Are you someone who panics at the thought of having to set goals? Do you self sabotage them as soon as you set them? The truth is that self sabotage is really about deeper misalignment.
Let’s be honest – we’re at that time of year when you’ll be marketing fodder for every person and their dog who wants to sell you on a dream version of yourself.
But before you brazenly set yourself some massive goals, I want you to read this.
Let’s use health and wellbeing goals as an example.
Let’s say that it’s New Year’s Eve this year, you’ve had a few glasses of champers and decide that you’re going to set a goal around running a marathon in 2023. Time is ticking and the thought of feeling fit, healthy, vibrant, strong and energised (not to mention crushing a massive challenge and proving you’ve still got it) seems very appealing.
Maybe you put it on your vision board, with a toned-looking runner image you’ve printed off from Pinterest or a Women’s Health mag. You get all the running gear you need by forking out a small fortune at Lululemon.
And then it’s late January, you’re no longer on holidays when everything seems possible, and although you’ve been doing so great, running regularly, building up your distance and eating well, you start to find ALL the ways to do the exact opposite of what you said you wanted.
You hit the chocolate; get too busy once you’re back into work and school’s back. You lose your mojo. *Sigh*.
The problem isn’t anything to do with the actual goal. It’s about your alignment with being the kind of person who runs a marathon.
What qualities do they have?
They’re consistent; determined; focused on the end goal (not the pain of the moment); they’re willing to sacrifice what comes easily (going out for dinner; watching Netflix or Binge; eating what they feel like) so that they can achieve their goal which is several months away (delayed gratification).
They get a personal trainer or running coach; join a running group for accountability, shared goals and general tips.
They post their run times and routes on socials and might have a buddy who’s signed up for it also.
In other words, they’re all in. They’re BEING the kind of person who runs a marathon. They’re training and eating right, and focusing on the actionable steps each week that get them closer to their vision. They get it done, no matter what crops up in their world.
This is in direct contrast to the person who (subconsciously) works out that being a person who runs a marathon is damn hard work. And they’re not up for it.
Enter: Self sabotage.
The goal is now either amended to a half marathon, a fun run or just regular running. It doesn’t feel good. You judge yourself. It sucks.
This happens in business as well. Setting a huge goal works for some people. It does not work well at all for others.
I was recently chatting with a new client who visibly sighed with relief when I said we wouldn’t set goals in the beginning of her program.
She then said something along the lines of: ‘That’s great. I just sabotage them as soon as I set them’.
(NB – we definitely set goals during 1:1 coaching, but not until we’ve done some deconditioning work first. That way, the goals are what you really want, and not what you’ve been conditioned to believe you ‘should’ want. That way, you won’t self sabotage them!)
If this is you, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
It’s demoralising, at best. Frustrating and annoying as well. Maybe you keep setting similar goals and they keep not working out.
But then you give yourself a talking to and rally – you’re going to hit that goal THIS year.
Except you don’t.
And you end up with goal-aversion (I totally made that up but it sounds like a thing) – you avoid setting goals because you don’t want to experience the failure of them not working out as intended. This means you get to stay in your safe zone, doing what works and avoiding anything outside of the norm.
The thing is, the goal needs to be aligned to the person you are WILLING to commit to being. In the marathon example, are you willing to commit to being the person who is consistent; runs rain, hail or heatwave; who does strength training; who gets up early in the cold or dark while the rest of the household snuggle under their doonas for another couple of hours, to fit in their run before work?
Maybe. And maybe not.
I still remember when I signed up with my first business coach. He sold me on the idea of doing $240K in gross revenue in my second year of business. It was like saying to a kid, ‘do you want to come to Disneyland with me next week, and you’ll be able to get anything you want and see Mickey Mouse and stay up late and eat ice cream all day’. Umm, that’s a YES.
To say that was a stretch, is an understatement. It’s one thing to set a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal if you’re wondering). It’s another to BE the person who can make that happen.
