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Why We Sabotage Ourselves and How to Stop

Golden Key
This is a guest post from Mitch Tarala from www.ExploringInfinity.com.

Do you ever feel like you for some reason always seem to sabotage your own best intentions?

Like when you tried that diet and couldn’t stop cheating? You told everyone the diet ‘just didn’t work’, but really, it was you that didn’t work for the diet. Or how about that time you blew that really important job interview because you forgot to set your alarm the night before and slept in.

Maybe you’ve been trying to save up for something you really want, but you just keep spending over your limit and draining your savings account.

Perhaps you’ve been trying to launch your home based internet business and you keep telling yourself ‘Today I’m going to write 3 articles and spend at least 1 hour doing site promotion.’ but then you only write one article and spend the rest of the day walking the dog, playing with the kids, buying insurance, watching the news, reading a book, or anything other than what you wanted to do, and need to do if you want your business to be a success.

Trust me.. I know all about it!

We’ve all sabotaged our own best efforts and later looked back and thought “WHY did I do that?!” at one point or another.

Well it comes down to two things — your self discipline and learning to deal with the fear of success. That’s right, I said fear of success. Let’s start with that.

Fear of Success

For many people the fear of success is much more problematic than the fear of failure. Many people say they aren’t afraid of failure, but they never mention their very real fear of success. Perhaps this is because most people aren’t even aware of their fear of success, because the fear of success is often deeply rooted in the subconscious mind and it is not present in the conscious mind that is doing most of the thinking.

Fear of success can stem from many different places. Some people subconsciously (or even consciously) feel that they are unworthy of the success that they would like to achieve. They don’t see themselves as ever being able to achieve success and believe that ‘success is for the successful’, and in their minds the definition of ‘successful’ certainly does not include them.

Some people stop themselves from fulfilling their own dreams because they believe that if they were to be successful that would mean that their current friends and family would turn on them or try to use them, like they would become a target because of their apparent success. This is a fear that many people share, and perhaps it might be true. But is it really a reason to sabotage yourself?

Much of this fear stems from inner conflicts due to improper visualization and planning for achieving your goals. When you haven’t really thought about what will change in your life and how your success will effect you, you will remain in fear of the unknown effects of achieving your biggest goals subconsciously, if not consciously as well.

Dream Building

The best way to remedy this situation is to learn proper visualization techniques and do some dream building. Dream building is when you imagine having completed your goals, living your dream. While imagining this you try to clearly experience all of the differences in your life when your goals have all been completed. Who would your friends be? Would some of your friends be jealous? Would you lose some of your friends because of your success? Would you have better friends? Different types of people? Be honest. What kind of clothes would you be wearing? Where did you get the clothes? Are they different or more expensive than what you’re wearing today? Why? Where would you live? What kind of food would you eat? How would it taste? Imagine every single thing about your life, what would be different? What would be the same? Why?

To accelerate this dream building process you could go and physically do, see, smell, taste, and feel the things that would be different about your life. If you would eat only organic foods then go to the market and buy a few organic apples, examine them, feel them, smell them, eat them. See what it’s like. Imagine what it would be like if you were successful (you already are, you just don’t know it yet). If you would live in a big fancy house go look at big fancy houses, take a tour if you can. Try to experience what it would be like in real life to be successfully achieving all of your goals.

Get more familiar with what you want your life to be like and what it would truly be like if your goals were achieved. This way the change is not so ‘unknown’ and mysterious to the subconscious and conscious minds and it’s much less of something for them to fear.

Your Self-Image

Another problem is when your subconscious view of yourself and your conscious perceptions are not congruent with each other. Perhaps consciously you think you’re fairly outgoing, you put off a happy-friendly type of vibe, and that people perceive you as very personable, but to most people you come off kind of quiet, a bit shy, but overall pretty nice. In this case there are two different perceptions of you, one that you have of yourself, and one that other people pick up from you. This is because your subconscious and your conscious minds are not in line. Your subconscious might see you as shy and introspective, so you appear to be somewhat of a cross between your conscious self-image and your subconscious self-image to your friends, family, and colleagues.

To help bring your two minds together and help them see you in more similar terms you can practice doing some whole brain thinking exercises to begin getting the two halves of your brain working together. These exercises help work both sides of your brain and encourage ‘whole brained thinking’. Instead of constantly battling one another these exercises can help train both sides of your brain to work as a whole which will also improve the strength of the communication going on between the conscious and subconscious minds.

