Creating a meaningful working life is a lot of work. There are obstacles inherent in the world of work that we need to overcome. There are people we need to influence. But, our greatest resistance to changing our working lives comes from within. We all get in our own way at one time or another. I’ve done it, I still do it, and you will too. Creating our own obstacles is called self-sabotage. Here’s how it happens.
Self-sabotage in five easy steps
- We begin taking action to change our working lives.
- The action causes us to experience stress.
- Instead of continuing to implement our plan, we focus on one or more reasons why we should abandon our journey.
- We abandon any action or plan to change our working lives.
- Our self-sabotage is complete when we blame others for our failure.
Nearly all of my clients begin self-sabotaging. Many get as far as Step 3. Some have made it to Step 4. Unfortunately, I’m aware of one former client who is deeply committed to Step 5. But Steps 4 and 5 are avoided when we are triggered out of self-sabotage in Step 3.
Trigger yourself out of self-sabotage
Triggers are created when we experience danger or the pain of failure. Then, those triggers cause us to take action to reduce risk or pain. But how can we develop triggers without first experiencing the danger or pain that we want to avoid?
The best we can do is to learn from what has happened to other people. We learn how other people self-sabotaged their journey toward a deeply meaningful working life, then use those behaviors to trigger us into awareness of our own self-sabotage. Once we’re aware, then we can do something to stop the self-sabotage and get back on track.
In my upcoming book, I discuss the seven most common ways that we self-sabotage our career change. In this article, I’ve listed the top three self-sabotages and their triggers.
Top 3 self-sabotages and their triggers
1. Imposter syndrome
- Description: A feeling of not having earned the right to pursue your own deeply meaningful working life
- Trigger: You are embarrassed to tell people about the work that is deeply meaningful to you
- Description: Habitual and intentional avoidance of starting or finishing a task while understanding the negative consequences of avoidance
- Trigger: You dread starting or finishing a task that you know will help you create a deeply meaningful working life
- Description: Unable to complete tasks, or continually redoing tasks, in an attempt to achieve a perfect outcome
- Trigger: You feel like your tasks and the tasks you assign to others are never done properly
When you recognize one or more of the triggers and realize you are self-sabotaging, first tell yourself that self-sabotage is a perfectly normal response to meaningful changes in your life. Be thankful that you are beginning to self-sabotage and be super-thankful that you are now aware of it.
Get back on track
Speak your vision
I first ask every client to create a vision of their future. A vision is not a goal to be accomplished. A vision is the work experience we want to have, every day, in the future. A short vision statement, stated in the present tense, is something we need to say out loud whenever we become aware of our self-sabotage.
Here’s an example of a vision statement: “Confidently and competently leading high-performing IT support teams.”
Review your weekly goals and tasks
We achieve our vision by setting goals and accomplishing tasks. But, we might set the wrong goal or we have set a goal that’s no longer relevant. Then, we can do the same with the tasks associated with a goal. Review the goals and tasks you have set for the week and revise them, as necessary.
Get one thing done, now!
Select one task from your list and get all of it or part of it done, now! You can always do something that gets you one step closer to creating a deeply meaningful working life, even if it’s the smallest step you’ll ever take. Doing something will make you feel good because everything you do to accomplish your goals is guided by your vision.
What do you do to get out of self-sabotage? Let me know. Please leave a comment below or message me on social media. You can connect with me on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Also, please share this article and subscribe to Work Feels Good to read more.
Colleen Henderson says
Excellent and immediately usable. Thanks Tom!
Tom Morin says
Thanks, Colleen. Always appreciate hearing from you. T