How to stop practicing self-sabotage

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You too must have had a high school classmate who graduated on top of the class, an honors student and valedictorian. This kid was a friend of ours.

He was already admitted to Harvard but just for the fun of it he also did the entrance exams to our home city university. And just like that, he scored top again.

For both of us, two ambitious and smart teenagers who worked hard but couldn’t do as well, it was a slap in the face. But that wasn’t the worst. The much stronger “slapping” was to follow and it was self-inflicted by thoughts like “Am I going anywhere at all! I’ll never be anything that! I have no talent whatsoever!”

Today we may look to you like Grandmasters of Goal Setting who created a very effective system helping many more other people but it wasn’t always so. On the contrary. There were times when we didn’t believe we were capable to even name clearly our big dreams, let alone achieve them.

In this article, we’ll talk about the self-sabotage. The breaks within us that can bring us to a complete stop on our road of self-improvement, be that professional or personal. And of course, we will show you how to ease them and speed up.

How it usually starts

Has it ever crossed your mind that the great things happen to these, to those, to the others, but not to you? It seemed as if the destined had the luck, the connections, and the money or were gifted perfectly with intellect and flawless genotype.

Well, you are neither the first, nor the last to be afflicted by that kind of thinking. Many come into this life with the same notion as if it is hard-wired in their brain. But if you are slaving to the idea, that achievement isn’t for you, then you will invariably find the body of proof for that.

Here is something out of our own past.

“I can’t ever lose weight”

Perhaps the biggest challenge Ivan had to face was getting into shape. Over the years, he went through all sorts of diets programs and exercises, but he stayed overweight with about 15-20 lbs nevertheless.

There were so many factors “explaining” his failure that he made a list:

  • “My bone structure is such.”
  • “Everyone in my family is like that and it’s simply a genetic thing.”
  • “I’m not into sports and gyms, not counting the two zero-sweat sports, chess and fishing.”
  • “Maybe I am insulin resistant and that’s why I can’t shed off any extra pounds at all.”
  • “Once the fat cells are in place they can’t go away but just shrink in size.”

No wonder this will make anyone feel down.

It was troubling that Ivan didn’t question any of them.

Limiting beliefs

These are deeply rooted in your thinking and without much real reasoning behind. Worst, they slow you down and can prevent you completely from striving to improve in any way.

They can pop up in some life situations as if to first predict a negative outcome and then to reinforce themselves. For example, when you have an interesting idea at work, instead of suggesting it to your boss you might simply shrug it off with something like “Well, nothing will come out of it. Our management doesn’t operate like that.” And that’s a text-book self-fulfilling prophecy.

Some widespread limiting beliefs…

We hear these justifications most often:

  • I never had either the perseverance or the self-discipline;
  • If I’m so bad at this, then why bother;
  • There is little joy for me in the process of reaching an objective;
  • This requires too many sacrifices;
  • I can’t force myself beyond my own limits;
  • The hand is already dealt and it isn’t a particularly good one. So, better fold now.

You do understand now what we mean, especially if some of the above were on your mind at one point or another.

… and what they actually are about

They are also an expression of rationalization in its purest.

The most painful, and yet rewarding to the utmost moment in life is when you first realize that this is simply an excuse, i.e. the assumption that good things are for other people, not for you. Therefore, it is pointless to do anything to change that.

And here lies the crux of it all – what are your chances if you are already so predisposed if not doomed to failure!

A vicious circle

Here’s how it usually unfolds.

You are hanging onto some unhelpful notions. In doing so, you simply set yourself up for a certain failure and its consequences.

And then, since you have no support system all of your work relies purely on circumstance and luck. This, in turn, closes the cycle by feeding you back with yet more proof to your original defeatist attitude. And that’s no good for anyone’s self-esteem or confidence.

So, you stall and enter a downward spiral with almost zero chance to escape. And, just like Ivan, you tell yourself, “It’s impossible. I can’t do it.”

But, of course, there is a way out of it.

Change comes within us first

Two things will help: overcoming your own negativity and getting the needed help.

That’s exactly what Ivan did. Getting and staying in shape is an issue long resolved. Let’s see how.

Support system

First came the help of the “Goal Buddy”, which we built together.

Thanks to it, we started to register our first small “triumphs” in various things sparing ourselves in terms of effort and time. Gradually we began building up the confidence in the ability to bring our goals to completion.

This gave Ivan the energy to dare into his first 90-day goal in his vision for health. He worked on it with passion and persistence and eventually he got there.

But how did he manage to muster the courage and the right attitude?

Breaking up and out of the limiting beliefs

It’s a process of gradually chipping away from them by boosting your confidence with each task you bring to a successful end.

Obviously, it isn’t just a question of convincing yourself that you can do it. Nothing happens just because you want it very much – a wish is just that and nothing more if it doesn’t go hand in hand with the corresponding action.

