‘Why do I self-sabotage?’
This is one of the questions I get most from clients, and helping people transcend self-sabotage is something I’ve been an avid student of for over twenty years.
And I want to share my latest – and maybe my most powerful – revelation with you, and how it has changed not only the lives of hundreds of people I’ve worked with, but also my own …
But first, let’s start with a definition from the wonderful Alyce Cornyn-Selby:
“Self-sabotage is when we say we want something and then go about making sure it doesn’t happen”
This may take the form of:
- Making a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, but abandoning your efforts by the end of January
- Having every intention to get active, but only actually succeeding in signing up for the gym
- Saying you want to eat better, but not finding the time to cook nutritious food
- Trying to improve your relationships, but getting stuck in old patterns
- Making plans to work on your finances, but giving in to the post Christmas sales
Whatever your particular brand of self-sabotage has been, I know you can probably relate – we’ve all been there … and in-fact (in certain areas of our lives), many of us live there.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
“True behavior change is identity change”
– James Clear
On my journey of discovering how to help people overcome self-sabotage, I have uncovered many powerful answers. I have learned how to help people set goals in a way that transcends self-sabotage, unlock powerful motivators that keep them going, and use innovative psychological principles to bridge the gap between good intentions and healthy habits.
And all of this has helped my clients on their journeys of transformation.
But something was missing, and I found that missing thing in December last year.
The real game-changer this year – for my clients and myself – was exploring our identities …
Your identity is ‘the way you see yourself ’ – but why is this important when we’re talking about reaching our goals, living by our values, or changing our habits?
Well, it turns out that all of these endeavours – if to be successful in the long-term – require you to become someone new.
Of course, you will always be you, but if you don’t change the way you see yourself in important ways, you will always return to old habits that are in line with your historical identity (and find it difficult to create new habits that are in line with the identity you are seeking to cultivate!).
When our goals are incongruent with our identity – what we call ‘behavior-identity conflict’, we are destined for self-sabotage, because what we are trying to do is not in line with who we are. The new behaviours we have to enact to achieve our goals become a threat to our very sense of self. We find it difficult to do anything that we see as ‘not us’, and very easy to just be ‘who we are’. Our identity is such a core and stable part of our psyche, that when our intentions fight with our identity, our identity always wins.
Let me give you some examples:
- If you believe you are ‘not a gym person’, you will never be able to consistently go to the gym. You may be able to start, but it will always feel inauthentic, as – unlike the ‘gym junkies’ (who’s identity is wrapped up in exercise!), it’s ‘just not who you are’.
- If you are a person who ‘hates cooking’ or ‘can’t stick with things’, or is a ‘yo-yo dieter’, you’ll meal prep in line with this identity – begrudgingly, haphazardly, or maybe not at all!
- If you see yourself as ‘bad with money’, then of course you will blow up your budget for that $400 giant inflatable pool toy that popped up when you were scrolling social media – that’s the sort of thing people who are bad with money do!
It is not until we change the way we see ourselves, that we can truly give ourselves a shot at turning our hopes and dreams into reality.
If what I’m saying resonates with you, the next obvious question becomes …
Yes, but how do I do that?
Well, I’m glad you asked, because this time last year, I began developing a simple process for how to do it that is now called …
Transforming Your Identity with Affirmations & Actions
Let me share it with you now (using myself as an example!).
Take a sheet of paper and split it down the middle.
In the left column, make notes on the way you have seen yourself in the past (up until the time of writing). Be specific, vulnerable, and honest – it’s important to acknowledge the way you currently see yourself, even if it’s difficult to do so.
As your identity is multifaceted, you may like to break your reflection into specific areas (in any way that makes sense to you!). I did it for many areas where I felt I was getting in my own way; health and wellbeing, mental health and performance, family and relationships, and work and work-life balance. Let me share what I wrote regarding work*:
For me, it was a rude awakening that – even after doubling my days off in the preceding year I still saw myself as a ‘workaholic’, and realised that I was sometimes driving myself and my team so hard that I was becoming the quintessential ‘cranky boss man’ (yuk!). Self-awareness is sometimes hard to accept, but it provides fertile soil for growth, so it’s always worth it.
In the right column, you then make notes on the identity you are seeking to cultivate into the future! Think about the kind of person you would really like to be. Do it however you want (there are no rules!), but be sure to include both affirmations and actions.
‘Affirmations’ are self-statements about who you would like to be (goal-posts for the new identity you want to – and will have to – create in order to be successful). Affirmations can feel awkward, but when you get them right (which just means developing ones that really resonate with you!) they can be incredibly powerful.
