Get Out Of Your Own Way: How To Overcome Self-Sabotage
Here’s a question: have you ever set yourself a goal, made really steady progress towards it, and then suddenly, almost without noticing, you find yourself slipping back into old habits that threaten to derail everything you’ve worked so hard for?
Maybe you’re on a mission to make new friends and have been taking every opportunity to get out and socialise but suddenly you feel curtailed by a sudden and unexplainable lack of confidence. Perhaps you’re working towards landing some new clients in your business but, when it comes to marketing yourself, you find you’re procrastinating on every single project.
Sounds like you’re self-sabotaging. But don’t despair. Self-sabotage is actually a sign that you’ve made really great progress, and a fear-based part of you is simply reacting to your success by doing its utmost to protect you from change.
This fear-based part of you can halt your progress in lots of different ways. It can be really obvious or it can be really sneaky and hidden. Either way, self-sabotage, if left unchecked, can steer you away from your goals.
Why do we self-sabotage?
Great question and the answer will help you move forward. Self-sabotage is the process of undermining your own goals. It’s something you’d never intentionally choose to do. None of us would deliberate stall our progress towards our goals, but our ego self wants to keep us nice and safe.
See, the ego, the fear-based part of our brain, perceives anything outside of our comfort zone as a threat, even if that thing makes us happy. If it’s unfamiliar, the ego will do its best to sabotage your progress and hold you back. It’s a protective mechanism that can keep us safe from actual dangers as much as it can keep us stuck from achieving the things we desire. That is, if we let it.
There can also be a little something called ‘cognitive dissonance’ at play. This concept is best summed up as the mental struggle between two conflicting ideas: for example, say you’ve set a goal to land a salary increase of 10 per cent but your family never had money when you were growing up and you don’t feel worthy of it now.
On a psychological level, you don’t feel deserving of the salary increase, and there’s a disconnect between the person you want to become and the beliefs you hold about the person you are now.
Put simply, our self-limiting beliefs often come to the surface the closer we get to our goals and we often respond with destructive habits to protect us from the pain of failure.
Here are some examples of self-sabotaging behaviours:
- Procrastination: Are you doing everything in your power to avoid working on that important work project or getting out the door to go to the gym? Yep, that’s self-sabotage at play.
- Commitment issues: It happens in relationships too. Have you ever made a new friend or started a new relationship and suddenly felt the urge to run in the opposite direction or push the other person away?
- Constant worry & doubt: Hello, overthinking! Just as you’re making headway on an important goal, you might start to question if you deserve it, fret about whether you really want it, or notice your inner critic has gone into overdrive.
- Indulging in bad (comfortable) habits: Think blowing your monthly wage on an unnecessary purchase when you’re about to hit your savings target or ordering a takeaway when you planned to have a salad.
- Giving up: Sometimes when the going gets tough, the tough throw in the towel.
You might think that self-sabotage is a losing battle and that your determination and motivation are no match for the ego, but, jump up and down with joy, because you can move through it. Here’s how…
How to overcome self-sabotage
Be on the lookout for it
There’s actually two types of self-sabotage: conscious and unconscious, and it’s the latter one that’s particularly sneaky. While we might be able to easily spot missing our third workout in a row or notice when we’re procrastinating, unconscious self-sabotage is a little harder to spot.
Maybe you’ve suddenly noticed your progress has stalled in a certain area or something that once felt easy, joyful and fulfilling has become a source of stress.
Committing to a daily journaling habit can help you uncover destructive patterns and spot when your ego is doing its best to hinder your progress. What self-sabotaging behaviours are currently holding you back and what’s triggering them?
Maybe you’re in a new relationship but are so uncomfortable being close to someone that you’re doing your utmost to push the other person away, or you’re finally making headway in your business but suddenly feel plagued by feelings of self-doubt.
When you suspect self-sabotage is at play, take five to ten minutes every day to free-write in your journal and get analytic. Ask yourself, why might my subconscious mind perceive this goal as unsafe? Why might it be trying to protect me? You might just be surprised at what comes up.
Respond in a new way
Now that you know what’s triggering your self-sabotage and how these destructive habits are holding you back, it’s time to put that freshly gleaned insight to good use. Ask yourself, how could I respond to my self-sabotage triggers in a better way?
