Years ago I was having an email conversation with a friend of mine. The topic of discussion was success, or lack thereof. It morphed into why neither one of us was rich, which then led to these two questions: why do we sabotage ourselves; what is it that holds us back?


I needed time to think about my response. I did so because I felt this topic deserved some serious thought. I hadn't thought much about the concept of sabotage and success until the question came up, and I had to think about it in terms of myself and others.

I came to the conclusion that there are many people who do sabotage themselves as it applies to their business and careers. I've known a lot of those people, most of whom aren't in business for themselves any longer or left jobs they had for a multitude of reasons. I didn’t think it applied to me at the time because I was still pounding the pavement; still am. With a bit more thought I came to the conclusion that I do sabotage myself sometimes, just like everybody else.

Then I had to think about question number two, or part two of the same question. This one was definitely an open ended question, one that everyone would answer differently, but one where almost all of us share the same reasons. It's those reasons I'm coming back to because I find that many of us continue these patterns even when we figure them out; let's see if you agree with me or have been able to break the grip of frustrating mediocrity.

The first reason is we're not as driven as we need to be or think we are. Many of us had big dreams and aspirations, but when it comes down to it few of us are driven to do everything we should do in order to be as successful as we dream. This is probably why .3% of all the people in the world control 80% of the wealth.

Though the growth for small businesses with fewer than five employees has grown drastically over the last 10 years or so, the overwhelming majority of people still work for someone else. Most of us are taught to get an education and then get a job. Jobs offer security (to a degree); the more secure you are, the less driven you are to achieve greater things. This is what Robert Kiyosaki talks about in his book Rich Dad Poor Dad.

I can look at myself now and compare it to when I first started working for myself. Back then I was willing to sit at my computer 16 to 18 hours a day and get back on fewer than 3 or 4 hours of sleep a night. I skipped a lot of meals but I got a lot of things done. These days I find it hard to concentrate because of that same lack of sleep and I still skip some meals. Because of the concentration problems I get less done than I used to, even though I still have the big dreams. I'm less driven than I used to be, but without the security.

The second reason is that most of us feel we don't deserve better than what we already have. T. Harv Eker said in his book Secrets Of The Millionaire Mindicon (the link with the light blue line denotes an affiliate link if you’d like to check out the book) that many people view those who have money and wealth in a negative light. His postulation was that people have it drummed into their minds from an early age that money is the root of all evil, and that rich people are all corrupt and crooked. Since nobody ever wants to be associated with the terms corrupt and crooked, they tend not to reach so high that others might view them in a negative light.

Luckily this one isn't a problem of mine. I've never begrudged anyone for any amount of money they have. I figure that whatever someone's willing to pay them means they're deserving of it, no matter what I have to say about it. I helps that I don't have that kind of jealousy towards anyone because it leaves me feeling as though I deserve what I charge for services because I have a good track record of success; all I need to do is get more clients to agree with me. 🙂

The third reason is that we’re not focused. It’s getting harder to focus on the things we say we want because there is so much coming at us that gets in our way.

candy sabotage
candy sabotage

Most of my day consists of sitting at the computer writing or checking out social media while waiting for the next time I have to check on my mother, who lives with me now and has dementia. I'll either have a heater in the winter or a fan all other seasons blowing on me. I walk at least 15,000 steps a day, measured by Fitbit, and I listen to classical music in the background at least half of the day.

The other half... these days I work in bursts and stops except when I have an idea and need to get it down while I'm inspired (like blog posts). I fall behind on email because I forget to think about it. I market maybe once a week because I'm not focused on doing it daily like I should. I used to write all my goals down and do a lot of planning, but with Mom here I plan less often than in the past. Yet I know I can't blame it all on Mom because I'd started slowing down a year before she moved in. Focus; not so much...

The fourth reason is comfort; that’s a big one, even for sole proprietors who really should be scrambling for more business (raising my hand). People tend to get comfortable in what they do for work, whether they like it or not.

Most of what we do daily we do without thinking about it because we fall into patterns. I loved being in management as an employee because each day brought something different that I could sink my teeth into. However, the people who worked for me did the same thing day after day, as did most people in the other departments. They basically only had to work with themselves; I had to work with everyone.

When most people get comfortable in their jobs they may stay efficient but they also lose their drive. They may get disenchanted and wish they had another job, but most of the time it takes some great impetus, often negative, to get them to decide it’s time for a change. One gets used to paid vacations, where they know they’re going to get paid to stay away from work; who doesn’t love that?

I have the comfort of being able to sit here at my computer most of the day, even when the weather is bad. I have the option of deciding when and what I want to eat. I have the option of answering phone calls or ignoring them, and I have the option of making them or not. I'm not as driven as I was 16 years ago, but I do have the thought in the back of my mind, and I'm in the right place to do it.

These are most of the things that hold us back and lead us to sabotage ourselves. It’s not intentional; it’s just the outgrowth of our behaviors. This begs the question as to whether or not we can break these habits. The simple answer is yes; I know this because I break these habits all the time. What I don't do is sustain them; that's how I sabotage myself.

The best thing I can say is that when the work needs to get done. The next best thing is that I've written down my goals. I've also been working on a few things to help break out of my sabotaging pattern; it should prove to be interesting when I get it completed. Always pushing forward, even at a slow pace; one of the ways all of us can stop sabotaging ourselves.

There are many other ways people sabotage themselves of course, but these four give us a chance to evaluate ourselves, to see what we might need to break through our malaise. What are your thoughts on sabotage? Do any of these fit your patterns?

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