For me, the best one was the phrase ‘It’s just work’. When something bad happened at work, to the surprise of my team, I’d say ‘It’s okay, it’s just work’, and when people in my social network would congratulate me on work achievements, to their surprise I’d say ‘Thank you, but it’s just work’ and then change the topic**.
Did this affirmation dampen my enthusiasm for what I do, my caring for my clients and online community members, or my ability to help others in a way that I find deeply satisfying? Absolutely not. It just allowed me to remind myself that my work is a great part of my life, but it’s not my whole life!
‘Actions’ are the behaviours that provide tangible evidence for your new identity over time (we don’t believe anything – including anything about ourselves – without proof!). Each positive action you take becomes a ‘vote’ for your new identity – it makes the affirmations real, cultivates the new identity that helps you transcend the self-sabotage that behavior-identity conflict creates, and consolidates your new habits over time.
Affirmations without actions are like a bird without wings, so while I repeated my affirmations often, I also made an effort to implement actions that would make my new identity a reality over time.
For me, the actions of booking time off, making some changes to my team, and spending more time connecting with them, were key actions that have helped me own – and believe – my affirmations around a better work-life balance and attitude to work.
The result? Reflecting at the end of the year with twelve months spent working on my identity, I’ve had even more days off work than the previous year, I’ve been on my first overseas trip in five years, and I have to say that our team is stronger and happier than ever***. And – within myself (which is what really matters, right?) – I’m having a lot more fun, both at work and in life in general ☺
I loved this process so much that I incorporated it into the regular start of the year goals, values, and intention setting process that I do with my one on one clients, and with our online community members in their annual start of year Reach Your Goals & Become Who You Want To Be Series, and – not surprisingly – they loved it too! ☺ ☺ ☺
So, after trying it on myself, and refining it with my clients and online community members, I’m sure that it can be a powerful missing piece to help you overcome any self-sabotage and become the person you want to be as you head into the new year.
I want you to experience the benefits of this process so much, that I’m sharing the chapter from last year’s Reach Your Goals & Become Who You Want To Be Series workbook, so you can give it a go yourself. ☺ ☺ ☺
You could choose to complete the workbook chapter, write it all in a journal like I did, or just – when you are thinking about your goals, hopes, and dreams for the new year – reflect not only on ‘what do I want to achieve’, but also …
‘Who do I want to become?’
And I’m sure it will help you to reach your goals and become who you want to be in 2023 ☺ ☺ ☺
SPECIAL OFFER TO REACH YOUR GOALS & BECOME WHO YOU WANT TO BE IN 2023
If you’re really ready to transcend self-sabotage and become the person you want to be in 2023, why not consider joining us for the upcoming 12-week Reach Your Goals & Become Who You Want To Be Series, which starts on January 30 in our game-changing Transformation Support Community?
In the series, we cover all of this and much much more, as well as closely supporting you to apply the principles in a way that is right for you!
To help you to achieve your goals in 2023, I’m offering all new members ONE MONTH’S FREE MEMBERSHIP, until Sunday January 8!
There are only 50 places available in this brand new series, and if you sign up now you can secure your spot, and then enjoy accessing all of our online programs, audio programs, and recorded webinar series for FREE until just before the series starts****, OR you can just relax, feeling comfortable knowing that we’ll take care of it all together when the series begins!
Whether or not you end up working with us, my wish for you is the same as it is for all of my clients and online community members in 2023, and for myself. That we can let go of any historical self-sabotage, and transform the way we see ourselves, so that we can really turn our New Year’s hopes and dreams into reality …
I’d love to hear your thoughts on my reflection, and any self-reflections that have come up as a result (just email them to me here!), and as always, I’m yours in transformation,
*You don’t get to read my whole journal – haha – but I did go through it in more detail with our Transformation Support Community members when we did the activity together ☺
**It wasn’t that I was trying to ignore my achievements, or be rude to those complimenting me, but pride and praise factor into our identity strongly – you are likely to find that areas of your identity that are overdeveloped are areas where you experience a lot of pride and/or receive a lot of praise. This is an important nuance that we work through when we cover this topic with our Transformation Support Community members.
***Funny how that happens, isn’t it? Sometimes when we relax a little and stop trying to control everything, things just flow a little better and we end up with a better result anyway ☺ ☺ ☺
****The TSC will welcome back our members with an introductory webinar the week of January 23, so you’ll be there for when the program starts back up again after our annual TSC Christmas break period! ☺ ☺ ☺