Self-Sabotage: 5 Tips for Breaking Free!

Breaking free of self sabotage BLOG iStock_000008596316XSmall
Let’s skip the ‘signs of self-sabotage’ list, because you know what the signs of self-sabotage are.  Your gut tells you, every time.  You know the frustrated, disappointed feeling that comes when you didn’t do something the way you could have, or didn’t do something you’d planned to do.  It all comes down to the fact that you knew better than that.

Here’s the cure, and it’s so, so, so simple:  Ready or not, do something.

That’s the key. And I’m not saying just go do something, I’m also saying do it now, do it before you feel ready.  I say do it before you’re ready because, if you’re like me, you operate according to your feelings and emotions most of the time–and you wait till you feel safe, secure, and really-really ready (till after everyone else has what they need from you) before you feel ready to do things.  So, you might feel safe and ready, but you’re not moving as fast–or spontaneously–as you could be in life. It’s key to push yourself, go for it, and just make the change.  Not in theory:  immediately.   Because you know that if you get caught up inside your head, you’ll be there all day in ‘research’ or ‘daydream’ mode.

We’ve all been there.  It’s part of the inheritance.  Alcoholics and other kinds of addicts are masters of self-sabotage–that’s perhaps the chief manifestation of their addiction.  Unfortunately, whether we became addicts, or not, we still acquired the self-sabotage behavior from growing up with that model.

Read on if you like, but I swear that the key advice is what you just got:  don’t wait till you feel ready and capable and you can imagine it, don’t wait — do your thing now

1.  Shrug Off the Frustrated Moment Immediately

You’re frustrated.  You just repeated a really old habit, sabotaged yourself…again.  Maybe you planned to do a dozen errands when you know better, you know you only had time for two of those errands.  Maybe you showed up your usual 5-10 minutes late–but this time it wasn’t just a meeting, it was for a job interview.  Maybe you got victim-y, or gossip-y, or poor me-y again and got so distracted by that drama, you didn’t leave the house.  Maybe you committed to plans, then rather than canceling with plenty of notice, you waited till the last minute and felt guilty and rude.  Maybe you swore you’d get up and exercise, and you didn’t.  Maybe you took on too many commitments and are burnt out, again.  Maybe your head is spinning so fast that you couldn’t take action on any of your ‘to-do’ items today, and your hand is in a bag of cookies.

Whatever the scenario is–let it go.  Don’t waste time beating yourself up.  Just let it go immediately. Don’t brood, just move on.  Shrug your shoulder, flick your finger, blow up into the air, wave your hand–whatever physical action works for you, but say, “Bye-bye thing. I’m moving forward.”

2.  See Yourself Beyond This Moment

By “see” I mean putting visualization to use.  Visualization isn’t just hippie territory.  Big, strong, masculine athletes use visualization as a key part of their success and game-readiness!

SEE yourself doing the thing you’re having a hard time pulling off.  Close your eyes, or keep them open, or write it down, or whatever works, but find your way to SEE yourself getting things done.

SEE yourself leaving early and getting there on time (reading with the 10 minutes you have to spare).  SEE yourself saying “no” to plans that aren’t realistic.  SEE yourself relaxed and content as you run just the one or two errands you actually have time for.  SEE yourself writing a list of what you need to get done, and prioritizing the list–then working to that list.  SEE yourself enjoying the here and now, not being distracted by all that you aren’t getting done.  SEE yourself as successful.  SEE yourself kindly.

It’s also helpful to remind yourself of the things that went well recently–include teeny-tiny, small things!–in order to coax your mind to focus on what’s working:  you got dinner on the table most nights this week, you read to your children, you paid your rent on time, you paid your bills, talked to an old friend, answered emails, grocery shopped (all that life administration stuff), you started a new project, researched about a new interest, or bought a tool or book or item you needed to move a new project forward.

The more you think along these lines, the longer the list of things you accomplished will get.

3.  Surround Yourself with Mentors and People Who Do Things.

This is classic advice from the dawn of time, but it’s advice as important as it is old.  If you associate with people who are doing things, then your doing things becomes “normal,” not an exception to the rule.  Why swim against the tide?

Start to observe your conversations.  How do you talk about what you’re doing/trying to do?  How do your friends talk about what they’re up to?   Do you talk about what you didn’t get done, or what you did get done? Do your friends complain about how hard things are?  Try to shift that for yourself — experiment with telling others what you did get done, and what you plan to get done next.  Share how excited you are to have accomplished even a very small thing today.  The good eggs will be genuinely happy for you and probably find your outlook very attractive.

