End the Self-Sabotage to Make Good on Your Dreams
Three ways we sabotage our greatness and what to do about it
Posted Apr 08, 2013
You know when it happens. You're in the midst of one of those great weeks, about to hit the top rung on the ladder of life, everything going your way, when, all of sudden, the rung breaks. You lock your keys in the car, or people stop returning your calls, or a petty argument with your partner turns big. Or your account becomes overdrawn.
Maybe you hear your inner voices kick up with messages like “you can’t do this” or “this can’t be happening.” And, Boom! You are stuck. Your beliefs and behaviors rise up sucking the energy and enthusiasm right out of your efforts. Sabotaging the very things you want most.
This kind of self-sabotage plays out in little and big ways. Psychologist, teacher, and an all- around smart guy, Gay Hendricks calls this the Upper Limit Problem. It shows up when we’ve reached a place that feels so creative, successful, and happy that we don’t know how to handle all the good feelings. Those powerful feelings move us out of our comfort zone, so, we shock ourselves back into the familiar and mundane.
For example, your relationship is going great, you feel close and connected an on some level all that goodness feels like too much, so you pick a fight with your partner. Or you have a great opportunity at work, life is sweet, but somehow, inexplicably, you forget to turn in the work required.
Instead of growing then, instead of moving into all that goodness that shows up, we stay where we are, comfortable with the familiarity, but forever feeling like we are missing something.
If you feel yourself stumbling, even though everything appears to be going well; if you’re feeling stuck, as though you’ve plateaued, it’s possible that you are sabotaging your dreams.
Here are three of the subtle ways we sabotage ourselves and limit our greatness and what you can do to overcome them.
1. You are just too busy to focus on your dreams.
“Really,” you say, “I am busy.” Sure you are. We all are. But what are you busy doing? How much of your busyness do you spend taking inspired actions toward your goals. I, for one, can feel very important and keep myself very busy by checking e-mails, writing blogs, paying bills – but let’s be honest, that isn’t getting the next book written. In fact, it’s so easy to get busy with the busy work that we never actually move toward completion of anything that matters. Make your dreams a priority. Put in a little time each day on the things that excite and inspire you. You can always do the cat litter or respond to e-mails after you’ve done some dream building.
Solution: For two days this week, write down everything you do during the day. Make a note every time you check your e-mail, make a call, do the dishes, write a report. Make a log of how you spend your time. After two days take a close look at the log. Where did the time go? Are you spending some of it working toward your dreams? If not, revamp the schedule. Commit to returning all calls between 9 and 10 a.m. Check emails once in the a.m. and once in the afternoon. Wash clothes two mornings a week, or schedule volunteer hours in one long block as opposed to a bit every day. This will free up a few more minutes and in that open pocket of time, you can work toward the one the thing that matters most to you. Do it even if you feel uncomfortable or afraid. Do it when you’re busy, if it feels like an indulgence or luxury. Dedicate some time each day to fulfilling your dreams.
2. You feel stuck no matter how hard you work.
How many times do you sit at the computer facing a blank screen? The words just won’t come. Ever fixated over a problem without coming up with any new ideas? Tried to figure out a financial strategy or manage a parenting dilemma only to feel stymied and stuck? Often we work, struggle, push, to finish one job, or solve one problem, even when we are making no progress. This is a form of self-sabotage. You sit there, trying to bully through these moments by working harder, but it won't get you anywhere.
Solution: Instead, stop pushing. Trust that it will work out. Contemplate (don’t obsess, just get clear about what you’re dealing with) your circumstance for a minute, then go do something else. Something easier. Go for a run. Take a shower. Fold the clothes. Do something unrelated to the thing you are sweating over and let your subconscious take over. Your brain will continue to puzzle over the matter and will often come up with just the right answer, even while you're immersed in a seemingly unrelated task. Let the creative process work. Loosen up. Let go. Answers will emerge, along with some forward momentum.
3. You need to do more research.
Each day you are confronted with dozens of decisions: what to cook for dinner, when to workout, what to order at Starbucks, who to call, what to buy, which task to take on next. Then you toss in the biggies like managing a business, raising a child, maintaining a relationship and the sheer number of decisions you face can feel overwhelming. You don’t know what to do, so you do research. Lots of it.
Your intellect tells you that this study will help you make the smartest choice, but it’s often a form of self-sabotage designed to keep you in your comfort zone. To keep you stuck where you are.
Solution: Too much research keeps you from taking inspired action and limits how much you’ll grow and how far you’ll go. Sure, some research and info is helpful, but set a limit. Need a new roof? Get bids from three roofers and go from there. You don’t need to pick from dozens. Once you find your three, stop the Web search. Want a new doctor? Get a referral, make an appointment and see what you think. Just. Do. Something.
To be eternally in the process of deciding is to be stuck. Often, if you slow down long enough to get quiet and listen to your instincts you’ll know what to do just by how you feel. If you make a choice that feels constrictive, boring, negative – that’s probably not the best direction for you to head. If you choose something that makes you feel exhilarated (even if it’s scary), engaged, excited, energized – chances are you’re moving in the right direction.
The key, as always, is to become aware so that you can recognize when you are settling into a pattern of self-sabotage. Then, if you catch yourself procrastinating, putting yourself down, feeling unworthy, you can take steps to stop it and fully step into your greatness.