Achieving Goals by Quitting Self-Sabotage And Hacking Motivation

Achieving Goals by Quitting Self-Sabotage And Hacking Motivation

by | Jan 25, 2020 | Emotional Health, Personal Growth, Self Awareness

Deciding what you really want, avoiding self-sabotage and how to make your subconscious, conscious to super-charge results.

This is part three of a 3 part series on setting and achieving your goals

Welcome back or hello if this is your first post of the series.

To recap, we have made our goals, we’ve written them down and created an action plan. We’re supposed to be reviewing them daily and doing all the things. Are we? Are you?

At a recent Tribe Tuesday, we asked who in the group had set goals and failed to follow through on them. All hands went up. We asked who had set goals and actually achieved them. All hands went up. We could consider this bad news/good news but I think it’s great news. The great news is that we know how to set goals and we know how to achieve them. And, we can learn from our successes and our failures and do this better. See? Great news.

In part 2 of this series we talked about the role of motivation and willpower in realizing our goals. Motivation is like “I want that new job by 2021 so I’m doing the coursework and the networking. Watch me go!”. Willpower is like “No more Netflix binges for me, I’ve got coursework to do to get me in the proximity of my dream job”. Pretty clear right?

The thing about motivation is that you really, really need to be clear that the thing you think you want is the thing you really, really do want. The thing about willpower is that you need to visit the goal and your motivation for setting it in the first place to help you cultivate the self-discipline, the stick-to-it-ness to stay the course. Discipline, the very close cousin of willpower, is about choosing between what you want now and what you want most.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about some of the other things that can bite you when it comes to achieving your goals.

So you’ve decided what you really want, you know why you want it, you’re ultra clear on the benefits it will bring you but you’re still not doing what you planned and committed to do to get you there.  Why is that, do you think? 

If your goal was to address a problem in your life, maybe it’s because now that the planning is done, you’re feeling better about the whole thing and are just not so motivated to get started.

For example, your goal is to lose five pounds before your vacation which is two months away so that you can fit back into your beach clothes (it was such a tasty Christmas!). You know how you’re going to change your eating and get back to your exercise and you’re starting on Monday. Then Monday comes along and someone brought donuts for coffee break, like gourmet donuts. Okay so next Monday because you always like starting on a Monday. But that Monday is a long weekend and you’re away skiing and, well, that’s no time to start something like this. Next thing you know, you’re like my favourite aunt who always “needs to lose 5 pounds by Friday”. I love her optimism!


Maybe it’s the fear of not actually being able to achieve it in spite of your efforts, or the fear of actually achieving it, and how that will change your life?  

Consider this, your goal is that new job. You’ve completed the course and you’ve been doing the networking. You haven’t applied for a single job. Why? Perhaps because it will mean a new environment, a new boss, new co-workers, maybe a new city. All these new things that you’re afraid will take you out of your comfort zone (they will). Maybe you’re afraid that you’ll find out that you actually don’t like what you worked so hard for. 

It could also be fear of some part of the process. Maybe you’re anxious about doing the networking that you know will help you get the inside scoop on jobs and hopefully recommendations from people that you’ve developed a great rapport with.

The list of “maybe you’re afraid” will be as personalized as your goal but if you find yourself stuck not doing what you’re convinced you want to do, then it’s very possible that fear plays a role.  

Your task is to unpack this, go inside and reflect on why you’re not doing the things you committed to doing to achieve your goals. Is it fear of failure, fear of rejection, or fear of the unknown? You can start this process by asking yourself “what is the worst possible thing that can happen if I pursue this goal?”. Once you’ve answered that, you ask yourself “what is the worst possible thing that can happen if that worst possible thing actually happens. Keep going until you can’t go anymore. Once you have clarity on this, and you realize that you can actually handle these potential (but unlikely) outcomes, you’re in a position to move forward using the strategies from part 2 of the series. 

This inaction we’ve described is a form of self-sabotage, our subconscious has taken over and we don’t even realize it. So when you’re working with goals, stay alert and stay conscious and be sure to ask yourself the hard questions when your commitment is wavering. 

Some other forms of self-sabotage to be aware of include:


  • You’re indecisive, not settling on your action items in favour of constantly exploring options
  • You let other people or tasks take up all your time and tell yourself that you just couldn’t get to the work of getting things done
  • You avoid the hard work, doing the easy, less impactful stuff first
  • You engage in negative self-talk 
  • You aren’t compassionate with yourself, perhaps you’re driving yourself to do too much in too little time or you berate yourself when you make a mistake
  • You allow others to run your life, not setting boundaries or acknowledging that you are no good to anyone else if you’re not good to you
  • You lack commitment and rationalize your behaviour
achieving goals

How do you know if you’re self-sabotaging? If you’re not achieving your goals and there is not a legitimate external force that has caused that, self-sabotage is probably at play. The way to know for sure is through self-reflection and here are some questions to ask yourself:

  1. When you set a goal, do you typically achieve it? If yes, describe that process to yourself.  
  2. If you don’t typically achieve your goals, what external force do you tell yourself is the cause of that? Is that true or is that a story you tell yourself? What would a person from the outside looking in say?
  3. If you don’t typically achieve your goals, do you attribute it to an internal factor, a trait of yours or something you have or have not done? How does this serve you?
  4. How long have you been working on the same goal(s)?
  5. How many times over your life have you made this a goal for yourself?
  6. After you’ve achieved a goal, how do you feel?

You can use this self-reflection to identify patterns and shift your behaviour. Now that you’ve answered these questions, what have you learned, what do you see? Consider your responses in relation to the examples of self-sabotage above, which of those sound like you? Make note of those and any others that surface for you.

Now that you see it, you can call yourself on it. You’re learning and you’re integrating, good for you! You’re becoming conscious of your subconscious and you’re about to discover how life changing that can be.

Look for Sophia’s post on moving from self-criticism to self-compassion here.


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