True and lasting change comes with self-confidence build upon the foundation of real achievements.

Let’s see how our system can help you.

Long-term perspective

It’s all about having your vision clear and in sync with your true dreams. When you are 100% sure what you want in the long run, developing a strategy is as straightforward as it could be.

All your efforts will be channeled in one direction. There is, therefore, less of the doubt and the related anxiety. You will also be not as prone to distractions that might be coming right on the spur of the moment.

Ivan knew very well that he wanted to be healthy, active and in a good physical shape for the next 25 years. He also had a very good answer to the “why” question – he needed to be able to keep doing the things he loved.

Realistic goals

Once you see perfectly well where you are going and if you are convinced that being persistent will get you there, then you can assess situations with more cool and be firmly grounded in reality when choosing your objectives.

It’s not reasonable to expect that after being overweight for years then you will all of a sudden be able to get a 6-pack for the upcoming summer vacation on the beach.

If you don’t do it right, i.e. the goal setting, and then if you fail, you run the risk of labeling yourself as not good at it. A situation like that only reinforce your suspicion that you were correct to be skeptical of your abilities from the get-go.

As soon as Ivan realized how simple this is he began planning his 90-day periods in a new way.

All comes to acting and doing

For starters, he did quit perceiving the weight scales as his harshest judge.

Instead of focusing only on the number of pounds lost, he applied himself on how well he goes through the process and what he can do better.

He made a crucial change. Instead of having the goal be “Getting rid of 5 pounds this month”, he gave it new center of gravity with these – “Three times a week at the gym for the next three months”, “Give the Keto diet a try for a month”, etc.

Once you go down this road you will immediately notice how your own self-perception changes. You will no longer feel like a prisoner of fate or being disadvantaged with imperfect genes.  These limiting beliefs will be replaced by the confidence that you are finally taking control of your own life.


The logic behind the 90-day goals is:

  • First, they have the advantage to build upon one another;
  • Second, they give your strategy enough time and opportunity to evolve and adapt.

Our best advice here is that when you hesitate how to kick it off, then you simply give a chance to a goal. You do that just for the sake of the action. Employing this tactic will help you find out what works best for you.

Some of the attempts Ivan made proved to be not so effective. It is important, however, how you perceive things. If you don’t look at some bad outcome as a failure, but instead as a lesson to be learned, then that’s what we prefer to call progress nevertheless.

Success is a matter of habit

Perhaps the best thing about the 90-day action goals is that some of them give birth to lifelong daily routines. Think about it – wouldn’t three months of regular visits to the gym become an “instinct” of yours! There will be a point when you’ll not even think of it and an active life will become a second nature to you.

Ivan can vouch for it. The formerly “sedentary” dude now exercises regularly and does a variety of sports every week.


Now we come to the inevitable conclusion – the more you progress, the more confidence.

What transforms the limiting beliefs into supportive ones are the results. The negative gives way to the new and positive attitude towards yourself as well as your capacity and potential to succeed.

First, if you have a support system in place. Second, if you are fully aware of your limiting beliefs and you can channel them. Third, if you do register some progress that reaffirms your self-confidence. When all of these conditions are met then you can conquer anything that looked impossible to you or any other person.

All is subjective

Don’t take us wrong! It’s not all that easy. Sometimes it’s difficult to see what the issue really is, even if it’s obvious to everybody else.

The problem is that regardless of how far-fetched and groundless your beliefs might be, they still are quite real to you. And here is the place where your Buddy takes central stage.

“A friend in need…”

As an objective observer, they can ask you the right questions to help you realize what’s amiss. As for any other thing in life, as in this case as well, it’s always good to know.

So, do not underestimate the review of goals. Be consistent in doing them weekly, 90-days and the yearly ones as well. Together with your Buddy, you will go through all the successes and lessons learned. That’s of mutual help in understanding that both of you have earned new and valuable affirmations of your skills to work productively towards an end.

We are only human

Just like anybody else we weren’t born knowing everything. We have our limiting beliefs – we tell ourselves a negative story or may fail to act out of insecurities or whatnot. Sometimes we are our worst enemies.

But we understand that realizing anyone’s plans is a matter of competence and therefore you too can learn how to do it.

Everyone can do it

You are no exception and you too have the potential to become a real champion when it comes to materializing your aspirations. Be aware of your own behavior, then analyze and finally try to apply a systematic approach.

Short-term 90-day strategies are the approach that has been proven over and over again. Every step forward means yet another roadblock pushed aside, and more importantly, yet another inner inhibition broken.

Don’t forget results often show this quality to be in one-to-one relation to your attitude towards them. Be positive but constructive. Let’s not limit ourselves and have a life that we want and deserve!

And if in the past you had any limiting beliefs that you became aware of and fought against successfully then share the experience in the comments section. Thank you very much!

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