NEVER GIVE UP -Self-Sabotaging Your Goals. How not to!

 Written by Sarah Godfrey. 
Personal and professional development coach. Psychologist, Director Moving Mindsets  & author Life Works When self help books


Goals are what keep us going and help us take that next step into the future. We see, we judge, we measure and finally devote our time and resources to certain places we want to reach in our lifetime. In the middle of all this, has it ever felt like you aren’t able to reach your full potential? Do you feel like there is some sort of an invisible force that’s pulling you back from the things you could achieve?

The interesting thing is that this “unseen power” isn’t something out of this world or fate, as some would call it, but rather limitations constructed within your own mind that you need to break free of!

How do you do that?  Well, the first thing to do is to identify these disadvantages.

Do you daydream at work? Do you prefer to be a couch potato and binge watch your favorite TV show over some quality running time? Do you commit yourself to something and then repeatedly doubt your actions and decision? Does procrastination take up more of your hours than actually getting something done? Are you so overcautious about everything you do that you end up doing nothing?

Remember, to win the battle between self-sabotage and your goals, you need to know what’s going on first.

As Sun Tzu said, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.

By this stage you might have identified your goal and its value to your overall happiness. You may have applied the strategies and planning suggested and yet, you hit the brick wall of self-sabotaging.

This part of successful goal setting is probably the hardest and where most people fall apart and become unsuccessful in their endeavours. It is the part of goal achievement that often requires external support like having a personal development coach. You may need more insight and support to overcome old habits that have sabotaged your goals success in the past.

Let’s look at the pitfalls and problems that turn high motivation and goal setting into apathy and failure.

Overcoming Procrastination

 Procrastination is the prevention to accomplishment – The problem with many people is that they see a deadline that is some time away and wait until the last minute to do it. The more time you spend in thinking that you will do it, is more time you are wasting. Do your work today and open the door to goal success faster

Procrastination is the silent assassin. If you are serious about achieving your goals, it’s important that you don’t let procrastination overcome you. It’s easy to fall into old familiar patterns of putting things off for later, but don’t let that become your future. If you have entrenched patterns of procrastinating, then something deeper is going on. Your reluctance to start is, perhaps connected to fears of failure or of success. Seek help and support to investigate why starting is your biggest hurdle if these tips don’t help you begin.

Your aim should be to get off the path of procrastination and get over the bridge of beginning. You need to start taking back control of your life. If you already tend to procrastinate, then you should start implementing strategies to counter it.

Remember this is about success, not an opportunity to put yourself down.

  1.  What will you do to make sure you reach the goal? Focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t to get towards the goal you want?
  2. Have a think who can help you with your goal and why they are a good resource for you? Family, work colleagues, boss, personal coach?
  3. Who will hold you accountable to reaching your goal? Sometimes left to our own devices we can make excuses and become distracted. It helps to have others on your team. Professional or social. Link in to your supports or organisation that have the same goal as you are trying to achieve. A development coach can be an inspiration to monitor and motivate you to keep going and stay on track.
  4. Get proactive and positive. List 3 things that will help you reach this goal. Keep adding to this list as you go. Put them on your Vision board or in your Mind Map.
  5. Keep a journal of your progress or have a second VISION BOARD to track your achievements as you near your goal.

Anticipating failure

Alexandra Pope wrote, “To err is human, to forgive divine definition.”  If we forgive others for their failures and mistakes we should remember to forgive ourselves. Failure and success are two sides of the same coin. We learn just as much when attempting a goal and failing as we do succeeding. Start with the radical acceptance that the goal may not be reached this time, in this way, but perseverance, adaptability and flexibility will get you success in the end.

In fact, the most common aspect of failure is that we often fail to anticipate it. Because of this sometimes, when and if it eventually arrives, it becomes tougher to deal with. If you can start anticipating your failure, you can adjust your plans accordingly and cope with it in an efficient, healthy and productive way.  If you don’t like the word failure, swop it for learning. Look around you, the most successful people in the world have failed many times.

How did they succeed?  They anticipated their failures and converted them into stepping stones towards progress. You shouldn’t allow failure to dampen your spirits, rather motivate yourself to learn from it and work harder towards achieving your goals.

Stay focused and try to develop motivational strategies that will help you overcome foreseeable obstacles to reach your goal. The unforeseeable ones, well, we all just must manage those with rationality, flexibility and adaptability when they arrive. The most important thing to remember is 3 magic words, “never give up”. If you are determined and persistent, you will achieve your goals.

It’s crucial to remember that, while some of these strategies may seem straightforward and simple, they will require some concentrated effort. Stay cheerful, stay inspired. Don’t let criticism peg you down. Your goals might overwhelm you a bit, but should always excite you a lot more.

 Let us go through some of the most evident self-sabotaging disasters:

Don’t beat yourself up over something – Mistakes are a human eventuality. Nobody is perfect and there will always be something that will not go the way we planned. Be mindful of your self-talk when things don’t go as planned or as easily as you would’ve liked. Are you someone who will encourage yourself to press on, or the one who will indulge in negative self-diminishing chatter? The latter does nothing except make us subconsciously believe that we are not up to the task and our best efforts never amount to anything. Instead, tell yourself that it’s a learning process and that good things come to those who wait, learn and persevere.

