9 Destructive Behaviors that are Sabotaging Your Success and What to do About Them

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Self-sabotage. Do you ever feel this with parts of your business?

A feeling of self-destructing—like you ruined everything you were trying so hard to accomplish?

I’ve probably had this feeling more times than I can count, and it’s definitely not fun.

Most self-sabotage is the result of discomfort. It can be the discomfort of failing, succeeding, or having to perform tasks that are uncomfortable.

You may have heard the saying, “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” This is especially true when you’re branching out into entrepreneurship.

Unfortunately, most of us are well-practiced in the art of avoiding discomfort. This is the most common way we sabotage our success.

My BIGGEST Self-Sabotage Story

My story begins like many new bloggers: building a list but feeling uncomfortable about sending emails. Twice I’ve built an email list—one of nearly 1,500 people and another of over 800—and totally squandered it.

I did better with the second one. I even made some sales! But in the end, I still felt bad about emailing my list and eventually quit emailing them.

This whole thing seems kind of weird considering how I’ve managed a list of over 7,000 in my other business. That was a little different because they were specifically expecting sales notifications from me and it wasn’t necessarily through email.

Or at least, that’s what I told myself. That it was different.

Spoilers: it’s not really that different. I was just focusing on things that didn’t attract the right kind of people (buyers and people who wouldn’t mind my commercial offers) to my list. (Another way to self-sabotage, by the way.)

That’s why with this business, I decided I’m going to do things differently, starting with my all-important email list.

I have a long welcome sequence that goes out to every new subscriber, so when I do have new content or something to promote, I know every person on my list has heard from me regularly.

I took what I knew I struggled with and found a way to overcome it. This is how you deal with self-sabotage!

Letter Board Flat Lay - overcome self-sabotage, you've got this
Photographer: Emma Matthews Digital Content Production | Source: Unsplash

Are you sabotaging your own success?

Do you have a story similar to what I just shared?

Maybe it’s exactly the same thing. You’re afraid to email that list you’ve built with new content notifications, let alone trying to sell to them.

Or maybe it’s something else. You’re easily distracted, struggle to make decisions, or you’re quick to quit if you don’t see results right away.

If you’re struggling with your business, it might not be whatever it is you’re blaming your struggles on. It could be something that you’re doing. And if it is, that’s great news because it means you can change your behavior to do better.

So keep reading to discover 6 different ways you could be sabotaging yourself and your business and a solution for each one.

Distractions

The tasks that need to be done in order to be successful are typically less appealing than watching Netflix, browsing Facebook, or spending time with friends. We’re experts at distracting ourselves, and the urge to seek out distractions increases with the unpleasantness or difficulty of the task.

Solution: Allow yourself to have distractions, but control when, and how long, you engage in them.

You might give yourself 30 minutes of distraction time after three hours of work. Or, you might limit distractions to the evening after your work is done for the day.

Try the Pomodoro Technique as a work method that allows you to partake in distractions, but only after you do 25 minutes of work.

Procrastination

Distractions are one way of procrastinating, but there are countless other ways to procrastinate, too. Basically any time you’re doing something other than what you actually should be doing.

That means that yes, even doing other work can be procrastination.

Solution: Be clear on what needs to be done and why. Focus on just getting started, which is often the most challenging part of working.

Having trouble getting started? Tell yourself you’ll just work for 20-30 minutes. Use a timer and see how much you can accomplish in that 20-30 minutes. By the time that time is up, you might be so focused that you just continue working.

Hint: The Pomodoro Technique works great for this too!

Staying Motivated as an Entrepreneur

“Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.” Ralph Waldo Emerson It’s so easy to tell yourself that you’re going to accomplish something new, but what happens when it takes longer than you originally thought? Suddenly, staying motivated becomes a […]

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Focusing on low-priority tasks

You may enjoy working on your projects but are you avoiding the most important tasks? This is one way that self-sabotage can creep up on you. It seems like you’re busy, but you’re working on all the wrong things.

The most important tasks are often the least enjoyable, so it becomes easy to just avoid them. Instead, you tackle the less important tasks because it makes you feel like you’re still making progress.

This is exactly what I was talking about when I said that doing work can be procrastination.

If you need to work on marketing tasks, work on marketing tasks—not your next blog post. Because we all know that it doesn’t matter how many blog posts you write if you’re not getting out there and marketing each one of them (or at least you should know that).

Solution: Start working by priority. Have a list of tasks to do each day ordered from most important to least. Start at the top of your list and work your way down.

Make planning the next day a part of your work routine so you can get started right away when you begin the next day.

Indecisiveness

Indecisiveness is also a self-sabotaging success killer. When you can’t make up your mind, progress comes to a stop. If you wait until you have all the wisdom and information necessary to make a perfect choice, you’ll be waiting a long time.

You have to pull the trigger and move forward. You can never collect all the wisdom without going through the experience.

Solution: Be clear on what needs to be done to accomplish your objective. Understand what will happen if you don’t make a decision.

Give yourself a time limit. You might give yourself 10 minutes or a day to make a decision. Then just decide and do your best.

Fear of Success

For many people, the closer they get to success, the more negative thoughts they experience. What if you can’t handle the growth? What if you become overwhelmed with all the people you’ll have to deal with?

For me, I’m terrified (sort of) of having affiliates. I’ll have to deal with paying them… which means I’ll have to deal with tax forms. That’s so much.

But I keep telling myself that when I get to that point, I can always hire someone to do that for me. In the meantime, if I create my course through Teachable, they’ll handle the affiliate payments for me.

