A few days ago, I received an email from a woman named Anne.
She had a question for me.
Turia, I’m really inspired by everything you’ve achieved (thank you Anne!) and I want to use that inspiration to go out and do something awesome for myself but I find that no matter what goal I set, I end up self sabotaging and find myself getting nowhere. How do I stop this sabotage cycle?
This is a great question and I wanted to share my answer with you because I know this is a really common issue. I mean, we’ve all been there.
I can tell you for a fact that there were days in my Ironman journey where I opted out of my training to stay at home watching old Friends re-runs on the couch.
I’m sure there have been times when you’ve chosen to do something that you know is not gonna get you closer to where you wanna be, whether that’s the sneaky petrol station Mars bar when you’re on a diet or staying up so late that you’re too tired to look for new jobs in the morning like you promised yourself you would.
Sabotaging behaviour happens. You’re not alone in that.
Now, I have some tips for breaking that cycle, but first, let me give you a bit of a back story to my thinking on self sabotage.
A few decades ago there was this study carried out by a guy, well, a psychologist – Bruce Alexander. He was reviewing studies that showed the addictive nature of heroin on rats.
What Alexander noticed was really interesting. He realised that the rats were all isolated – kept in little cages on their own. If they had company, he wondered, would the drugs offered to them be as tempting?
Alexander went on to build a group cage for the rats, which he dubbed ‘Rat Park’, where they could all hang out together. When offered a choice of plain water or heroin sugar water the rats would more often than not choose the plain water.
Now, the moral of this story is not that you need to start hanging out in parks with a big bottle of water, trying to make friends with a family of rats (though, as always, you do you!), it’s this:
When you know what you want and you have what you need to get there, there’s no room for self sabotage – Tweet it!
I’ve got four steps that will help you create your own version of Rat Park – the right environment for success.
- Ask yourself, is this goal I’m trying to achieve, even something I really WANT to achieve, or something I feel like I should do?
Maybe you feel like you should run a half marathon because you think that’s what healthy, fit people do? But there’s lots of different ways to view fitness and if running isn’t your jam, find something that is! Maybe latin dancing feels way more fun and exciting to you?
- Do you have a compelling reason to achieve this goal? All of us can achieve anything IF we have a compelling reason to achieve it. If your reason to run a half-marathon is vague and not emotionally compelling, maybe like ‘get healthier’, it’s gonna be even harder to get out of bed on a cold morning to train. Really think about WHY you want to achieve this goal and make sure your reason is one that TRULY compels you.
- Identify the ways you self-sabotage. Take a sheet of paper and write down all the times, situations and habits that lead to self sabotage. Maybe you stay up late watching TV and end up being too tired in the morning to fit in that early training session. Try to identify these issues and find ways to break through those habits. Start small. If you’ve got to go to bed earlier, just aim for 5 minutes earlier at first, and work your way back from there.
- Identify the emotional reasons for those bad habits or self-sabotaging times. Look back over your list of sabotaging moments. Are you staying up late because you’re secretly dreading work tomorrow? Be honest with yourself and then take action to fix that underlying emotional need.
And remember, sure, that little cage of self-sabotage might feel like home, but you’re never gonna grow, change or improve your life if you never leave that comfort zone.
After all, we only get one shot at this life. Don’t miss yours.
Alright, enough from me for now. Let me know in the comments if YOU have a tip for beating that self-sabotaging behaviour. I’d love to hear from you.
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