How to Stop Sabotaging Our Own Success
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How to Stop Sabotaging Our Own Success

Warning: This post is full of Brené Brown quotes, so be prepared for the feels to come. That is all.

Sabotage is a scary word. It means to “deliberately destroy, damage, or obstruct (something), especially for political or military advantage.” We may not all be positioning ourselves for political advantage, but we all have goals that we are maneuvering towards. So let’s take a look at some of the common ways in which we prevent our own successes and most happy life.

1) Break out of the mould!

There’s an old saying about how life is what happens when we are making plans. We all have some version of a short list of fairly-normal plans: find true love, find a awesome rental/landlord situation, buy a big, rad house, build the dream career as we work our way up the ladder, and maybe even have children (or pets) that travel the world with us. However, maybe there are some things on our lists that won’t stick in the long run as things we really want, but instead turn out to be things we thought needed to be part of our lives because of how we were raised or society’s influence.

It can be really tough to acknowledge these things, and to move past the pressure we feel to make them happen. Even in our delay to deal with this pressure, we are choosing to keep something a priority that we have an inkling of an idea that it won’t really matter. In acknowledging that this is happening, we can see one big way in which we are sabotaging our happiness.

But wait, how is chasing after home ownership sabotaging my life? Clear and simple, you can have anything and even everything, but not all at once. In choosing to chase after and fill our time with the pursuit of something, we are also choosing to NOT chase after or pursue all the other things. What we have to also recognize here is that we are turning down opportunities that we don’t even know exist, or just aren’t fully informed about.

Of course, you can’t know about all of the opportunities that currently exist in the world around you, and your potential is in many ways limited to the strength of your imagination. But often I think we have unrealized goals that feel more like a growing magnetic attraction towards something which we cannot yet pinpoint. These interests and attractions are found in very unexpected places and they are like seedlings that require lots of nurturing to see eventually grow full size and blossom. You likely don’t even recognize them, and if you do, they may seem absurd, or useless or even plain scary. But amazing things happen on the horizon lines of your life, outside of your comfort zone where risk is great and potential is undeterminable.

“I want to be in the arena. I want to be brave with my life. And when we make the choice to dare greatly, we sign up to get our asses kicked. We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time.”— Brené Brown

2) Fear and failing.

So why do we choose to hold on to these comfortable but lackluster plans? Why do we pursue things that seem like safe-schools in life? Out of fear, of course. We all have it, we all ignore it, we all let it steer us sometimes and ruin our day other times, because sabotaging our potential is just easier than risking what we already have. Fear is like having a weight tied to you when you are climbing a pole and can’t see the top—it’s certainly going to help pull you back down to earth right beside everyone else, and it is going to make climbing that pole all the harder, so really, why bother?

But what are we afraid of? The most common fears that most of our stories lead back to are: Loss of Autonomy—being controlled by circumstances beyond our control; Ego-death—the fear of humiliation, shame, and profound self-disapproval; Separation—being rejected, unconnected and unloved; Mutilation—being vulnerable to physical pain; and Extinction—ceasing to exist, maybe not just physically but also in others’ memories. (Thanks for helping me find the words for this list.)

Which one of these is holding you back in your life? What fear is keeping you from chasing what you are capable of? For me, it’s certainly the first three. Fear of being forced back into a regular full-time job with no autonomy and freedom, fear of being endlessly disappointed in myself, and fear of being rejected and unloved often get the better of me. In so many ways, these fears cause me to do things that could even lead to them coming true in a sense.

To not suffer the consequences we most fear, we must step up. We must brave the unknown. We must research our ideas, make plans, and take the steps we lay out. And risk it all—or at least some of it. The world needs the crazy ideas and interesting connections and wild potential you have.

“There is no innovation and creativity without failure. Period.”— Brené Brown

3) Reject what does not advance your goal.

I will keep #3 short. As another act of sabotage, we also often make ill-fated decisions about what to prioritize. We choose barbecues over business planning. We choose TV-time over transitioning our business ideas from brain to existence. We choose drinking in the pub over publicizing our manifesto.

There are so many things in this world to distract us, and while our brains and bodies need time off away from progressing our goals, we must build a concentrated focus around what we yearn for.

Don’t let your goals be dismantled by bad habits and poor choices in the moment. Make the hard decisions. Keep your mom or teacher or other mentor in the back pocket of your brain, cheering you on to success by doing your homework, and practicing your skills, and anything else you need to do to make headway.

“Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love.”— Brené Brown

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