Beginner’s Luck: Overcoming Self-Sabotage

Feel like you're the one standing in the way of your goals? "Beginner's Luck" columnist Meredith Atwood shares two things she's learned about overcoming self-sabotage.

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I probably should have attempted to trademark the term “self-sabotage” because it’s been my signature move—for the last, oh I don’t know 30 years. Only over the last few years have I made leaps and bounds to overcome this self-sabotaging drama in most areas of life, and I want to share my two big secrets. (Pssst: they’re super simple).

So my typical M.O. in the way of planning for triathlon, races or life is set huge big scary goals and go after them.  Awesome, right? Sure, and absolutely. Sometimes these big goals are exactly what we need to get us off our buns and on to other horizons. I know that a big goal keeps me sane, focused, and driven.

However, sometimes we set our goals so very high that we get lost in the way to actually achieve them. We get lost in the trees and can’t see the forest. And the forest is this simple: consistency and hard work. Those two things are truly the secret to achieving goals big and small.

We can find ourselves doing “great” in the world of heading towards our goals, until—like completely out of nowhere—here comes the giant hand of self-sabotage to crush our souls. We either blow our meal plan, blow off our workouts, or begin some type of mental monkey mean-girl or -guy routine that takes us off the rails.

How do I overcome self-sabotage? When I find sabotage lurking around the corner (be it from the day, the past or whatever I might be dealin with), I ask myself these two questions before I act on the action of the sabotage.

1. Why Do You Want to Harm YOUR Goal?

So many times the self-sabotage game only hurts us. No one else is involved (except for the bad attitude we have afterwards). It’s only us—only the mirror and the broken promises to ourselves. Before I let myself head down some crazy road of self-destruction, I ask myself the question: Why do you want to harm yourself? Why do you want to stand in the way of your goal? No one else cares about this goal BUT YOU. So why are you the one about to create a mess that harms that goal? Taking just a quick moment to ask myself this line of questioning usually successfully stops (or at least slows) the form of sabotage of the day.

2. Is that Brownie / 30 Extra Minutes of Sleep / Slacking Off / Etc. Worth the Long Term Goal?

We tell ourselves that the small “cheat” on our meal plan or hitting the snooze button and blowing off a workout is “not a big deal,” and yes, technically that is true. Those types of things are not a standalone big deal—at all—until we make them habits, continue to do things counterproductive to our own stated goals, and then—the icing on the cake—we beat ourselves up for it.

So when I feel that I want to skip a workout or blow a couple hundred calories on something sugary and bound to make me mad later, I just ask myself: Is this ______ worth the long-term consequences or result?

And look, nothing is bad in moderation (if you can actually moderate said thing!). But everything is bad if it makes you not trust yourself, break promises you are making for yourself, or worse—head down a pattern of destructive self-sabotage.

The big goals are BIG. It’s a good thing to keep them in mind in the present, to step into them, and believe they are possible. By setting yourself up for success, you’ll overcome self-sabotage and find yourself there that much more quickly.

Meredith Atwood (@SwimBikeMom) is a recovering attorney, motivational speaker and author of the best-selling book, Triathlon for the Every Woman. She is the host of the podcast, The Same 24 Hours, and writes at Her next book, The Year of No Nonsense, is available December 2019.  

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