capable.
You have to recognize your own patterns, and what has become familiar to you, and assess whether it’s serving your success or your own sabotage.
You have to ditch counterproductive self-critical patterns that strengthen your negativity bias and undermine your success.
You have to actively reject the familiarity of comfort and objectively choose what is unfamiliar and uncomfortable to build your confidence and self-perception, and conquer negativity bias.
Here are three ways to defeat self-sabotage.
1. Be your biggest fan.
The good news is you can learn to overcome this bias and start being your own best friend.
You can start being your own biggest fan.
Stop looking for other people to reflect who you are and what you’re capable of.
No one else’s opinion or perception of you matters.
Your belief in yourself is the only thing you can rely on.
Everyone else has an agenda.
Everyone else’s impression of you is temporary.
Sometimes it’s not even remotely accurate.
It’s no one else’s job to “get you” and build you up.
This isn’t preschool with cookies for doing a good job cleaning up your toys.
Don’t like yourself?
Don’t believe in yourself?
You get to choose who and how to be at any moment.
You can change anything about yourself that is holding you back and transform your weaknesses into strengths.
Do the work to be the person you can get behind.
Don’t expect others to validate you and be your cheerleaders.
People have their own lives and their own goals.
Go get yours and stop waiting for someone else to believe in you enough to take action.
The alternative is to continue to feel sorry for yourself while you wallow in the self-pity of never reaching your potential.
2. Get real with your past.
The key is to take a hard look at the bad habits and self-sabotaging tendencies that have been keeping you from your goals.
Do an honest inventory.
Look at your past successes and failures.
Are there any patterns?
What was your mindset right before succeeding or failing?
What were your beliefs?
What were your habits?
Notice in particular any repetitive themes — like the BS story you told yourself to convince yourself to hold back instead of lunging forward?
Or the automatic choice that was a knee-jerk impulse that you said was a gut instinct when really you were just too afraid to choose differently.
Look at where your decisions caused more stress or created more drama rather than easing it.
Your biggest advantage will come from knowing yourself and why you do what you do.
Once you’re aware of your patterns, you can actively change them.
You can start having control over your life and your impulses.
You can start learning how to actually discern between a reactive fear based response, and a true gut instinct.
Until then, you’re running on autopilot.
Probably in circles, like a kid on a sugar high.
Get control of your life by doing some hard checks and balances into your history.
Particularly your defeats.
But also your victories.
When have you made the right choices?
When have you faced fear, been bold, and won?
Keep your victories and the mindset you used to achieve them front and center.
Remind yourself of them often.
Especially when you have a choice to make.
Especially when you feel fear.
This is something you have to own in your life if you want to reach any level of success.
It’s work that’s well worth it.
3. Embrace uncertainty to reduce stress.
Most often, people sabotage themselves, not because they’re afraid of failing, but because they’re afraid of succeeding.
They’re afraid of losing their current identity.
They’ve become attached to who they are, whether it’s working for them or not, and refuse to change.
These people will make great progress toward a goal and then, suddenly, right before achieving it, they’ll pull back.
The reason these people pull back is because they’re more comfortable with their past selves than their future selves.
They’re uncertain of who they will become (and uncertain if they live up to who they will become) so they fail on purpose.
They fail in favor of staying comfortable with who they are.
They fail because it’s easier for them to be unhappy than uncertain.
That’s right — people choose to stay unhappy.
They choose to be unhappy and to stay unhappy — because it’s cozy for them.
And not in a satisfying and peaceful cozy, but in a tolerable, static state of moderate misery.
Because staying the same is comfortable.
It requires no effort.
And it keeps you in the known.
It also keeps you from success forever.
If you can’t tolerate uncertainty, wave goodbye to success and happiness forever — it’s never going to happen.
This mindset will keep you in a loop of self-sabotage — indefinitely.
The only way to prevent self-sabotage is to practice choosing uncertainty over unhappiness, over and over again until it’s a habit.
The only way to do this is to repeatedly put yourself in challenging situations.
Challenging situations that you choose and that have a positive outcome on the other end of them.
This will help you get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
This will help you start choosing uncertainty over unhappiness, which will lead to bigger and bigger successes in your life.
People are hardwired with a negativity bias. But your wiring doesn’t stay the same forever, unless you let it. In fact, you can actively change your brain to adopt a mindset for success. This means choosing to believe in yourself and being your biggest fan. It means assessing your history of failures and your successes and taking a hard look at your patterns of behavior that block your success. It means seeking out challenges that stretch you out of your comfort zone and force you into uncertainty, where all you have to rely on is your own belief in yourself.
To learn more about how to stop sabotaging yourself and achieve success, and to get instant access to exclusive training videos, case studies, insider documents, and my private online network, get on the Escape Plan wait list.