4.  Prepare for Success, or Better Yet:  Over-Prepare

As you get to know more people who get things done, you’ll learn that preparation is a key ingredient to achieving their goals.  It’s not magic, they aren’t just “lucky,” they’re trying hard to making things go well.

Accept that it takes effort.

If you’re someone who is consistently a little bit late, give yourself twice the amount of time you think you need.  If you have a job interview or a presentation tomorrow, then get lots and lots of sleep tonight.  If you don’t have a big thing going on but just want tomorrow to go smoothly, then write out (or think through) what the day is going to be like and visualize it going well ahead of time.  Write down as many things as you possibly can, to reduce the possibility of forgetting something important to you.  With regard to deadlines, plot out the steps towards getting there in your calendar in advance, and as you’re plotting, give yourself twice as much time as you think you’ll need.  Don’t think, “Twice as much?!”  Just do it, because the worst thing is that you’ll finish early, and that’s going to be the best thing that’s happened for you in a long time.  Also, get any information you’ll need in order to complete the task as soon as humanly possible so that missing information can’t possibly hold you back.

If you are someone who starts to slow down, get distracted, or celebrate early, that is, around the time the Finish line is in sight–but before you’ve completed the task–it will be especially important for you to plan twice as long for important actions and events.  Don’t worry if your issue is fear of success or if it’s actually fear of failure (skip the diagnosis), just allow twice as much time as you need, do your thing, and get on with it.

The faster you get out of your head, the better off you’ll be.

5.  Change Physically

I am a big believer in using the body to remind the mind of changes it wants to make.  If you want to feel more confident, lift your head up and push your shoulders back–walk through your house and see how you feel.  New physical habits are essential because it makes a fundamental, physical change that you can lean on and that your body will remember more and more over time, which helps a lot during those occasions when your mind is a step behind.

This includes eating well.  When you feed your body well (organic proteins, organic vegetables, organic fruits and whole grains) it will love you back.  Some nutritionists believe depression has much to do with the low levels of a proper balance of Omega 3 & 6 in our diets.  So, eat protein (not a muffin) for breakfast that morning of the big race/interview/date or whatever IT is.

Good luck – and get on with it.



  1. OAD says:

    Awesome – This is getting printed out and pasted next to my computer screen at work and the medicine cabinet at home… I’m constantly getting stuck in the fustration – dwelling on what I did wrong or what I have to do. I have wasted so much time.
    “3. Surround Yourself with Mentors and People Who Do Things” – this has been a huge help for me! My husband is a go out and do things kind of person and now I’m becoming that way too! I also got that type of mentor at work and it has also helped me get less stuck in my job.

  2. amy eden says:

    Right on! Truly great that you have a good role model so close to home.
    Even when a person doesnt have a role model at home – it can work because if you become you own role model, it may (eventually) rub off on your partner and then the get-up-and-go can bounce back and forth in a nice, motivating way. :-) a

  3. Susan says:

    LOL! Love it, Amy! The cure: Do Something!
    Thats what I keep telling myself – and that’s how I found that the “one thing” idea worked pretty well.
    Another thing I’ve used is the “5 minutes/1 thing” rule where I’ll give myself 5 minutes to pick up and do one thing.
    Forward motion creates the energy that keeps me moving forward…:)
    These are all great points and yes; I’m going to print and post myself!
    Do you mind if I share/link back here?
    Awesometastic post Amy!
    Susan (from the House of Zebra’s :)

  4. amy eden says:

    Hi Susan – Oh please feel free to link to this post!
    I like your 5 minutes to do 1 thing rule. I like that its quick. Who can argue with taking 5 minutes out of ones day? And I like that it removes that overwhelmingness of a Big Task thats Looming Over You — theres a lot of satisfaction is getting things done, and something that takes 5 minutes is unquestionably do-able.
    So much of what gets in the way is the IDEA of things, not the actual doing of them. Doing quick things sounds like a perfect antidote.

  5. Troyann says:

    Hi Amy! Another great post with solid thoughts on breaking free of self sabotage. Is it possible that we are sisters from different parents? :-) Anyway, love your work! Keep on keepin’ on! Troyann

  6. amy eden says:

    Hi Troyann! We’re certainly sisters in spirit! (I used to believe, as a kid, that I was adopted. Maybe I secretly wanted different parents? Maybe I wanted a better reason for my un-chosen reality? Maybe I didn’t believe that my dad was really my dad because he’d left me? I’d spend afternoons searching secretly through my dad’s file cabinets, trying to “discover” my hidden childhood truth. Nothing found. I was adamant about the mix-up, so much so that I didn’t even believe the truth of my birth certificate when I finally found it during one of my sleuthing afternoons. Especially because it bore my stepmom’s name, not my birth mothers.) Magical thinking anyone…? :-)

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