Why self-sabotage could actually be good for your career

We’re about to enter that New Years’ phase of the year when we set big scary goals for ourselves, and then (more often than we’d like to admit) we don’t follow through.

After we “fail,” we succumb to negative self-talk and we beat ourselves up for not getting in shape, working harder, eating healthier, meditating more, starting a new project, going for that promotion, you name it…

But this year, instead of chastising ourselves for sabotaging our self-improvement goals, what if we breathed a collective sigh of relief? Because what if your self-sabotage was a clue that you’re headed in the wrong direction? It might be a warning sign. A tiny whisper coming within to let you know that perhaps this isn’t the way forward.

Follow the bread crumbs of your self-sabotage

First, let’s be clear. The type of self-sabotage discussed here is the type we all encounter at least once a year. According to Psychology Today Canada, self-sabotage includes behaviors that stop you from reaching a goal in your life. 

There are more severe forms of self-sabotage that include self-harm and endangering your health or wellbeing. That’s not what we’re discussing in this article. Those are serious behaviors that warrant speaking with a healthcare professional. What we’re talking about here is the self-sabotage that has you procrastinating, avoiding, or working against your goals.

Take stock of where you are putting things off and not taking action. I’d hazard a guess that those behaviors aren’t like you in the grand scheme of things.

You’re a go-getter, a hard-worker, and you generally accomplish what you set your mind to. So when you don’t follow through, it’s not the norm.

Warning bells might be going off in your head at this point. As a professional, who gets things done, you need to stop and think about why you aren’t moving towards accomplishing this one goal you set for yourself.

First, identify the goal that you’re sabotaging. Second, take some time to think about why that is, and third, let yourself off the hook, because it’s likely not a goal you truly want to pursue.

Can we all just agree that less is more now?

If there’s anything to be learned from 2020, it’s that we’re all carrying around an emotional and mental load like never before. Many are tackling work from home with partners doing the same, kids screaming in the background, and no free time to destress and unwind. 

Could it be that your self-sabotage is actually telling you to take things off of your to-do list? Your body and mind are intelligent and often find ways of sending you the message to slow the heck down. The item that continues to slide off your daily task list, even when you might have the time to complete it, is probably the one you need to let go of.

The efforts you continue to sabotage, all on your own, are likely things you don’t want to do. They might be things you think you should be doing. Whenever that sneaky little word “should” shows up, it’s a clue that you’re not pursuing something for yourself; you’re doing it to please others or to meet the status quo.

This coming year, let your self-sabotage run rampant

Another silver lining of the current times has been the realization that the status quo can disappear in the blink of an eye. So rather than doing what’s expected, maybe you could simply do what feels right for you.

Has your manager been prepping you for the next logical step in your career? Have you continued to put off updating your resume in support of that goal? Take a step back and look into why your self-sabotage may actually be a clue. Perhaps you actually want to make a side-step in your profession, rather than taking the next step up on the advancement ladder.

Can’t get yourself to go out for a run every day or hit that spin bike? There are so many different ways to be active. Try going for a walk or putting on a yoga YouTube video. Experiment with the process, and find something you actually enjoy. There’s no point slogging through when a better alternative exists. You just have to experiment.

Because in the end, if you don’t enjoy the process, are the rewards really worth it? You spend 95% of your time on the journey to the end goal. Your time and energy are precious commodities and deserve to be spent wisely. Simply put: you deserve to be happy or, at the very least, to spend less time being frustrated, sad, or stressed.

So, when your self-sabotage starts to kick in, tune in. Look inward and determine what clues are being brought up for you. Eliminating things off your to-do list isn’t weak, it’s managing your energy in a stressful time.

Changing direction isn’t giving up if you’re not heading towards fulfillment. And finding new, more enjoyable, ways to get to the same end goal is not silly, it’s sustainable.