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4 Strategies to Stop Self-Sabotaging Thoughts

The voices in our head ring so loudly. We hold on to the times when someone discounted our worth or criticized us. What would it be like to show up boldly instead of shrinking? How many opportunities, connections and moments of peace have passed us by because of our self-sabotaging thoughts? 

Does this sound familiar?

“I’m not good enough.”
“I’m never going to reach my goal.”
“I am not enough.”
“It’s not possible for me.”

These thoughts and beliefs are not based in fact; but fear, hurt or trauma. Sadly, we act on them as if they are true. Science has proven over and over again that what we think to be true will impact our actions.

What are we to do? 

Here are 4 strategies I use to stop those self-sabotaging conversations. 

First – journal & acknowledge where these thoughts are coming from. This is called root cause analysis.

Identify the self-sabotaging thought and then ask yourself at least 5 times:

Why am I thinking that? Answer
Then….Why am I thinking that? Answer
Then…Why am I thinking that? Answer  
Keep going until you get 5 answers deep. This will get you to the root of that thought. 

As you get to that root thought, you dig it up. It’s ok. There’s going to be a big hole where that negative root thought or belief lived. It’s important to back fill that hole with truth. “I am talented. I am a good person. I am worthy of being loved. I am deserving of this promotion.”

Replace those negative thoughts with empowered thoughts that are actually true. 

Second, stay in inspired action.

You’ve heard of the confidence competence loop. The more you do something, the better you become. When you first started riding a bike, you faltered and fell a few times. But you kept at it. The more you tried it, the better you got. And one day, you were able to ride successfully without falling, to the point that you now thoroughly enjoy riding the bike. This is the same competence confidence loop that you can employ in other areas of your life.

You need to start with one small step. Then you’ll say, “Ahhh, I actually can do this.” Repeat this and eventually you will be taking bigger steps. 

Doing anything new is going to be uncomfortable, so stop thinking it’s supposed to feel different. Reframe being uncomfortable by telling yourself, “I’m uncomfortable because I’m growing. I’m doing something new and exciting.”   

Third, write out & celebrate the small wins. 

What I’m talking about here are the baby steps that happen one by one and day by day. The incremental victories that are so small we often overlook them. 

It turns out that those little victories are a huge untapped source of motivation. Basically, it all comes down to something called “completion bias.” As humans, we are essentially hard-wired to get high off completion. 

What happens is that when your brain recognizes a task as complete, it releases dopamine, which makes you feel pleasure, which makes you want to repeat that behavior again and again. 

And what researchers have found is that this completion bias makes us predisposed to want to focus on quick, easy-to-finish tasks, as opposed to longer, more challenging, complex tasks. We like quick tasks because we like to get that little hit of completion, and we like to get it fast. 

Let’s say your goal is to write a book, then your metric might be words written per day Or, if you’re doing customer service, you’d write down the name of each person that you helped today on a post-it and stick them all up on the wall behind your computer. Track your wins, ESPECIALLY the small ones. 

Celebrate in a way that is meaningful and significant to you. Maybe use a win jar, where you keep thank you notes, write a compliment you got or a small win on a post it. Continue to remind yourself you are talented, worthy, skilled, and capable.

Fourth, get an accountability partner; someone you can share your wins with and who can hold you accountable to your goals and a healthy mindset.

Having a community to cheer you on is so valuable. The best way to create accountability is to take that promise you made to yourself about your goal and externalize it — so that you are not the only one invested in your success.

The fact of the matter is: humans are social animals. And the need to feel a connection to other people, and the need to feel a sense of belonging drives everything that we do. 

We don’t like to let people down. This is why people are more likely to run regularly if they join a running group, it’s why they’re more likely to lose weight if they join Weight Watchers, and it’s why they’re more likely to quit drinking if they join AA. 

It’s an incredibly powerful motivator for us when we feel like we will be celebrated when we achieve our goal. Or… let’s be honest, when we know we will feel guilty if we don’t achieve our goal. But we’re all driven by the desire to deliver on our promises to others. 

Don’t simply accept those self-sabotaging thoughts. You have control over them and how you choose to move forward. I know this sounds dramatic, but it’s true. If you follow these 4 strategies, you will change your life one baby step at a time. 

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