 Beware of a monotonous existence – When you set a goal that will extend over a long period of time, you can become complacent and unmotivated. If your goal is to become a millionaire and you own a bakery, you need to expand your business. This is a long-term goal, requiring risk, adaptability and action. It may take many years to achieve your goal plan (set up a chain under your brand name). Ambition can take time and monotony can be a dampener on ambition. Use your journals, support team, vision boards to snap you out of a monotonous mind. If you restrict yourself within a one-dimensional action plan, your chances of real success can be hindered. If your life drifts from one same day to the next, get your goal on and do something about it.

Drawing useless attention to yourself – If you can’t reach that milestone that you had on your list of resolutions, don’t create a fuss over it. Gossip doesn’t serve any purpose towards the betterment of your circumstance except creating a lot of noise. Remember, people who talk about their shortcomings achieve nothing but informing others of their weaknesses. Negative gossip is simply unnecessary drama and a distraction from dealing with the achievement of your goal.

Suppressing your emotions won’t help – If you have strong feelings about something, acknowledge the emotions. This doesn’t mean that you should go to the middle of a road and shout your heart out. Take some time off for yourself, think deeply about the things that have affected you over the past few days or weeks. Download and debrief. Acknowledge your achievements and accept things for as they are. This is a great way to feel free and clear-headed about what you need to do.

Remember that everyone has unique gifts – Comparison is pointless when reaching your own goals. Others will achieve in their own way and in their own time. They are not you, so stop looking over your shoulder at what everyone is doing. Don’t be swayed with what you see others are doing but concentrate on what you can do. You are a unique individual and there is no other on this planet like you, so focus on your own plan, strategy, steps and success.

Make it a habit to follow through – Keep your promises and don’t back out when someone has already invested time and money or both in you. If you don’t want to be confined by people’s judgments or by your own lack of initiative, then do not make commitments you can’t keep. Get things done no matter what or have a genuine reason for any delay. Demonstrate integrity and honesty to yourself and those who are helping you towards success.

Perfection is a myth – There is no ‘perfect’ way of doing things and perfect leads to a boring and uninteresting life. Life is a rollercoaster so strap on and enjoy the ride, the ups and downs are what gives life adrenaline. Effort is what pushes you ahead and towards your goals. Not the need to do everything perfect.


Now that we have a pretty clear idea of what self-sabotaging is all about, it is time to look at the solutions.

Procrastinating? Try setting a timer and dedicate 15/20 minutes of your time on doing something that you have been putting off for a while. Start small, and when those 15 minutes are over, you will keep going. As they say, an object in motion tends to stay in motion.

Find your barriers. Locate and give time to finding out potential barriers. These can be work, relationships, social media, money, access or emotional and psychological barriers. List what might prevent you from reaching your goal? Money? Resources. Self-belief? Then seek support to overcome these barriers.

Define habits. List 2 or 3 habits that prevent you from reaching your goal (things you know you do or have done in the past to lose focus on reaching your goal). Examples are people, places, jobs, thinking patterns.

Rate how well you think your habits are in areas of

  • staying motivated,
  • being mindful of and avoiding procrastination
  • Keeping your focus and managing life’s distractions
  • Doing the hard work (do you tend to give in or do you have endurance?)
  • Believing in what you want and knowing you can be decisive.
  • Persistence and endurance in spite of life’s obstacles.
  • Adaptation and flexibility with change. Because after all, goals are about change.

 SMART your sabotage. Use the SMART goal strategy to stop one of these bad habits. Be compassionate and positive about yourself when you do this. Just as you can use this strategy to start a goal so can it be applied to getting rid of bad habits, because that in itself is a goal!

 Identification –Identify certain “trigger actions” that precipitate self-sabotaging actions.  Once you know these, you can take care not to repeat them next time around.

Recognise and monitor the pattern –  Don’t pretend you don’t have maladaptive behaviors that sabotage your success. Monitor yourself, be aware and tell your goal team what to look out for. Keep away from falling into such ‘traps’ in the future and be mindful of how you go about your plans.

 Decide upon and practice a different pattern – Once you have found out the pattern that had prevented you succeeding in the past work on forming new habits. Make plans and determine what the best success practices are and keep implementing them until they become habits.

 Learn from your experience – Experience is the key to finding your way through the maze of bad habits. When you fail at something, the positive bit is that now you know what not to do. Don’t sabotage yourself twice!

 Ask for advice – There is no shame in being assisted by others, especially those who have a better grasp of something than you. When you get some genuinely effective pointers at what you are supposed to do from reputable individuals, it increases your chances of success. Your goals are more within your grasp when you reach out and get help.

 Preplan for contingencies – The best way to tackle uncertainty is to plan ahead. Anticipate the hurdles and always keep contingencies in place to effectively deal with an unwanted development.

 Don’t be afraid of risks – Risks are what differentiates between the successful and the mundane. To reach your goals, you need to stand out with your actions and that requires risk-taking. Don’t be afraid and push through with educated risks. You are doing something that hasn’t been tried before, making your efforts a novelty.

The road to your goals is full of hurdles and difficulties. It would probably help not to add to the burden with self-sabotage. Before you set off, find out every angle to the scenario, the things you should and shouldn’t do, so that come what may, you don’t stand in your own way. Pave your own way and do it with smart decisions and goal-oriented actions with the above techniques in mind!



Extra reading and resources/references