Phew! A solution.

Solution: Take things one step at a time. Don’t be afraid of what’s going to happen when you reach a certain point in your business. There’s always an answer for something, you just have to figure it out.

And if you can’t figure it out, you can always hire someone who can. There are also all kinds of tools and services available that focus on helping solopreneurs just like you.

Your sucess depends heavily on your mindset. Are you engaged in one of these 9 self-sabotaging behaviors without knowing it? Find out which ones and how to overcome them.

Negative Thoughts

Negativity is a big way to self-sabotage yourself, so much so that I’ve split this section into three parts.

It’s easy to get in your head about your failures, your mistakes, and even your successes, but you have to push past it if you really want to achieve success.

Ignore the random noise of your mind. You don’t have to engage with your random thoughts. You can choose to ignore them or turn the negative thoughts into positive ones.

Here are three ways your own negativity could be killing your business and—like the rest of this article—what to do about them.

Neon sign that says good vibes only - practice positive thinking to thwart self-sabotage
Photographer: Allie Smith | Source: Unsplash

Negative self-talk

Self-sabotage also comes in the form of negative thoughts. They may creep up on you due to negative self-esteem. You might say bad things about yourself, like “Ugh, I can’t believe I messed this up! I’m so dumb!”

If you’re thinking thoughts like “I’m so bad with technology,” it’s going to be easy for you to give up when technology inevitably goes awry.

And trust me, it does often. It’s not a problem with just you.

Solution: Take control of your mind and think thoughts that are useful to you. Cheer yourself on rather than criticize your actions.

Turn “I’m so dumb” into “Okay, now I know that doesn’t work. Let me try something else.” You’re not stupid or dumb, you’re trying something you may not have ever done before. Give yourself some time to figure it out!

You can also try using positive affirmations whenever you need a pep talk or just as a part of your daily routine. Repeating something positive to yourself will help you really believe it and realize that you actually do have what it takes.

8 Effective Habits of Successful People

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Fixed mindset

If you tell yourself you can’t do something because of a “way that’s always been,” you’re trapped in a fixed mindset. This is saying things like:

  • I’ve never been a good writer, so I should avoid creating a blog.
  • I don’t know how to edit audio, so I shouldn’t create a podcast
  • No one is buying my product, so it must be trash.

All of these things are fixable. You can practice writing, you can learn how to edit audio or hire someone to do it for you, and you can do better research or marketing to sell your product.

Solution: What you need instead is a growth mindset. Realizing that you can do all the things you need to do or accepting that you may need help doing them is how you can turn a fixed mindset into a growth mindset.

Make a list of all the things you need to improve on and the steps you can take to either learn more or outsource to someone else. You don’t have to do everything in your business alone, and it’s okay to get help for the stuff you need to learn.

Impostor syndrome

Have you ever said to yourself, “I really don’t know what I’m doing. I was just lucky to get this far. Why would anyone listen to what I have to say?”

Are you thinking this in spite of the fact that you’ve got years of experience?

This is another form of negative thinking that a lot of bloggers and other entrepreneurs experience. It’s called impostor syndrome.

It’s the feeling that even though you actually do know what you’re talking about, you still don’t know enough. That your achievements are only due to luck or being in the right place at the right time. That people are going to find out you’re the “fraud” you think you are.

Solution: Recognize your achievements and how you got them. Think about the work you did to get where you are now.

You have valuable experience that people want. This why they hire you. It’s why they buy your courses, and it’s why they consume content through your blog/podcast/video/whatever.

Understand that you don’t have to perfect or the top #1 expert to provide value to someone. As long as you’re at least one step ahead of someone, you can help them!

Quitting

Finally, we have the ultimate self-sabotage behavior: quitting! You can’t achieve anything if you quit before you’ve had a chance to become successful.

Many people have a habit of quitting right before achieving success. They probably don’t know that they’re at the tipping point, but it happens a lot.

I can think of quite a few times when I realize now, looking back, that if I’d kept going, I could have found an entirely new level of success.

Solution: Develop the habit of finishing what you start. Avoid caving into the fear that crops up when you’re about to find out if you were successful or not.

Remember that you can always try again, regardless of the outcome. Many entrepreneurs go through lots of failures before finally finding that success that they crave.

Let’s Recap: 9 Ways You Self-Sabotage Your Success

Relatively, self-sabotage is actually a great problem to have. That might sound backward but think about it. If your success is out of your reach due to one of these reasons…

  1. Indulging in distractions
  2. Procrastinating
  3. Failing to make decisions
  4. Fearing success
  5. Focusing on the wrong tasks
  6. Listening to negative self-talk
  7. Having a fixed mindset
  8. Falling to impostor syndrome
  9. Quitting before you can achieve success

…then your problem isn’t your business, it’s something you’re doing.

If the biggest problem in your business is yourself, then that’s much easier to deal with than trying to change anyone else. The person responsible for your success is staring at you in the mirror each day.

The entire issue is your own responsibility. This might sound disheartening, but it’s easier to change yourself than it is to change someone else.

Keep the tips this post in mind as you go through your day and soon, you’ll find yourself enjoying your successes instead of bemoaning your failures!

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My Favorite Resources

Organize your life or automate your business to save time and reduce stress.

Notion

The all-in-one solution for note-taking, digital planning, and collecting information. I plan and write all my blog posts with Notion.

Airtable

Beautiful database with spreadsheet, calendar, and kanban views. Perfect for an editorial calendar or progress tracking!

PostGopher

Automatically turn every blog post into targeted lead magnets! Build your email list without doing extra work.

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