Always overindulge in foods that make you feel bad when you feel stressed? Maybe you could go for a walk to destress instead. Often find you procrastinate on your most important tasks? Perhaps you could give the Eat That Frog method a go. The Journal by The Head Plan and Roxie Nafousi gives you oodles of space to work through this process in more detail.
While you work through this important step, tap into feelings of worthiness. We often self-sabotage because we don’t feel worthy of our goals, and recognising this is a crucial step in moving forward.
How do you cultivate feelings of worthiness, you ask? You could keep a list of your accomplishments, use our Mirror Markers to repeat daily empowering statements about yourself, or learn to set boundaries that protect you.
The most important step of all, however, is treating yourself with unconditional love. Make a commitment to love and nurture yourself every single day.
Stick with your priorities
Overcoming self-sabotage means getting comfortable with discomfort. It means choosing to keep going even though it feels difficult.
When you need an extra push of motivation to move forward, turn to the long and short term goal pages in your Head Plan Productivity & Wellness Journal and remember your ‘why’. What are you working towards and why?
Next, focus on the small daily actions you can take that don’t feel so scary or intimidating. Your ego fears change and if you change too much too quickly, it can freak out. What daily habits can you commit to today that stretch you out of your comfort zone without overwhelming you?
Here’s the really good news: The more you stick with those habits, the more ingrained they become. Pretty soon, your ego won’t want to fight against your new behaviours because they’ll feel normal, natural, and safe.
You might think destructive behaviours are a sign that you’re weak, unworthy or destined to fail, but you’re none of those things. See, self-sabotage is a normal part of the journey towards your goals. Almost everyone will come up against it at some point or another while in pursuit of their desires. The good news is, you can reframe it with a change in perspective.
We often see setbacks as a negative, but they are essential for our growth. Moving past these blocks allows you to grow into the person you are destined to become. They alert you to limiting beliefs and give you an opportunity to change them.
When self-sabotage feels insurmountable, recognise the progress you’ve already made and remember this is just a little bump in the road and you’ll overcome it like you have so many others.
The only person stopping you from achieving your goals is YOU. That’s good news because it means everything you’ve ever wanted is within your grasp and within your control.
Want A Daily Gratitude Practice To Transform Your Entire Day – And Life?
Gratitude. What is gratitude? You might say it’s the art of being thankful for what you have, appreciating the small things in life, or expressing thanks to someone who has done you a kindness. Us? We reckon it’s best summed up in the words of positive psychology researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky.
She says, “Gratitude is an antidote to negative emotions, a neutralizer of envy, hostility, worry, and irritation. It is savouring; it is not taking things for granted; it is present-oriented.”
See, when you’re grateful, and we mean truly, deep-down-in-your-soul grateful, all the negative stuff that brings you down can’t reach you. Anger, sadness, self-doubt: none of it can exist in the face of gratitude. It is one of the highest vibrations there is and when you focus on it, all that other stuff dissolves and reduces.
Not only that but this magical feeling of joy can attract even more wonderful blessings into your life. Oprah keeps a gratitude journal and says, “Be thankful for what you have, and you’ll end up having more.” Put simply, being grateful makes your blessings multiply.
The good news? You can practice gratitude anywhere and everywhere and literally everyone can do it – yep, that includes you. Whether you want to feel happier, be more present, reduce stress, or simply find more beauty in life, gratitude is the answer. But don’t just take our word for it…
The Science Of Gratitude
Gratitude isn’t just a spiritual concept, it’s actually a bonafide area of scientific study. Researchers have been studying it since the early 2000s and as it turns out there’s a whole host of proven neuroscientific benefits to it.
So, here’s your primer: What happens when you practice gratitude? When we feel grateful our brains release a surge of dopamine, a hormone that makes us feel really good and provides a natural high. At the same time, it also produces serotonin, a hormone that balances our mood and aids feelings of relaxation.
When we express gratitude, activity in the brain’s prefrontal cortex also ramps up which helps us make better decisions and improves our learning (hence why gratitude is an excellent starting point on your self-improvement journey.)
What’s more, gratitude also stimulates our brain’s altruism and reward systems which motivates us to be charitable and kind to others, as well as seeking rewards for ourselves. Armed with gratitude you’re simply more likely to go after your goals.
