Temptation to Self-Sabotage One of the greatest predictors of success isn’t if an individual is capable or lucky. It’s their ability to master the temptation to self-sabotage. The temptation to self-sabotage is there for all of us. In some cases, it’s more overt, like not showing up for a final exam or waiting too long to respond to a job offer. In other cases, it’s far less obvious, like the successful entrepreneur who makes rash decisions or takes actions subconsciously designed to sabotage and negate their success.
At its heart, the temptation to self-sabotage is born out of fear and uncertainty. It’s the feeling of loss of control, of racing at speed beyond what we’re comfortable with, and plunging into the unknown. It is, at a certain level, an attempt to slam on the brakes. That sense of primal fear ends up being so strong that we find ourselves self-sabotaging. This happens even when we know that it’ll return us to a state that will be bad for us, embarrassing, painful, and potentially leave us even worse off than if we had pushed forward.
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One of the essential skills that differentiates people who are consistent performers is their ability to identify, master and then act in opposition to self-sabotage. If you’re a student, this means taking careful steps not to miss exams and to read directions. It also includes keeping your ego in check and ensuring that you don’t self-sabotage through bluster, pride or arrogance. If you’re applying for a job, this means ensuring you take the steps needed to prepare your resume and then taking the key steps to send it—paying special attention to things like timing or typos tied to the business and its name or focus. If you’re already in a job, it means doing your work diligently, and ensuring that when the visible moments come, that the fear of being put on the spot, having your talent recognized or having the spotlight focused on you doesn’t lead you to self-sabotage. This can be overt or more subtle; from suddenly being unprepared to neglecting the details that appear to be out of your control but are truthfully just a matter of preparation.
In practice, consider an individual that decides to prepare for his first marathon. As part of that preparation, it’s important that the individual run regularly, building stamina. The individual does, getting in shape and hitting good times. But, as the date approaches, nerves build, and the individual has another social event. For the event the individual decides to buy and wear a pair of new dress shoes, fully aware that the shoes will inevitably damage his feet. Fast forward to the following morning, with two weeks to go to the marathon, the individual wakes up with bloody blisters on the backs of both feet. There’s now just enough time for the blisters to mostly heal before the marathon, but the individual has subconsciously created an excuse to stop running and drop out of the race. At best, his performance will be reduced significantly confirming his fears. At worst, he drops out completely using the injury as justification.
The truth of it is, even when we’re aware of the temptation to self-sabotage, we aren’t completely successful in squelching it and mastering it. The reality is that no matter how long you work to master that voice, it always remains there and always requires your attentiveness to ensure you don’t let it sneak out to undercut you. But, when you do that, when you accept it for what it is, just another part of our process, when you clearly catch yourself starting to engage in a self-sabotaging behavior and then act immediately to negate it, you will chart a path toward success.
When people state that they create their own luck, in truth what they’re saying is that they master their initial temptation to self-sabotage and embrace opportunities that present themselves that they’d otherwise be blind to. Learn to master that temptation to self-sabotage and to say yes to opportunities and you’ll rapidly see major changes in how you engage and interact with the world.