There’s a lot of talk about how we sabotage our personal and professional success. We’ve been told that we’re often working against ourselves and to beware of the ego. Self-sabotage is sometimes depicted by that overused image of a devil on one shoulder versus an angel on the other. Psychology Today even refers to self-sabotage as the enemy within. Webster’s dictionary defines sabotage as “an act or process tending to hamper or hurt.” These viewpoints suggest that we need to be on guard, ready to protect ourselves from the invisible saboteur within us. But is there another perspective that is more empowering?
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
The whole concept of sabotage has always rubbed me the wrong way. Are we really our own worst enemy? Do we sabotage ourselves just when we’re about to jump forward into a new level of professional success, health, or personal growth?
If we buy into the concept of self-sabotage, I think we have completely misunderstood our inner journey.
Our Brains Are Wired for Success
What most people have accepted as negative and limiting patterns I see as a road map to living our full potential or a pathway to greater professional success. We just haven’t been shown the map key.
“Sabotaging” behavior is considered destructive because it takes us off the track of our positive intentions or life goals. A fresh look might reveal that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are pointing to actions that lead to our success.
Related reading: "Self-Sabotage: It Happens to the Best of Us!"
Examples of Self-Sabotage
Let's look at a business situation as an entrepreneur. Your business is taking off. Sales are coming in, you’re getting better visibility, and your cash flow is increasing. Everything is lined up for success.
Then, out of nowhere, you have a wave of profound doubt and overwhelm—there's just too much to do. And you're worried about spending too much time working. In fact, your partner has been commenting on your work hours. Plus, your daughter has been begging you not to miss her next soccer game.
Next, you think, "Is it really worth It!" or “I'm such a fraud... who do I think I am!?" followed by a pit in your stomach and a siren of fear shrieking.
Does any of this sound familiar? So you put on the brakes. You begin doing nonessential tasks and going out to coffee shops to treat yourself. Or you start having extra planning meetings and spend inordinate time on projects to make they are "perfect." And your business begins to stall out and revenue goes down. And you're still not finding that work-life balance!
Have you sabotaged yourself?
Values, Needs, Skills, and Creativity Helping You Be Your Best Self
Now, pretend for a moment that you’ve never heard of self-sabotage. Let’s look at the above situation from a totally new perspective.
Here are your NEW beliefs:
- You absolutely know you hold the answers within yourself.
- You are your own best friend, not your worst enemy.
- The negative emotions you’re feeling are clues to greater success and happiness.
- The inner conflict is creative tension, compelling you to your highest good and to align with important values.
How would you approach the above situations differently?
With curiosity and compassion, right?
Let's investigate using a new lens and the above situation.
SITUATION #1 with the new lens:
Your business is thriving but you’re worried you’re working too much and not spending enough time with your spouse and children.
What’s the value rising to support you? Love of your spouse and children; commitment to quality relationships.
What’s the need driving the doubt? Work-life balance.
What knowledge or skill is needed to regain confidence and peace? Better boundary setting in your work life and reframing negative self-talk. Perhaps more nurturing self-care.
What is the creative tension forging? You are being urged to update your behaviors to the greater demands of an expanding business and the changing needs of a growing family.
And this shift is imperative for all true change and success! Every time we get to a new level or season of our life, we need to reassess. This can be a business expansion or a job promotion, a new baby, or a major move—any big change.
Let's take another common challenge in personal growth.
Another example is the all-too-familiar desire for regular exercise and the goal of fitness. This commitment can be especially tricky with demanding work.
Imagine you’ve been doing great on your exercise program: you’re working out three times a week, you’re eating healthy meals and snacks, and you’re running regularly (or doing some other sport that you enjoy). Then—wham!
This healthy pattern begins to fall apart. You drop back into eating unhealthy but delicious food “just this once.” Then you skip a workout “just this once.” ("Tomorrow I’ll toughen back up!”) And another. Pretty soon you’re off track, discouraged, and thoroughly entrenched in your old habits—again! Many would say that you have sabotaged yourself.
Is slipping into bad habits that inner self-saboteur? Let's look at your behavior differently.
SITUATION #2 with the new lens:
You welched on your diet and exercise program. Old habits took over.
What’s the value rising to support you? Celebration and validation of your previous discipline and success. (Maybe you’re treating yourself for all your hard work! Or maybe you've been pushing yourself too hard.)
What’s the need driving the relapse and doubt? A need for comfort; perhaps more R&R. Greater balance in your life.
What knowledge or skill is needed to regain confidence and peace? Impulse control and increased delayed gratification; keeping yourself encouraged; celebrating yourself in a healthy way; accepting that recovery and rest are as important as exertion.
What is the creative tension forging? The creative tension inside of you (for example, grabbing that yummy latte and coffee cake on your way to work—Ha! Saboteur!) is actually your body’s need for regulation. Because your body and mind have been confronted by the new conditions of a healthier diet and exercise, your body is seeking homeostasis (balance and stability).
So, do you still believe in self-sabotage? When you practice these success strategies and replace the idea of sabotage with a much more encouraging belief, you’re on your way to success without sacrifice and a whole new level of happiness, work-life balance, and ease.
Utilize the formula above to empower yourself—and then follow the answers within yourself.
Related reading: "Supercharge 2022 for Greater Success and Well Being Using 5 Simple Steps." For additional tools and support: see our programs for growth and transformation here.