As if that wasn’t enough, gratitude also has a wealth of proven health benefits, including immune support, decreased stress levels, improved sleep quality, and better emotional awareness.
How To Cultivate Gratitude
Maybe you’re no novice and you’re already practising gratitude and using a gratitude journal on the daily, but simply need a little guidance on how to amplify its effects and feel it more deeply. Or perhaps you’re a complete beginner and the process of being grateful for everything in your life is a new and novel concept.
Whichever camp you fall into, we’re here to help. Here at The Head Plan, we know a thing or two about gratitude. We use it on the good days and the bad and we’ve created a game-changing gratitude journal that allows you to make gratitude a daily habit in as little as five minutes. If you have ever wondered...how does a gratitude journal work? We included detailed explainer pages so you know what to put into your gratitude journal, and gratitude journal prompts to keep you on track each morning and evening.
So are you ready to make gratitude not just a fleeting feeling but a way of life? Here’s how…
Create a gratitude ritual
How do I do that, you ask. Use The Head Plan journal, of course. It’s a surefire way to ensure you practice gratitude on the daily with space to record the three things you’re most grateful for each and every day. Make the process as pleasant as possible; you could use your favourite pen, light a dreamy scented candle, and curl up in the cosiest spot in your home. The more you can look forward to and savour this magical practice, the more you’ll want to do it again and again.
To stay consistent, you might like to set a specific time aside that you practice gratitude every single day. Our advice? Do it in the morning when you first wake up. It’ll set the tone for the day head.
Here’s the good news: The more you do it, the easier it’ll become. Seriously. Every time you practice gratitude daily you are strengthening your brain’s neural circuits, making it easier to maintain and focus on that feeling of gratitude in the future. How’s that for a return on investment?
Appreciate the little things
… and we mean the really little things. When was the last time that you gave thanks for the plates you eat your breakfast, lunch and dinner of? Or felt deeply grateful for the water supply in your home that allows you to take an invigorating hot shower each and every morning?
Day to day it can be easy to take these things for granted; it’s easy to get caught up in our troubles and forget just how much we have to be grateful for. But when you hone in on the tiny little things that make our lives more manageable and enjoyable you can establish a deep, deep appreciation for all that you have. It allows you to create a feeling of ‘fullness’ rather than lack.
Here’s our advice: every morning after you’ve filled out your Gratitude Journal, say thank you for every single thing you touch and use while you’re getting ready, from your toothbrush and toothpaste to the bowl you make your breakfast in. Trust us, by the time you’re finished, you’ll be simply buzzing to start the day.
Use it in negative situations
We know what you’re thinking: How could you ever feel grateful for the situations in your life that cause you pain and strife?
Listen carefully. We get it: we know it can be easy to feel grateful when things are going great, and challenging when everything seems to be going wrong. But this is where gratitude can really work its magic: it can provide perspective, restore a feeling of calm, and even help you problem solve.
This unattributed quote sums it up: “The most powerful weapon against your daily battles is finding the courage to be grateful anyway.”
One of the quickest ways you can do just that is to ask ‘what is this teaching me?’ and then jot down your answers. Next, write a list of five blessings associated with the challenge and say ‘thank you’ for them. Maybe it’s taught you resilience, given you an opportunity to open up to a friend, or helped you get clearer on what you really want.
Search for and appreciate the hidden positives. They are there. We promise.
End your day with gratitude
In The Magic, author Rhonda Byrne recommends making a mental recap of your day right before you fall asleep and pinpointing the very best thing that happened so you can feel gratitude for it.
When you mentally flick back through your day, you’ll realise that it was made up of many magical moments, even if on the face of it, the past 24 hours didn’t seem all that special. It might be that first sip of tea in the morning, the laughs you exchanged with a friend or that exciting work email that landed in your inbox. When you look back, you’ll realise that there were many little blessings that came your way.
It all starts with gratitude…
You know that saying “The grass isn’t greener on the other side, it’s greenest where you water it?” Think of gratitude as the water. If you want your life to be lush and green, you need to shower it in gratitude.
Put simply, gratitude turns what we have into enough, while simultaneously attracting more for us to love and appreciate. It doesn’t matter where you’re at, who you are, or how terrible things seem, what you put into a gratitude journal can turn your whole day - and life - around.
So, let us ask you this: what are you grateful for?