6:30AM: The alarm buzzes and you refuse to open our eyes. Everything feels heavy. Your body is stuck in the drowned out stupor of last night’s snackfest, when you raided the pantry and dove into that box of trail mix to accompany you as you browsed your DVR for the last episode of Modern Family you missed. That one episode became four, and that handful of snacks became a now-empty plastic tub from Costco. That list of things to do is still three pages long, you feel puffed up and hung-over from snack overload and that 7:30AM class at the gym you were so set on starting your day with is pretty much looking as unlikely as a sequel to the movie Titanic. You wallow in your despair, saddened that the great roll you were on has taken a different course. That good news you heard and that great opportunity you had don’t even seem so exciting anymore. You’re just not cut out for this today and will try again when you feel better.
Self-sabotage is a beast. It’s what we do when our long-held doubts and questions start to be negated and answered and we panic. It’s those excuses you gave and those rules you made then broke. Self-sabotage is what keeps us from following up with that business contact that serendipitously came out of nowhere, what gets us digging into the fridge at 11pm when we’ve finally started to drop those first few unwanted pounds and what self-induces insomnia so that morning spin class is half over by the time our eyes flicker open in a groggy haze. Self-sabotage keeps us in a place of fear.
The difference between successful people and the ones that stay “stuck” is not only self-sabotage, it is control. It seems counter-intuitive that success and control would be married, but they are not. Success requires control, to a certain extent. It requires control in vision, in preparation and in execution. But the most successful individuals see the goal yet relinquish control when it comes to the result. Successful people trust – trust that their hard work and preparation and high spirit is not in vein; they trust that their dominoes will fall into place and that if they don’t, they’ll figure out a way for them to do so.
Not too long ago, whenever things would start to go great for me, I’d start to make something go not-so-great. I’d react by falling back into my zones that kept me out of responsibility. Out of true extraordinary-ness. I’d do things that made me physically feel awful. And they’d keep me viewing myself as someone who was young, someone who was second-best, someone who needed help and assistance and was Less-Than. My legs felt heavy underneath me, and I’d cry to my mom or best friend or boyfriend that I felt like I worked so hard only to botch it all up. To me, self-sabotage was about staying in a zone that was safe, a zone in which I couldn’t be a true leader, because being a true leader meant I had nothing to follow but my own lead.
The “stuck” are without trust. The “stuck” are afraid of what happens if a domino accidentally hits another and takes a wrong turn, or stops the flow altogether. Life is one big game of cause-and-effect, and we are hardwired to fear loss. Self-sabotage is nothing more than a sick, twisted defense mechanism should we be given everything we ever dreamed of and somehow not know what to do with it.
Because what if that happens?
What if we get literally EVERYTHING we ever wanted? All our goals reached. Our lives will undoubtedly change. And change is very, very scary. We could have it all and then lose it all once again. We could have it all and then face a new host of obstacles even tougher than before. We have no control over what happens once our light shines at its brightest. Or if we do everything in our power to reach the goal and at the last moment, it is pulled out from under us. So the “stuck” stay afraid, yet in control. Because if we fail, it’s gonna be at our own hands, not because of someone (or something) else.
To make a dark analogy – it’s like goal suicide.
Know what you want. Know EXACTLY what you want, every single detail. As a recovering sabotage-aholic, I can say that it is not all going to be butterflies and roses, and you WILL have moments of relapse. We’re only human. It is inevitable. I had one last week. But when it happens, stop it in its tracks. Note exactly what you did, and dig deep for an answer as to why you did it. Then do one thing to be proactive. To at least pick up some of the pieces and get the train rolling again. Strayed from your healthy eating plan? Have a green juice for breakfast and skip the fro-yo tonight. Didn’t follow up with someone? Shoot off an email apologizing for being out of touch, and propose specific plans. Haven’t paid your overdue credit card bill yet? Pay that sucker and take the forty seconds’ worth of time to register for automatic bill pay.
Be Proactive. Not Reactive. And ask yourself with full honesty, controlled intention and release of the uncontrolled aftermath: How do I want my dominoes to fall?