10 Ways to Stop Sabotaging Your Success

I believe we all have dreams to do the things that we love most — to feel alive and fulfilled in every way possible.

Philosopher Richard Taylor says that our life is meaningless; what gives it meaning is a sense of purpose, the will to survive. But how many of us actually make those dreams a reality?

The trouble is that before even beginning to achieve that dream, many of us have doubts about ourselves, and our ability to do what we love. We are apprehensive and hesitant to try something different.

The voice in our head often says, “I don’t have the time or the money…”

Self-sabotage is any kind of behavior or thought that keeps us away from what we desire most in life. Reluctance to take up new challenges is a characteristic trait of self-sabotaging behavior. It is the conflict that exists between our conscious desires (our identity, as Freud would describe it) and unconscious wants (our Ego, according to Freud).

This self-sabotaging behavior originates from our fear of failure. The overwhelming sentiment growing inside of us, gnawing at us, and saying, “You cannot do this,” is what deters us from our goals.

So what can we do to stop sabotaging ourselves?

1. Start with self-belief. On my desk I have a copy of The Essential Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks with John Moyne.

When I am in doubt, I often find myself poring through Rumi’s teachings. Jalāl ad-Dīn Balkhī, also known as Rumi, was a 13th-century Sufi mystic poet who wrote some of the most profound and inspirational words ever written. Rumi wrote, “I am so small I can barely be seen. How can this great love be inside me?  Look at your eyes. They are small, but they see enormous things.”

When we try to be a version of another, it brings out the discontent in ourselves. Being unique encompasses being ourselves; embracing the person we are; and cultivating the one we’ll become. As Rumi wrote, “You were born with potential. You were born with goodness and trust. You were born with ideals and dreams. You were born with greatness. You were born with wings. You are not meant for crawling, so don’t. You have wings. Learn to use them and fly.”

We are stronger than we usually think. When we focus on our weaknesses, we end up smothering our potential, preventing it from manifesting. To survive, and ultimately to thrive, it is our duty to rise again and again.

Changing self-doubt into self-belief is a choice.

2. Remember, regrets are worse than failures. When I begin to fear failure, there is one thing that stops my fear in its tracks. I just think about that dreaded, terrible feeling of regret.

When lying in bed at night and regrets from the day come to steal your sleep… ‘I should have,’ ‘If only I’d,’ ‘I wish I’d’…grab one of them and turn it into an ‘I will’ and sleep peacefully knowing tomorrow will be a better day.” L.R. Knost

There is one feeling that lasts much longer and is more powerful than fear — regret.

3. Identify the root cause. Where does our fear of failure originate? Identifying the root cause is the first step to acknowledging our fear and overcoming it. I sit down, close my eyes, relax, take deep breaths, and try to understand my fear. Coming face to face with our anxiety is the best way to get over it. 

4. Keep your eyes on the goal. Once I have identified the cause of my fear, I try to focus on my goals. Every time a thought like “I can’t do this because…” comes up, I try to recalibrate myself and focus on the small tasks that move me towards my overall goal.

To conquer fear of failure, we must set our mind completely on the outcome that we want to create. The more we can focus on our end game, the more we obliterate pessimism from our minds.

5. Acknowledge avoidance and focus on moving forward. Once we shift our mindset from being the victim to being the bold one who wants to achieve their destiny, we have to take action.

When we are scared, often we fill our days with busywork to avoid real issues. Being ‘busy’ justifies our lack of progress. To move forward, we must stop spending valuable time on mundane activities.

6. Never say never.

 “We dream to give ourselves hope. To stop dreaming — well, that’s like saying you can never change your fate.” ― Amy Tan, The Hundred Secret Senses

We need to ask ourselves “How badly do I need to complete this?” At the end we are our best motivators. Failure is part and parcel of life; it is failure that makes us stronger and more persistent.

7. Trust your inner guide. Rainer Maria Rilke in Letters to a Young Poet wrote, “Works of art are of an infinite solitude, and no means of approach is so useless as criticism. Only love can touch and hold them and be fair to them. Always trust yourself and your own feeling, as opposed to argumentations, discussions, or introductions of that sort. If it turns out that you are wrong, and then the natural growth of your inner life will eventually guide you to other insights. Allow your judgments their own silent, undisturbed development, which, like all progress, must come from deep within and cannot be forced or hastened.” 

That says it all. In moments of doubt and fear, I now trust the guide that’s inside of me. This inner guide is more powerful than any external influence and has the ability to dissipate my fears. Many of my failures came from not trusting myself.

8. Change our perception. We all have our dimensions of viewing life; there are those who will see a glass half-empty and those who will see it half-full. When we always see the glass half-empty, we end up killing our confidence and self-belief. 

Wrong perceptions are detrimental and poisonous to our growth and happiness.

As we wrote in our book, “Survive to Thrive,” we get our strength from compassion — compassion for others and ourselves. Most of us are struggling with some life event every day. The more we are aware of how others struggle, the easier it gets to deal with our own issues.

Better yet, if we can evoke a smile on someone else’s face despite our personal situation, it makes us feel good about ourselves. And that gives us strength to move forward.

9. Challenge ourselves.

“Start a huge, foolish project, like Noah … it makes absolutely no difference what people think of you.” — Rumi

Monotony is one of the reasons for many of our failures. More often than not, we allow ourselves to be comfortable in a particular situation. This state of comfort is a sign of fear of venturing into unknown. It holds us back. It is important to make tough calls and take on challenging steps. As we do, we build our confidence regardless of the outcome.

And it’s completely OK if we fail. The trick is to not give up on ourselves.

10. Patience and faith are our best friends. No one can determine the final destination of our life’s journey. Therefore, the next best thing to do is to keep our cool and have faith in ourselves.

It’s a journey full of peaks and valleys, sunshine and rain. This faith allows me to explore uncharted territory with confidence. I am at ease to fail forward. Because even when we fail, we do not lose it all — we can learn valuable lessons.

Keeping a can-do attitude helps us never to give up on ourselves. It allows us to recharge, reinvest, and reinvent ourselves by melting down our fear.

Written by Faisal Hoque

Editor’s note: This article was reprinted with permission of the author Faisal Hoque. Copyright (c) 2015 by Faisal Hoque. All rights reserved

About the Author: Serial entrepreneur Faisal Hoque is the founder of Shadoka. Shadoka enables entrepreneurship, growth, and social impact. He is the author Everything Connects, Survive to Thrive, and other books. Follow him @faisal_hoque.