Self-sabotage is intentionally undermining your own efforts to do something. You may find it surprising then to think that anyone would take steps to ruin their own chances at achieving their goals. It happens though; and often.
Despite ones best intentions, we’re not always as strong as we’d like to be. Consider the person who makes it a goal to lose weight. Their reason for wanting to lose the pounds could be a wish to feel better about themselves. In a moment of weakness however, that same person stands with the fridge open getting a piece of pie; something they expressly vowed not to eat as doing so runs counter to their weight loss goal. While they feel guilt in eating it, they enjoy the taste and texture of the food in the moment. Why? It was something that gave them immediate pleasure, even though it runs counter to their longer-term goal which will make them feel greater pleasure in their accomplishment.
The same is true when it comes to looking for work. Getting a job may be your goal, which has several benefits such as: you’ll feel better being productive, you’ll have purpose, you’ll have some much-need income and overall, you’re self-esteem and self-image will improve. With all those reasons for getting a job, you feel positive about putting in the effort to go for it!
However, in no time at all, you find yourself willfully distracted; watching television because you want the entertainment but not deriving the pleasure it normally brings you because there’s this persistent nagging sense that you should be job searching. You’re not fooling anyone, let alone yourself; you’re sabotaging your own efforts to find employment.
Realizing a goal takes discipline. The thing is, your thoughts can be ever so fragile when you aren’t doing what you feel you really should be. Indulging in that piece of pie or watching that hour show instead of looking for a job can make you believe you lack commitment, you’re weak and nothing short of a failure. It’s so easy at times like these to heap on the negative, which can have the unfortunate impact of sending you right back to the fridge for more pie or watching television for the rest of the day because these are the things you’ve come to feel good about in the past. So why not give in and at least enjoy them guilt-free?
Even though this behaviour is counter-productive to your long-term goals, don’t beat yourself up unnecessarily. It’s not easy to stay 100% committed to the new discipline it takes to changing behaviour. Behaviour is after all a set of thoughts and actions you typically think and do. Altering those thoughts and altering what’s really your normal way of going about things isn’t something you are likely to succeed at just because you come to some decision – even a good one – overnight. Example: the infamous New Year’s resolutions people make and don’t follow through on year after year.
An athlete knows that to ultimately meet their goal of the best performance they are capable of giving, it’s going to take discipline and practice. When a big race is in their future, they plan for it month’s or years in advance in the case of the Olympics. Sports teams play exhibition games prior to the start of their seasons to appreciate what it’s going to take. Success doesn’t happen just because they put their mind to things; it takes discipline, effort, commitment and follow-through. Ask them if they have setbacks, days when they just don’t put in the effort and they’ll tell you those moments happen. Why? They’ll say they are human; and so are you.
Committing to a goal such as job searching is a positive thing. Expect there will be ups and downs, hopeful expectations and yes, some let-downs. You’ll have days where you feel good about what you’ve done, steps you’ve taken in the right direction, and you’ll experience moments of doubt, frustration and disappointment. These are no reasons for not getting going though; for not starting. After all, that end goal you have of gaining employment means a lot to you and how you see yourself.
Now depending how long you’ve been in your current routine, and how much or little that current routine mirrors the activities and time-management it’s going to take to find your next job, it can be a minor or major shift in your daily activities to be successful. So think about that. A complete alteration in how you’re spending your time is likely going to mean you’ll have more moments where you’ll want to revert to those past behaviours that you now see as counter-productive to achieving your new goal. If you’re already pretty disciplined with your time and doing some job searching daily, you’ll have fewer moments where you are distracted.
Self-sabotage isn’t really hard to understand when you see it as momentarily engaging in things you find preferable in a given moment. Discipline takes time to acquire. Give yourself credit for small steps in the right direction; just coming to the decision on what you want is one of them. If you falter – and you likely will – get on with it again. If it was important enough to you that you set this new goal, it’s likely just as important enough to you to keep going.