Stop Sabotaging Yourself

Stop sabotaging your goals

Are you sabotaging yourself? Maybe there’s something you really want to accomplish, but you’re constantly struggling with it. You don’t have enough time, or something always comes up that you need to spend money on instead, or you just can’t seem to get it done.

If any of that sounds familiar, chances are you’ve fallen into a pattern that sabotages your efforts.

Here’s an example

Suppose your goal is to curb impulse purchases. You do really well for a few weeks by only buying the things that are on your list.

But then one day you need to pick up something that’s near the mall. Before you know it, you’ve stopped in at the mall and bought several things that you didn’t originally intend to buy.

So you berate yourself for your lack of self-control, and give up on the goal for a while. Why keep trying if you’re not going to succeed, right? Maybe you even buy more.

A few months later, you find yourself newly motivated to try again — maybe by a New Year’s resolution or an unexpectedly large credit card bill that acts like a kick in the rear.

When the try/give up/try again later thing happens repeatedly, you’ve fallen into a pattern that’s preventing you from reaching your goal.

Why you might be sabotaging yourself — and how to stop

There are generally three major reasons we sabotage ourselves:

  1. You don’t really want to reach your goal, deep down. This can happen when the goal is just something you think you “should” be doing, or it can happen when you’re afraid of success. If this is the case, give yourself permission to either stop trying, or else figure out why you don’t want to reach the goal. Sometimes there’s an underlying assumption about what things will be like once you’ve reached the goal that’s unappealing, and that’s really what you’re trying to avoid. (Such as “if I’m responsible with money, I won’t ever get to do anything fun.” — but in reality being responsible with money allows you to enjoy MORE fun things.)
  1. Your goal is unrealistic. If your goal is unrealistic — such as “I will never eat another unplanned meal out”, the moment you eat a single unplanned meal out, you’ve failed completely. Switch to something more realistic, and you’ll succeed. An more realistic goal might be, “I will eat three home-cooked meals a week.” Once you’re used to doing that on a regular basis, you can increase the number of home-cooked meals until your eating out is at a comfortable level.
  1. You’re not paying attention. This one’s insidious, but it’s also fairly easy to solve once you realize that the issue is a lack of attention. Sometimes we just get sidetracked, or busy, or we have too many goals that we’re trying to reach at once. If you have a goal that’s important to you (and it probably is if it keeps coming up) write it down and read it aloud to yourself each morning. Reminding yourself daily of the goal will help. Tracking your progress and celebrating each successful step toward the goal will help even more.

Finally, it helps to remember that you’re human. We’re all going to mess up now and then, and it doesn’t mean that we’ve failed or that we should give up. It means that we messed up, but can go right back to working on what we want to achieve.


  • I think many people start with great intentions, but sabotage themselves by sticking to old habits. Keeping vigilant to these tendencies can help keep us on track.

  • Your first point really resonated with me. “You don’t really want to reach your goal.” I think I read it in The Millionaire Mind. Some folks want to be rich, but deep down, they think money and rich people are evil. How can they possibly become rich when their mindset is this way? So mindset correction needs to be done or else the goal will never be reached. Great post!

  • Sometimes we have to set our goals a little lower so we can reach it and eventually try to get higher. The problem with most of us is that we tend to set unrealistic goals and end up getting frustrated instead.

    • Yeah, it’s important to set goals that are actually reasonable — especially if you’ve been frustrated in the past. There’s a place for stretch goals too though; it just depends on the situation.