Five Ways To Sabotage Yourself

by Dr. Janet Lapp
(Carlsbad, CA, USA)

One onstage exercise I do to demonstrate what people look like when they feel stuck is to carry a volunteer from the audience around on my back. The message is a clear one: if your life and career isn't advancing as you want it to, the cause is rarely outside you. There are heavy loads on your back. Recent MRI studies show that these five thought patterns can change your brain blood flow and your brain chemistry. It's time to dump them. Here are five top ways to sabotage yourself:

1. Beat yourself up. The highest form of love in the Greek language is Agape, which literally means, 'Look for the Good.' If our command is to love one another1 and if we treat others the way we treat ourselves (we do), then isn't it our responsibility to learn to love ourselves first? And by the way, in so doing it becomes effortless to look for the good in others.

Self-punishment is common among otherwise educated and sophisticated people. Because you are intelligent, you get that this behavior does not improve you. You gain nothing by putting yourself down. All you are doing is expressing your disbelief in your current reality, and setting unrealistic expectations for yourself that you can never meet. Make a better choice. Support yourself.

First, get that self-punishment is useless thinking. Second, know that simple thought-stopping and thought replacement will work, if you do the work. If you're being hard on yourself, don't get mad for being hard on yourself. Just observe what you're doing and make an alternate decision. When you hear, "Well, that was stupid, dummy," thought-stop with "No it wasn't stupid. Stop it. You did your best. You always do." When you get frustrated with yourself, you activate a part of your limbic system that reinforces circuits that only increase the problem.

2. Regret the past. Here's how to view every decision you've ever made: It was right at the time. Here's how to view every path you've ever chosen: It was the best choice at the time. No matter what has happened, you did the very best you could. And so did those who may have let you down. Learn what you can, give what you can, and make a decision to create a better future.

In regretting the past, you spend energy where it can do no good. It is a kind of magical wish-if we regret enough, it will change. Just do it differently the next time. That is all that life can expect of any of us. The same strategy is used with regret as with worry: thought-stopping and thought replacement. "Stop it, don't go there; you did the best you could. If you could have done better, you would have done better."

3. Worry. Worry is not a strategy. Just as regretting the past puts your energy in the past while your body is in the present, worry places your energy squarely in the future while your body is still in the present. Either way your energy is wasted. Write down your worries and plan a time to focus on them. This way you will focus on them fully and thus either find a solution for them, or see them in their true light and be able to let them go. Don't let them invade your space randomly.

4. Be Indecisive. Preserve your energy. Don't waste time and mental energy debating life's trivial decisions. Make a choice and be done with it. It's not that serious, and it's not forever. You can fix it later. You are making a bigger mistake debating, putting it off, and doubting, than you ever will by deciding the wrong thing. At least by deciding and doing, you are moving forward. By sitting and ruminating, you are being stagnant while the world moves ahead of you. Just do it.

5. Be Pessimistic. Pessimism is a perceptual state in which one anticipates negative or undesirable outcomes, or believes that negative trumps positive. In the pessimistic world view, life has a consistently negative value or, "this world is bad and is apt to get worse." Pessimism is a continual energy drain; one is always preparing for the worst.

There is much written about optimism, its definition and how to achieve it. In my book, "Positive Spin: How To Be Happy", several chapters examine optimism and happiness. The practice of optimism has a strong positive effect on physical and mental health. A pessimistic style, on the other hand, is linked to helplessness, poor coping, depression, and poor health. The choice for optimism is crucial to energy balance. Optimism is a choice.

If you recognize any of these self-sabotage methods, know that you can change them and a good time to start would be right now. All the above factors are interdependent. If you change one of them, you will make inroads in the others. Just start with one. After only a brief period, you will find your energy increasing naturally!

© 2014 Dr. Janet Lapp. All rights reserved. You are free to reprint/republish this article as long as the article and byline are kept intact and all links are made live.

Dr. Janet Lapp is a professional speaker and the author of "The Four Elements of Transformation" and "Positive Spin: How To Be Happy" available at Since 1985, Dr. Lapp and the Center for Leadership Development have been guiding high performing organizations and people through transformational change. To work with Dr. Lapp visit

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