Here are 3 Whole-Brain Games to get you started:

  • Infinity Signs – Draw the infinity symbol (a sideways figure 8 ) with one hand, then try to add the second hand in doing it in the opposite direction. Keep practicing! Do this for several minutes per day if you want to improve. You can also use a pen and paper to do a similar brain game, draw the infinity symbol on a piece of paper with your right hand, then do it with your left hand, keep alternating.
  • Cross & Touch – Use your right hand or elbow and touch your left knee, then use your left hand or elbow and touch your right knee. Do this at least 25 times for each side.
  • Opposite Hand Writing - Practice writing everything with your opposite hand. This is a fun and challenging exercise to practice frequently.

There are lots of other ways to improve your connection to the subconscious mind as well. I practice Qigong which is a fabulous way to connect with other levels of the self. I highly recommend some sort of meditation, Qigong, Tai Chi, or yoga as a way to improve the communication between different aspects of yourself. It’s also a great way to explore deeper levels of your mind and body.

You may also want to use your personal mission statement every day as this will help reinforce the self-image that you consciously want into your subconscious. If you don’t have a mission statement, you should create one. It’s simply a few sentences or paragraphs that you write out about what your mission is. You write it in the present tense as if you’re stating the way your life and experiences are. An example of a personal mission statement is:

“I am confident and well-spoken. People respect what I have to say, and they respect me as a person. I feel great every day when I wake up and feel thankful for having such a sharp, clear, mind. I seem to have success in each area of my life that matters most to me. My friends are great and I feel so lucky to have been blessed with such a great family….”

Your statement can be as long or short as you like, but it’s best to add some detail to it and really feel it. You should read this every day when you wake up and every night before you go to bed. Doing this simple action every day can literally transform your reality into the one you want with astonishing speed.

Self Discipline

Now let’s talk about self discipline, something that most of us would like to have more of. To have self discipline is to be able to do the things you want to do whether you’re happy, sad, angry, or whatever your state of being is. It’s the ability to push yourself to keep working even when you don’t want to, and it’s extremely important in achieving your goals.

If you lack self discipline you may frequently find yourself sabotaging your own intentions. In this case it’s not particularly your subconscious that’s responsible for your self-sabotage, it’s your lack of discipline that’s causing you to fumble.

There are ways to build your self discipline so that you can succeed in achieving your most important goals, here’s some good ones:

  • Choose a small task that takes no more than 15 minutes. Set a time to do it every single day and practice following through with it. You could start by doing it every day for a week. If that’s not a challenge bump it up to a month. Do it every single day, don’t skip a day. The more you practice this the more self discipline you will develop.
  • Practice setting routines and following through with them. Remember to start these off as what you might think of as easy, you’ll soon find out that it’s a lot harder to stick to it than you might think. That’s why your tasks should be quick and easy at first, so that you can practice simply sticking to it. If the task is difficult to do it’s that much more likely that you’ll not follow through.
  • Use old habits to remind you of the new ones, if you’re trying to drink more water, remember that every time you pee you should drink a glass of water or two (not at the same time!) This is an easy way to remind yourself about a new habit. You can do this to remember to take your multivitamins or medications by associating your vitamins or medications with food. Each time you eat, you take a vitamin. It makes it so much easier to remember when you’re first trying to build your self discipline.

Building your self discipline can take time but the more you work at it the less you’ll find yourself sabotaging yourself because of you lack the ability to follow through with your plans.

I hope this article has helped you understand why you might find yourself getting in your own way of achieving your greatest desires.

Mitch Tarala (@explinfin) is a natural health and alternative info blogger who likes to explore the Nature of Reality on his blog at www.ExploringInfinity.com.

You can connect with Mitch on Twitter or Facebook.

Related Posts:

1. 50 Inspirational Quotes
2. Stop Lying To Yourself
3. Do You Need To Let Go And Forgive?
4. Are You Being Your True Authentic Self
5. What Are You Waiting For?

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39 comments… add one

  • Hey, Thanks for having me as a guest on your blog Karen!

    I hope everyone finds this useful! :) Cheers!

    .-= Mitch Tarala´s last blog ..Piriformis Syndrome =-.

    • Thanks, Mitch. This is a great topic and a very enlightening article that you wrote. I’m sure that people will find the information useful – I know I did :-)

  • Hi Karen and Mitch,

    Nice article. Visualization has powerful effects. I agree with you that to achieve success, we have to see ourselves successful and believe that it is possible to get everything we want in life. It all starts from within. Thanks for sharing
    .-= Dia´s last blog ..Top reasons for lack of communication in a relationship =-.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Dia. Visualization is a powerful technique and I agree that it all starts from within. What we can visualize, we can achieve :-)

  • WOW did I get a lot out of this article!

    I won’t go into everything I got out of it but one thing I really liked that you talked about her is experiencing what you define success to be and go do something or at least allow yourself to see what it would be like, such as the organic apples or living in a nice big house. Checking out the house and going to visit a nice big house might change your mind, might not, but at least you would know what it really feels like instead of thinking, wondering, “wanting” and never getting.

