1. Acknowledge that you engage in self-sabotage. Just like the first step in Alcoholics Anonymous, it’s important to admit to yourself that you have a challenge before you can do anything to change it.
2. Write out all of the ways that you self-sabotage. Keep thinking and writing until you’ve listed all the ways you engage in self-limiting behaviour. Refer back to the examples we gave earlier and personalise them to you. You will feel a sense of relief at putting down on paper the core of many of the issues you face. Be emotional and descriptive as you write them down. If you have completed a PRINT communication profile with Acorn, you will recognise that many of your self-sabotaging behaviours come out of your shadow side.
3. Now write down specific incidents where you recognise that your thoughts, decisions and actions were self-limiting. Take the time to sort back through your memories for a year or two to any moments of conflict, disappointment, procrastination, lost opportunities and so on.
4. Accept full responsibility for your thoughts and actions. Forget about what other people did or didn’t do. Once you accept that you were responsible for your past, you know that you have full power to change your future results. You were responsible. Accept it, own it and commit to changing it. Now is the time to put together real strategies to overcome your behaviour.
5. The first is to plan your new responses to challenging situations. These plans must be written down and learnt. For each of the types of self-sabotage you wrote down in Step 2, write down how you will respond in a similar situation from today forward. Be specific. For example: The next time I am avoiding doing something that should be done I will recognise that I am starting to procrastinate and I will decide to use my anti-procrastination strategy. I will first ask myself, what is the task I am really putting off? It may be something incredibly simple like putting out the washing or making a phone call. Is it that the task is unpleasant or do you risk feeling pain from how someone might react? Is it that you don’t know where to start or that the task is too big? Once I have defined the task I will close my eyes for a minute and imagine the feelings of pleasure and satisfaction I will have from completing the task and conquering my procrastination again. Next I will make up my action plan. For simple tasks my action plan is to “Just Do It”, like the Nike Ad says. I will print out the Nike logo and stick it around my house to remind myself that the best action is to “Just Do It”. If it is a complicated or difficult task I will break it down into simple steps including one “Just Do It” step I can do right now. Finally, after I have done the task I will stop, thank myself for taking action and take pleasure in my achievement. So for each and every self-sabotaging behaviour, write down your strategy for a better outcome.
6. Share your plans with a close friend or family member. Let someone know what you’re working on and ask them to make you accountable to them. Ask them to confront you whenever they see you engaging in any self-sabotaging behaviour. Choose someone you trust and respect, and whose judgement you value. The next part of this is very important. When your friend does confront you, carefully consider the information, then just thank them for telling you and ask them to keep letting you know in the future about such behaviours. Your natural reaction will be to feel defensive but don’t argue or try to justify your behaviour otherwise your friend will be less inclined to give you their honest observations. Evaluate what they have said and either re-commit to using your better strategy or come up with a new one that will help you avoiding repeating the behaviour. Share this with your friend next time you meet and thank them for their help.
7. Tell yourself that you are worth the effort. It is important to say it out loud regularly. People who have fallen into consistent patterns of self-sabotage often have low self-esteem and simply don’t feel they are worthy of experiencing the lives they want. Repeat to yourself that you’re worth the time and effort to change your self-defeating thinking and behaviour.
8. Interrupt your patterns of unhelpful thinking. Negative thoughts can lead to self-sabotage. When you recognise that you are having negative or unproductive thinking, do something to interrupt it. Imagine a big red light in your mind, blocking out the negative ideas. Then, imagine a green light while choosing to replace the negative thought with a positive one. For example, let’s say you’re trying to improve your relationship with your partner. Any time you start to have any negative thoughts about them, visualise a big red glaring light or a Stop Sign. Then, think about something that you admire, value or appreciate about them and visualise a green light as you feel the warm feelings of appreciation for that person.
9. Give yourself positive reinforcement. Whenever you realise that you have swapped out a self-limiting behaviour for a positive behaviour in a particular situation, pat yourself on the back. Write it down in a journal so you can look back on what you have achieved. Give yourself a reward because every time you break that old pattern, it is losing its power over you. As you begin to make different choices, you will notice that you are taking less self-sabotaging actions. Enjoy the new feelings and positive emotions and outlook on life.
10. Educate and improve yourself. It has been said that “Five years from today, you will be the same person that you are today, except for the books you read and the people you meet”. Make a point of reading self-improvement books, listening to educational material and meeting and associating with people who inspire you.