Stopping Self-Sabotage – How to break the habit.

Stopping Self-Sabotage: a journey to break the habit

The plan had been to sit and write this article at 10am today.  It’s now 11.02am.  On my way to my office, I stopped to water the garden plants, do the washing up, put the washing away – all jobs that can wait.  None of them as important as my actual work, but all tools I employ to postpone me from doing the thing that could actually see me fulfil a dream. 

Allow me to introduce myself, I am the Queen of self-sabotage.  

I know this to be true because I believe I own the common sense required to know clearly the where and how of what I need to do to improve & grow.  A lot of the things are very simple, just don’t eat the cake, get off Instagram and write the article, check your bank balance regularly and budget – so the fact that I know the answers and still choose to ignore them, allows me to wear my crown quite nicely.  

However, I decided it’s time to abdicate.

I am going to stop stopping myself.  Anyone else want to join me?  

It’s highly likely that as you developed your skills in self-sabotage you were also earning your degree in procrastination.  The two go very nicely together.  Being considered and thoughtful is a nice quality to have – procrastination (using every tactic to delay the inevitable) is not.  Do not confuse the two.  

Here’s what we’re going to do right now and we’re not going to procrastinate about it! 

Let’s list our goals…  

To help you, I’ve come up with 6 common areas that people often look to improve:

  • Career
  • Finance
  • Physical Health
  • Mental Health
  • Home-life
  • Appearance

Add, subtract, divide as you wish – this needs to be personal to you.  For each area you choose, set a goal.  So for career it could be finding a better paid job or for physical health it could be to get fit.  Anything really.  Then if you want to really motivate yourself, tell someone.  Especially if that someone is a good supporter and motivator.  You’re putting yourself under some healthy pressure to deliver.

Stopping Self-Sabotage: a journey to break the habit

You can decide to work on one area at a time or go for multiple. If like me, you’re just wanting a general shake-up of things, then multiple goals at once is achievable, especially if they all work well together.  Or, you may find that you’ll work on elements from all areas but will give specific focus to areas you assign higher priority to.    Whatever works for you.

Under each goal we need to write down the steps we are going to take to move towards achieving them.  As Vidal Sassoon once said, ‘The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.’ so, in order to achieve the success, we need to outline the work required.  Whilst in the process of identifying the actions, here are some important things to keep in mind:

– Keep it reasonable and specific –

My career goal is to grow my business.  Rather than listing my first action as obtain 1-million followers on Twitter – which feels unachievable, scary and off-putting – my first actions are to get business cards printed, identify and sign up for networking events and write regularly.  Less ambitious, yes, but still important steps in actively leading me to my goal.  Additionally, these actions aren’t vague, they’re specific.  ‘I’m going to exercise’ is vague, ‘I’m going to sign up to spinning class on a Tuesday morning’ is specific and most importantly something you’re more likely to action.  

– Use some mind marketing –

Saying ‘I will only ever eat salad’ is a higher self-sabotage trigger than saying, ‘I will make sure 5 out of 7 lunches in a week are a healthier choice, such as salad’.  It’s all about how you sell it to yourself.  

– Push yourself –

Whilst you do need to be mindful of the above, you also need to push yourself slightly.  Seeing results from your actions encourages further actions.  If you’re too easy on yourself you’ll likely just not bother.  

If you identify any actions that will help you towards achieving your goals in multiple areas – then these are great ones to prioritise.  An action to exercise regularly could help achieve goals within the areas of mental and physical health as well as appearance. 

Be sure to place a great big tick next to completed actions on your list.  Don’t rub them out – it’s helpful to see how far you’ve come and will spur you on to continue so that all previous actions haven’t been wasted.  As you progress along the journey towards your goals you’ll no doubt identify further actions and you should add these to your list too.  It’s important to remember this is a constant process – even when you’ve achieved your goals there will most likely be actions to complete in order to maintain what you’ve achieved.  

Ok, so you know what you want and how you should go about getting it, but let’s be honest, as  a fully-paid member of the self-sabotage club you’re not confident you’ll go the distance.  It’s natural to be nervous.  Here are some measures I’m employing to help break my life-long habits that I hope you’ll find useful too:

– Get the balance right –

You can’t live your best life if you don’t allow yourself any enjoyment.  It’s therefore imperative to factor this in.  Being super strict on yourself may get you to your goal faster, but it’s unlikely it will be something you want to sustain.  Sustainability is the key to completing actions and continually pushing forward, but you won’t achieve this without balance.   

– Be open to adjustment –

There may be days when for whatever reason you don’t complete something or you lapse into old habits.  Sometimes, it’s as simple as daily required actions beginning to feel a bit mundane.  When this happens, just remember variety is the spice of life.  Hit the pause button yes, but don’t write it all off and throw in the towel.  Revisit your notes, look at your goals and just pick another action.  Giving yourself a move away from routine by doing something different may be just what you need.  Once refreshed pick up where you left off.  

– Fight for you –

If you saw somebody treating a loved one how you might be accused of treating yourself; I think you might have a few heated words to say to them.  Every time you stop yourself from doing something you know is in your best interests – you are hurting you.  Stop it!  It’s time to fight for you.  Stop the internal negotiating – if something needs to be done and you have the power and ability to do it now – just get on and do it already.  If you know you’re procrastinating then have some very serious words with yourself.

Top tip  Wear a band around your wrist and every time you catch yourself procrastinating, ping it.  The physical sensation will help you become very aware of your actions (or lack of them) and will help you to take back some control over your mind.  

Heading towards a goal is like running a race. When you’re skilled in self-sabotage it’s common to pitch up a tent about 100m from the finish.  However, you can’t receive your medal unless you cross the line – how long it takes you to reach that line is completely dependent on you.  Sometimes we just need to walk for a minute in order to gain more energy to finish the race, but don’t set up camp, keep going.  Always remember, every step forward is another step closer.

Stopping Self-Sabotage: a journey to break the habit


Feeling overwhelmed is a common reason for dragging your procrastinated heels! Read:  Overcome feeling overwhelmed

Stopping self-sabotage for me, is a complete work in progress.  I’ve selected my goals, written my actions and I’ve shared them with my husband.  I’m very determined to make this work and I’ll update you on the journey. Wish me luck!  If you have any further advice to offer then I’d love to hear from you.  Plus if you want to put some public pressure on yourself – go ahead and share a goal!  This could end up being a procrastinators (not-so) anonymous group!  

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Stopping Self-sabotage: How to break the habit. Pinterest graphic displaying post title and an image of a pencil, notebook with the words 2018 goals on it, a cacti and a white mug of coffee. livingprettyhappy.com
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8 thoughts on “Stopping Self-Sabotage – How to break the habit.

  1. thank you dear Alex Grace for this great article. i’m tired for excusing myself to make new excuse — and procrastinating myself too (you know what i mean). greetings from Indonesia, and i can’t wait to hear good news from your progress! God bless you!

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