How to overcome self sabotage and master self discipline

self sabotage
Photo by Andrijana Bozic on Unsplash

Most of us struggle with self sabotage. Instead of sticking with something hard we settle for short-term pleasure. And deny ourselves the long-term satisfaction of reaching our goals.

Self discipline can feel especially difficult for those of us who grew up in chaotic homes. If your parents never taught you structure and routine, you’ll have more trouble sticking with a plan.

Pushing through the uncertainty that precedes success is more painful for someone who lacked direction growing up. Your brain has been rewired to self sabotage by giving up on the consistent tasks required to achieve success.

Struggling with self-sabotage? Download the first chapter of It’s Not Your Fault free.

So don’t beat yourself up, and pay no attention to gurus who berate you for your supposed lack of willpower and strength. The most important solution to self sabotage is kindness and patience with yourself.

Here are seven ways to master self discipline in your life. None of them involve getting up at 5 am to hit the gym before you "crush your day" (eyeroll). Click To Tweet

Here are seven ways to master self discipline in your life. None of them involve getting up at 5 am to hit the gym before you “crush your day” (eyeroll).

1. Reward yourself

We tend to scold ourselves when we self sabotage. But how often do we reward ourselves when we do the opposite and complete the task?

If you had critical parents, you’ve internalized negative self talk. So, scolding yourself feels natural, but praising yourself may not occur to you.

Challenge your self-critic and reward yourself when you’ve achieved something, big or small. This trains your mind to associate self discipline with pleasure, the very reason we normally self sabotage (for the short-term dopamine hit).

2. Resolve past trauma

This one deserves a whole blog post of its own. But, for the sake of brevity, consider whether your self sabotage masks deeper issues.

If you’re dealing with an addiction, overeating, shopping, gambling, or any other behavior that feels out of control, find a way to work through those problems.

Simply stopping the behavior almost never works because you haven’t dealt with the underlying issues. These often started in childhood and take time and concerted effort to dismantle.

12-step programs have proven helpful for some people. Therapy has worked for others. Whatever your approach, complete honesty with yourself is essential to overcome these unhealthy coping mechanisms.

3. Record your triggers

self sabotage self discipline

What happens directly before you sabotage yourself? Increasing your self awareness this way will help you catch yourself before you abandon ship.

What happens directly before you sabotage yourself? Increasing your self awareness this way will help you catch yourself before you abandon ship. Click To Tweet

If you know what triggers you to self sabotage, you can course correct before doing too much damage. Boredom and hunger may precede undermining behavior, for example.

4. Stay accountable.

It’s much easier to stay on track if we have to report to someone else with our progress. Accountability could mean a small group that you check in with weekly.

It could be one other person who shares your desire to improve self discipline and you keep each other in check.

Perhaps you install software on your computer to reduce distractions. Or keep cookies and other sugary foods out of the house.

5. Forgive yourself

When we fall off the wagon, we can feel like throwing in the towel, as though all our progress is for naught.

That’s the severe inner critic and perfectionist talking and you need to kick her to the curb. Forgive yourself quickly and get right back on track. This is a mere blip, not a catastrophe.

Dispense with black and white, all or nothing, thinking. To err is human and even the most highly productive individual fails sometimes. Give yourself a break.

6. Do it for 5 minutes

When your motivation is low and you’re in paralysis mode, tell yourself you’ll do it for 5 minutes. Whether it’s exercise, getting outside, or completing a task, do it for 5 minutes.

Either you’ll make 5 minutes worth of progress, or more likely, you’ll keep going after 5 minutes and make significant progress. It’s a softer and gentler spin on the “just do it” model.

7. Have reasonable expectations

Always and never are the enemies of self-discipline. They set you up to fall because they insist on perfection which doesn’t exist.

Set your mind on progress instead. Say, “I will reduce my sugar intake by x amount, rather than I’ll never eat sugar again.”

Celebrate every inch of progress you make. Determine to focus more on incremental improvements than backsliding.

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4 Replies to “How to overcome self sabotage and master self discipline”

  1. I’m here from Your Platform Matters, and Wow! This is such a timely piece as I am bad with self-sabotage. I needed to see this tonight. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Erica, so glad you’re here. I’ve done my share of self-sabotaging so everything I write is a “note to self”.

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