Home > Leadership > How do you sabotage yourself?

How do you sabotage yourself?

The thing about sabotage of course is that it’s secret and stealthy, which means you don’t know it’s happening.  The same applies whether someone else is doing it to you or whether you are doing it to yourself!  sounds bizarre?  why would anyone sabotage themselves you may ask? well that is the difference I suppose, that at least it’s done with purpose if it’s done to someone or something else.  When you do it to yourself  it’s accidental and you don’t even realise – until a helpful coach draws your attention to it that is!

Here are a few self-sabotaging techniques I’ve seen work really well:

  • self-deprecating humour which tells everyone “I’m a joke” – then wonder why no one takes you seriouslysabotage or listens to your words of wisdom
  • starting presentations by apologising, for instance for how boring the subject is or how little time you’ve had to prepare – ie inviting your audience be bored by you or look for mistakes or anything that’s not quite as polished as it might be
  • focusing on what you don’t want to happen – like when you ride a bike and think “I mustn’t hit that kerb” – what do you do….?  Henry Ford, of Ford Motors fame,  said “whether you think you can or you think you can’t – you’re right”  (Not sure if that was before or after he said “you can have any colour you like as long as it’s black” :)) In other words if you think you can do something you’ll find a way, if you think you can’t do it you’ll also find ways to fail (consciously or unconsciously!)
  • failing to ‘Begin with the end in mind’[1] or to set yourself some BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals)[2] – a manager said to me only a few days ago that he needed to think through the steps before envisioning the outcome – but how can you plan what you’re going to do if you don’t know where you want to end up?!

I know these work, I’ve tried them myself!

So how to set yourself up for success rather than failure? here are some tips taking the examples above – and I know these work too, because I use them myself:

  • examine your sense of humour – it’s wonderful to have a GSOH but what DO you make jokes and quips about?  if it’s about yourself and not complimentary listen to what others are witty about and see what you can learn – you don’t want to lose your sense of humour, just refocus it
  • at presentations focus on your audience rather than on yourself – what are they going to gain from listening to you, how can you make it great for them?
  • focus your attention on what you want and what you are capable of, not the things that can go wrong or what you don’t want to happen
  • think about what you really want and envision it

More on envisioning for your success next time as this is such a powerful technique for achieving what you want.

In the meantime – how do you sabotage yourself? – or how have you stopped sabotaging yourself?  do post your thoughts below and let’s share our collective wisdom.  (What’s the worst that can happen?)  I really look forward to hearing from you.


[1] Stephen Covey: The Seven Habits of Highly Successful people

[2] James C Collins and Jerry I Porras: Built to Last

Photo © Sara Robinson – Fotolia.com

  1. Tom Yohannan
    August 1, 2011 at 10:04

    I am reminded of an old friend, master of malapropism, who described himself as being ‘too self-defecating’.

    Talk about sinking your own ship (or ‘shit’, as it were)!

  2. August 1, 2011 at 22:38

    I’m lost for words!

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