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Why do we keep sabotaging ourselves?

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Ever felt like you know what you need to do but for some unknown reason you’re not putting in the necessary work?

What do you think what makes person feel so comfortable that he decides to stop moving forward? 

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How to stop sabotaging oneself?  Why do we seem to get a little bit towards achieving something important, only to stop the work and drift into low effort and mediocrity?

I shared a video last year (4 Ways to Stop Self-Sabotaging Your Success) about how we go about sabotaging our success, but I didn’t comment on why it is that we seem to shoot ourselves in the foot while on the path to achievement.

Why do we seem to deliberately choose the path of failure?

The reptilian part of our brain has a very clear focus:

  • avoid risk,
  • stay safe,
  • keep comfortable,
  • take the easy path,
  • avoid excess energy expenditure. 


Leading a life that you design will always require an effort to not slide into our animal nature.

Here are 6 reasons I think may play a part in Self-Sabotage…

6 Ingredients of Self-Sabotage

  1. Self-esteem protection – if I truly give my 100% and I don’t get results, it will be too painful. In order to avoid having to face the possibility that my best effort is not brilliant, I self-sabotage.  This was me through school.
  2. Imposter syndrome/I don’t feel worthy – I’ve listened to parents, teachers, friends tell me that I’m lazy, disorganised, flaky, difficult… and I’ve allowed it to get into my core beliefs about myself. 
  3. Desire for Control – failure is 100% under my control. Success depends on so many other factors. It is incredible the human need for certainty… often anger gives a feeling of control that compassion, reason and empathy do not give.
  4. Well Practiced Excuses – Justifying that it was this one action, and not me that is to blame.  There is a concept of the “Seemingly Irrelevant Decision” from addiction treatment. Jenny is determined to give up the drugs. She decides to call an old party friend…  “just to say hello” and finds herself wasted 6 hours later.  The one minor irrelevant decision led to a blow out.  If you’re consistently running late for meetings, you might begin to recognise your sabotaging behaviour of watching one last youtube video, or writing one vital email… before you leave the house. 
  5. Failure is Familiar – we are surrounded by many more examples of people who do not keep their promises than of those that keep their commitments 100%. When most people around you regularly break their small commitments, it is easy to justify your own behaviour as “normal”.  This is why EO and Vistage play such an important role in my life. We hold each other to our commitments and don’t let each other slide.
  6. Consistency is Boring – It can be a little boring to be disciplined and consistent, to forgive and be compassionate… Pick a fight, blame someone… and we have a nice little bit of manageable chaos on our hands. 


It is a good question, and one that I don’t think I have fully answered… 

I’d welcome any other perspectives as a response in this thread 😉 

Further Resources that I have found in thinking through this Question

Ethan King 26/04/2020 9:55 pm

I suffer from the same dilemma. I find your answers to be very accurate, Conor. I also find myself encountering one more excuse: “I’m just wasting my time. I should be doing something more productive.”

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