How to Stop Sabotaging Your Progress

November 13, 2021 5 min read

How to Stop Sabotaging Your Progress

We have coached many, many people, and one of the biggest struggles people admit to when not able to reach their goals is self-sabotage.  The interesting thing that most people don’t realize though is that discipline isn’t a character trait, it’s a skill.  A skill that anyone can build and obtain - and the biggest difference between people that seem to have discipline and those that don’t is how they set up their environment and if they are willing to pivot. 

The most successful people aren’t better than others, they justknow themselves better.  

So the question now becomes how do we identify the behaviors of self-sabotage, and how do we set up our life and surroundings to stop it?   

Self-Sabotage Syndrome

This may be a tough pill to swallow when reading for many, but perhaps when we break down what sabotage truly is, we will see how what we identify with, and what we do is not something to take lightly!  By definition, sabotage means to destroy.  The sabotage syndrome is any deliberate or unconscious thought, feeling, or behavior that attempts to destroy your ability to achieve your goals.  

Most commonly, your mind becomes your enemy and your thoughts begin to severely affect your behaviors.  The “I can do this” thought becomes “I can’t do this” or, “This is too hard”.  There are some common actions and thoughts that represent sabotage-like behavior:

  • Negative ThinkerFocusing always on the negative and ignoring the positive (ex. I ONLY lost 3 pounds - instead of - woohoo I lost 3 pounds!).  Our thought patterns have a strong impact on our relationships, our actions, and our health. 
  • Fearing Failure - The more we think about failure, or fear failure, the more likely we are going to eventually manifest it.  Failure is always part of success, and even though failure has happened in the past does not mean that is what we are always destined for. 
  • Negative Self-Talk - If you tell yourself that you are fat, or ugly, or not good enough, or not strong enough, or not deserving, your unconscious will find a way to keep you that way.  We have to be aware of what we say to ourselves, even if it is just within our thoughts and not words we are saying out loud. 
  • Saint or Sinner Mentality - If you find yourself in the thought process of, 'If it can’t be perfect there is no point in even trying', you will always find yourself back where you started.  This mentality commonly looks like if one bad meal turns into a bad day and starting over tomorrow, we don't workout at all if the workout can't be perfect, or the constant “start again on Monday” mindset.  
  • Excuse Factory - Making excuses for why we didn’t eat nutritious foods, or why we skipped the gym again can be something we don’t even realize we are doing.  Saying things like I’m too tired, too busy, too stressed, or I have a slow metabolism so I can’t lose weight.  It's not to say these things are not true, you may very well be busy, but we must realize we have all the control if we choose to take it. 

I think we can all agree that nearly everyone has struggled with at least one of these types of behaviors above.  It can be really hard to shift your mindset when you find yourself in that negative cycle.  The good news is that by knowing the types of behaviors it can look like, we are at least aware of things we may be doing, because awareness is the first and most important step to overcoming it.  

The second piece of good news is that often, people’s behaviors happen because of reasons that are totally fixable!  

Setting Yourself Up For Success

A lot of these self-sabotage-like behaviors are happening because we simply aren’t nourishing our body well enough, and in turn, find ourselves craving and seeking calorie dense foods.  Then beating ourselves up afterwards thinking we aren’t ‘disciplined’ enough.  Another big reason we see self-sabotage is because of how we set up our goals and our approach to those goals.  So before we go to blaming ourselves, make sure you’re doing as many of these things to ensure you’re giving yourself the best fighting chance. 

1. Eat Regularly - We get it, skipping meals = less calories, but what that usually leads to is uncontrollable hunger at night or eventually by the weekend.  Distribute your calories evenly and balance your meals and watch hunger/cravings disappear. 

2. Eat EnoughHumans don’t survive well or for very long trying to eat 1000-1200 calories a day and train hard at the same time.  Undernourishment and underfeeding results in lack of energy, lack of mental clarity, hormonal imbalances, gut imbalances, and ultimately feeling awful.  Our body also eventually drives us to food as a survival mechanism, but to us, it feels like uncontrollable hunger and cravings.  Eat enough to thrive, not to just survive. 

3. Don’t Reward Yourself With Food - Workouts are beneficial in numerous ways, but they don’t often burn as many calories as we think.  So rewarding a 3 mile run with 3 glasses of wine is not setting us up well.  Instead, reward yourself with a massage, or a mani/pedi if you get through a tough week without stress-eating.

4. Be Realistic With Your Timeline - Just because a magazine, or online influencer tells you that you can lose 30 lbs in 30 days does not mean it is common.  Our ultimate goals can take multiple months, if not years, but instead of feeling overwhelmed by that, set smaller goals along the way to keep you motivated.  

5. Be Realistic With Your GoalsMany of us hold unrealistic expectations.  We desire to look like a picture in a magazine, when the models don’t even share the likeness of that body 365 days of the year, and are usually airbrushed to begin with.  Identify your body type, your athletic type, and work to be the best possible version of YOU.

6. Stop Doing the Same Thing - Everyone knows that doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results is the definition of insanity.  If you do the same workout routine every time you go to the gym, you likely will stay stuck where you are.  The body needs change to see change.  We grow through change. 

7. Get UncomfortableIf you exercise and are able to talk through sets, or smile the whole time, you likely aren’t working hard enough.  We are not saying you shouldn’t enjoy your workouts, but getting the goals you have usually means doing things you don’t necessarily love or want to do.  Anaerobic training is one of the best methods to accomplish body-composition changes, but anaerobic means without oxygen.  Not sure the last time you tried not breathing, but it’s not very comfortable. But doing the hard and uncomfortable training is where we achieve our best outcomes. 

Self-sabotage seems like it can be mysterious, or complicated, or controlling, but the first step to breaking the behavior is having awareness around what it looks like.  Once we can identify how it looks, we can find our triggers, and start to replace healthier behaviors and anticipate the obstacles we face with better reactions.  Set yourself up for success with a supportive environment of a proper diet, adequate programming, and be prepared to get uncomfortable!  It is the only way to true change. 

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