    Incredible post and I’ve heard so much about mission statements from people who talk about success and doing some sort of meditation that I am going to have to look more into this myself.

    • Hi Eric!

      I’m happy you found this article helpful!

      Dream building (physically touching, seeing, smelling, and experiencing) your desires is a really powerful technique. If you want to drive a certain car, go take it for a test drive or at least sit in it.. Feel it, touch it, smell it, sit in the seat and feel what it feels like. It helps make your desires a reality a lot faster than sitting at home thinking about the things you want but don’t have.

      And as far as meditation goes, I have begun training in Qigong which I’m finding very enlightening. It’s like meditation, but better (in my opinion, of course). I’d recommend you look into finding a reputable Qigong (Chi Kung) instructor near you. I’m lucky to have found the classes that I am taking, there are only 2 qigong instructors in my city and both of them are relatively unknown. My class only has 6 people in it which is awesome for us because we get more personal instruction. :)


    • Hey Eric,

      Glad that you enjoyed the article so much. That’s gratifying to hear :-)

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts,

  • Mitch, I learned so much from this article. You really gave your all!

    I love the phrase “dream building!” The whole brain exercises are extremely useful too. I already practice a modest routine of Chi Gong and would love to add these exercises. This is a very rich article and I will read it more than once, that’s for sure. Thank you.
    .-= Sandra Lee´s last blog ..Sunday reflection- the dreamlike qualities of life =-.

    • Hi Sandra,

      It’s so nice to hear that you like the article so much that you have to re-read it :-) I must admit that it’s a little longer than my usual posts (somehow all my guest-posters write lengthy articles).

      Thanks for dropping by,

  • I always believe that self awareness is the key in discovering the things that sabotage us. Without such awareness we won’t be able to appreciate the methods of overcoming it. :-)

    • You’re so right, Walter. With self-awareness comes self-knowledge about why we do the things we do. Often we do know why we self-sabotage, and it’s just a matter of discovering methods to overcome that tendency.

  • Hi Karen & Mitch,
    This article is a great wealth of information. Indeed we have all been the victim of our own self-sabotaging. Taking responsibility and asking, “why do I do that to myself” is the way I get back on track. Sincerely seeking an answer from within can be awakening.

    • Hey Rob,

      The problem comes from when you know why you are self-sabotaging, but are afraid to make the necessary changes in your life. I think it also has to do with increasing our self-esteem so that when we do recognize why we self-sabotage, we appreciate ourselves enough to stop the bad behaviour.

      Thanks for adding that.


  • hello mitch,
    how are you?
    thanks for sharing this.
    the concept of dream building is actual productive and i believe it stimulates optimism. I also think we should draw a line between dream building and day dreaming.
    as you’ve rightly mentioned, we need to get more familiar with the life we aspire to live(constructively) & if i may add take steps no matter how little they are,in order to make progress; not forgetting the role self discipline plays in achieving progress.
    Take care and enjoy the rest of the day
    .-= ayo´s last blog ..Relationships- With Head- Heart And Hand =-.

    • Hi Ayo!
      Thanks for the comment! It’s true, no matter how small the step it’s important to make it!

      The little ones all add up and they are important if you want to see it through to the end and achieve your greatest life goals.

      Thanks everyone for all the kind words!

    • Hey Ayo,

      You bring up a good point between the difference between day dreaming and dream building. Dream building takes intention, while day dreaming has the connotation of being frivolous and being part of wishing for things to change. Thanks so much for bringing that up.

      I hope you have a fantastic rest of the week :-)


  • All points are good, but among self discipline is the one which i would say can make or break you life.
    .-= Vinish Parikh´s last blog ..Inflation vs Deflation =-.

    • That’s true, Vanish.

      Many people think they have far more self discipline than they actually do and they’re surprised when they can’t stick to their plans.

      That’s why it’s important to build your discipline whenever you can!

      Have a wonderful day!

  • Hi Karen ans MIch:

    Today, when I cam to Steve’s site I said to myself that I have to check Karen’s blog as I see here in the comment section. So I came to your site and saw a guest post instead.

    Great, I got to know two bloggers instead of one. Today I got to read Mich Tarala. Well
    very outstanding post. about personal development.
    Why we sabotage ourselves and how to stop. Lately, I noticed how some people are happy with where are and the fear of success is keeping them away from where they should be.

    And Mic has provided visualization technique here – a great process to change your self image.

    Self discipline is a hard thing to work with, specially if you have partners that in influence your life.

    This post lets you improve you as a whole.