Back then I was running workshops at local gyms and in the community, and working with 1:1 clients who signed up with me from the workshops. I wasn’t close to doing $10K months, let alone $20K ones, and nor was I BEING that person who could achieve that. Was it possible? Of course. Was I ready for that? Not a chance. I would have had to grow extremely quickly (I’m talking about personally, as well as in business) to move from being a ‘beginner coach’ to having the certainty in myself to pull that off.
So as I cold called to arrange coffee chats with lawyers in the top end of Collins Street, Melbourne (which I actually was really good at setting up!), when it came time to follow through and meet these women and have a conversation about a brochure I’d put together to help them, I was thinking of only one thing: please can the ground swallow me up. Now.
On the one hand I was telling myself that I wanted to be the coach making $240K per annum. But there was a massive contradiction with what I was prepared to do to get there. Hard work? Hell yes. I have always been incredibly determined; take action quickly and do the work.
But I wasn’t ready for it. I didn’t believe I could do it. It was (FAR) too big a stretch.
Could I talk with those women now? In a heartbeat. I could talk to anyone now and hold my own doing it.
But back then, not a chance. You’ll be *shocked* to learn that it didn’t work out so well (surprise!) and I had to go back to basics: reviewing who I wanted to work with; what I wanted to offer; and what would truly light me up.
It was a humbling experience because I went from having clients and events lined up, to having nothing (because I’d stopped pursuing the other activities when I changed direction). So now I was up to my eyeballs paying off this coach, with no revenue coming in.
BUT – it taught me to trust myself. And I learnt the hard way about self sabotage. Like I said, some people thrive on stretching themselves to their very limits. But you need to know if that’s you. Or not.
‘Self sabotage is the smartest thing you can do if you’re sabotaging a self that is not really you’.
– Armand DiMele
Where are you sabotaging yourself?
- Telling yourself you want to run group programs or workshops but then never taking action?
- Wanting to start a podcast or write a book but then finding all the reasons why you don’t have enough time?
- Having a waiting list but not starting to leverage your time?
- Wanting to outsource or build a team and then avoiding delegating?
- Keeping yourself so busy that you don’t have either the time or energy to step back and see the big picture of what you want
The real question is:
What’s the actual issue here? Who would you need to BE for that to become a reality.
If you want to write a book (theoretically) you have to come to terms with the prospect of people not liking it or judging it; of having to promote it (which can bring up fears around being visible); of feeling worthy of sharing your ideas, thoughts and stories with the world.
To dedicate your time and effort; blood, sweat and tears to it on top of everything else you’re doing. So maybe you self sabotage the writing of the book because to become the person who writes a book seems too difficult.
The problem is never the problem. Whatever surface level problem we are facing, there’s always a ‘risky’ problem that sits below it.
For me, the problem wasn’t that I logically couldn’t make $240K per year in turnover back then. It was the risky problems around my fear of not being good enough; my low self esteem and self worth; the self doubt; and a fear of success (which to me, meant greater visibility – something I had to work through) that far outweighed a fear of failure.
Next time you notice yourself self sabotaging, ask yourself what you’re really trying to avoid.
Who would you have to BE to make that goal a reality? And are you prepared to become a person with those qualities? If not, just be real with yourself.
It’s far better to accept that you’re not ready for the goal than to try to push yourself into it when it doesn’t feel (emotionally) safe.
Start smaller while you take steps to sort out the risky problem. And now you’re no longer disappointed with yourself and potentially shaming yourself. You’re taking responsibility for where you’re at, and taking steps to become the person you’re aspiring to be. And then when you set a goal and achieve it, it will never have felt so darn good, my friend!
If you’re tired of self sabotaging and would like some help to create aligned goals that feel good AND that you can achieve, book in a Chat to see how I can help.
Edit: Check out this radio interview I did on self sabotageTags: business success conditioning deconditioning self sabotage transformational coaching