    Well written focused and still short enough to explain how to stop sabotaging.
    Fran Aslam
    .-= Fran Aslam´s last blog ..20 Effective Strategies To Blog Traffic For More Readers and Comments =-.

    • Hi Fran, thanks for your comment and all the good things you have to say! I’m so happy that so many people have enjoyed this article so much! It feels good knowing that people are finding value in what I’ve written. :)

    • Welcome Fran and thanks so much for the kind words. I’m glad that you enjoyed Mitch’s guest-post this week and hope that you come back and read more of my writings :-)

  • Great article, Mitch and thanks for sharing it here, Karen.

    I love the part about dream building…and kind of pity those that write it off as mere daydreaming. When dream building and self discipline combine it is a pretty potent cocktail for success!
    .-= Clearly Composed´s last blog .. Welcoming Autumn =-.

    • Thanks for the comments!!

      It’s sure true that dream building coupled with self discipline is a strong combo!

      Have a great day…!

    • Thanks, Emma! :-)

  • Hi Karen and Mitch.

    I totally agree that visualization really helps you in accomplishing what you want to do. So far, it has helped me in small tasks and plans, but I’m steadily trying to apply visualization in bigger and long term dreams.

    I also try to include in my journal the times I’ve messed up an activity, or as you call it, the times when I sabotaged myself. This serves as a good reminder not to make the same mistake again.


    .-= Julius´s last blog ..The Wonder Years- Seminars@Hadley =-.

    • Hi Julius, from my experience, the more you work on your visualization skills, the more effective they become. It’s like anything in that if you practice it you will get better, but with visualization the effectiveness seems to grow at an exponential rate.

      When most people first start visualization they will often think it’s silly and has no effect, because at that point, from where they are at, that’s what visualization is. For them in their reality it REALLY IS silly and of little effect! But as you focus on it and practice you feed more and more power to your visualization skills, and soon you start to see it’s effectiveness. With practice I believe that visualization techniques can become one of our ‘secret super powers’ . :)

      Have a wonderful day!

    • Hi Julius,

      It sounds like visualization is working for you so far. Keep with it – onwards and upwards :-)


  • Thanks so much for the wonderful article and tips!
    .-= Angela Artemis´s last blog ..Always Keep Your Dreams Alive =-.

  • I think my problem has always been how to get a thing to the next action. It’s always something about how to bring it closer next to success. And, of course, discipline has something to do about it. Or maybe, there’s not a good plan in the first place. Or too much of dream building. Now I am just getting things done.
    .-= marlon @ productivity bits´s last blog ..Conquering The Open Loops Of Productivity =-.

    • Welcome Marlon,

      How do you keep moving forward? One small step (or task) at a time. That’s all any of us can do. As long as you keep progressing, you’ll eventually reach the end result and be successful.

      Thanks for sharing,

  • I really need to improve my self-image and Self Discipline
    Oh my dear God
    Thank you

    • You’re welcome, Lale. I’m glad that you enjoyed the article.

  • This is article is on point and very accurate in details. i have to say that you can only succeed when you have the believe that you can. So, we all need to deal with the spirit of un-believe and focus more of developing our strength towards achieving our goals in life.

    • Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom, Richard. I couldn’t agree more! :-)

    • Hey Richard,

      Thanks for commenting on my article.

      Mind over matter for sure, you must believe before you can achieve.

  • Whenever problem comes my way, I usually end up procrastinating. Then eventually, I end up focusing on problem without thinking any solution at all or even I think I’m not doing something to solve it. Another factor is what other people think about me. Honestly, it greatly affects me all the time. Now, I’m proud to say that somehow, I improved my attitude. I already know how to control my emotion and focus my mind. In this way, I can continue working on my dreams without any hassles at all. Hopefully, it will continue…
    .-= Mike Ramsey´s last blog ..Understanding Nocturnal Excessive Sweating =-.

    • Welcome Mike,

      I hear you. I can be the same way, too, sometimes. There’s something about having problems that makes us run the other way, rather than just dealing with them and moving on with our lives. Wanting others to like us and respect us are very common human wants so you are not alone. It’s when others’ opinions of ourselves override our own opinion of ourselves that troubles arise. There’s a saying from Miquel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements book that I keep in mind in these situations: “What someone thinks of me is none of my business”. You have no control over what others’ think of you, so it’s great that you are focusing on what is under your control (your emotions and your mind).

      Thanks for sharing,

      • “What someone thinks of me is none of my business”
        – Yes, this quote is absolutely right. Have your own life, do your own business. But then again, most people tend to do something based on the approval of other people. Hopefully, we can overcome this way of thinking in order to achieve the ultimate success in life.
        .-= Mike Ramsey´s last blog ..Tips On How To Stop Excessive Sweating =-.


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