Are you self-sabotaging?

“Your thinking affects your beliefs, your beliefs affect your capability, your capability affects your actions, your actions affect your results.”- Andy Gilbert

At times, when we feel overwhelmed and under-resourced with the problems we face, we fall back in to negative behaviours that can make us feel comfortable but prevent us from focusing on solutions with a clear and stable mind. We also tend to develop negative patterns in our behaviour, habits and thinking that control us thereby sabotaging our important goals. For instance, when we are stressed, we self sabotage by overindulging in unhealthy habits that get in our own way of accomplishing things that are important to us. These behaviours are so subtle that most of the times we don’t realise we are doing it and continuously regret the things we didn’t do and then wonder why we keep getting stuck indulging in these limiting patterns of behavior.

We also use our self sabotage behaviour as a way to cope with difficult situations or high expectations of ourselves and tend to react to events, circumstances and others in ways that limit our progress and prevent us from reaching our goals and objectives. It is not generally a conscious decision to sabotage ourselves, but we do it unconsciously by stressing out, through comfort eating, making excuses or by procrastinating. Most of the times, our emotional drivers remain unconscious which is why we often tend to use conscious justification to explain why we act in way that proves damaging to our own well-being. For instance, we end up developing dysfunctional and distorted beliefs that lead us to justify and underestimate our capabilities, suppress our emotions or blame others.

What self sabotage mean?

Self sabotage is when we we say we want something and then go about making sure it doesn’t happen.”— Alyce P. Cornyn-Selby

Self-sabotage happens when we choose to work against positive progress in our lives. In other words, self sabotage is any behaviour, thought, emotion or action that holds you back from getting what you consciously want. It is a conflict between our conscious desires and unconscious wants that manifest in sabotaging patterns of behaviour where you find yourself repeating behaviours, thought patterns and habits over and over again that takes you away from your goal. Indulging in behaviours being unaware of its consequences leads to sabotaging personal or professional relationships, or it can be a fitness goal or work-related or any other important task or can be any goal that you have set .

Why do we self sabotage?

There are countless reasons why we get stuck in repetitive sabotaging cycles and behaviours. Often times these are learned behaviours and coping strategies that we develop to deal with difficult situations somewhere along the way in life, whether during childhood or to help us relieve distress. Some of the common triggers include,

Fear of failure, fear of making mistakes or fear of rejection hinders us from taking proactive action and we hold ourselves back from taking risks and making most of new opportunities. It’s easy to trip ourselves up in fear and resort to faulty thinking while developing healthy habits, managing money and time or while building healthy relationships. Faulty thinking triggers the tendency to avoid things that are difficult and uncomfortable. Sometimes, we may even halt our own progress because we don’t know how to navigate towards a healthier and positive life.

Critical inner voice that makes you think like – ‘this won’t work’, ‘I can’t do this’, ‘I am too busy right now’, ‘I am not good enough’, ‘I am not ready yet’. We all have the side that has been internalised by the undermining and negative voices we have encountered in our lives that functions to keep us from risking being hurt, shamed or traumatised in the ways they had been in the past. Critical inner voice creates a self-fulfilling prophecy that makes you believe in sabotaging narratives.

Procrastination. Postponing and making excuses won’t let you get started on accomplishing your goals. To put off till tomorrow, defer, delay or avoiding certain tasks because either they are unpleasant, stressful, or difficult leads to sabotaging important tasks. We tend to replace them with less strenuous or with tasks that are either easy, less stressful or because we find them interesting.

Perfectionism and control. One of the main reason for self-sabotage is the need for perfection and control. This is because we think if only we had put in more effort or had better circumstances, everything would have worked out as it should. The counter-intuitive strategy of regulating self-esteem is what engages you into an unconscious need to be in control.

Blaming others. Sometimes our suffering or pain manifests where we live up with a victim mentality and the wrongs of the past make us blame everyone else for the negative things happening in our life right now. We hold on to grudges and start blaming others for our problems and difficulties. Playing the blame-game confines us to resentment and self-pity leads to self-sabotage. This happens mostly when we are not self-aware of our strengths and weaknesses.

Feelings of unworthiness. Low self esteem may drive people to feel they don’t deserve success or good things. We judge our worthiness according to this illusory image and if we do not fit the mould, we believe we are not worthy of good things in life. The subconscious feeling of unworthiness causes us to sabotage all the good things.

Self-doubt. When you doubt yourself consistently, you end up not believing in yourself and lose your self-worth. Your self-doubt makes you afraid of putting effort and hard work into something that’s not guaranteed you an outcome.

Feeling of familiarity: We have a tendency to cling to the familiar and avoid trying new approaches. This leads us to overvalue the things that we know and undervalue things that are unfamiliar. Because of the comfort factor we are drawn to go with the familiar, even when a different option offers a clear advantage. The familiar things are predictable and follow the same pattern then we know how to deal with it than the unfamiliar ones. Because of this we develop a need to stay in our comfort zones

How can we change our self-sabotage patterns

We literally sabotage ourselves into failure by thoughts we have, the words we speak and even create feelings associated with self-sabotage as though it is a normal healthy condition. You end up building mental and emotional chain locked into sabotage type habits. Each of these sabotaging patterns has its own set of consequences that manifest in a variety of ways. Some are very obvious, while others might be a little more difficult to identify.

Is there an actual solution for avoiding these repetitive and limiting patterns of behavior? Since you have created the chain yourself, you can also create the key to unlock yourself from the chain of self-sabotage. Here is how to take conscious control of the self-sabotaging patterns that are currently influencing your choices, decisions and actions.

Identify your inner critical voice and repetitive thoughts

Everyone has an inner critic who says in a hundred different ways, “you’re not good enough”. We tend to feed this critic by negative messages society sends you about who you ‘need’ to be in order to be worthy, smart, successful, rich, attractive, popular. The critic can be especially loud in people experiencing anxiety or depression. Having an inner critic is not the issue. The issue is believing what your inner critic says to you and acting on its advice. Is your inner voice enabling you or hindering you? If you have an overly critical voice and you tend to believe whatever it conveys to you, then you are self-sabotaging. Identify what are your self-critical thoughts concerning your goals. Does your inner voice encourages you or discourages You?

Be aware of your daily choices, decisions, actions and the resulting consequences. Identify the specific triggers that may be causing sabotaging behaviours to manifest in your life. These triggers could include people, objects, specific times, events and locations. Take conscious control of your thoughts, feelings and actions. Work on getting some distance from your critic. If you’re constantly looking for information that confirms you’re not good enough, you’ll find it. Focus your attention on your strengths, accomplishments and on the things you’re doing well.

Pay attention and acknowledge any negative self-narratives, defeating attitudes or repetitive behavioural patterns. Challenge your negative self-talk without identifying it or becoming it. Remember that your thoughts are not facts and can always be changed. The same holds true for attitudes and behaviours. You have the power to change your actions at any time. Committing to change sets free new resources and helps you overcome self sabotaging patterns. Identify some of your self-sabotaging beliefs and replace them with positive empowering ones.

Ask yourself: What do I believe about my abilities? Which beliefs trigger my self-sabotage pattern? How is this belief self-sabotaging?

Replace your sabotaging thought patterns

Replace your negative self-talk, attitudes and behavioural patterns with empowering positive and learning-focused narratives instead. Ask yourself: How exactly does this behaviour tends to manifest in my life? What triggers my self-sabotaging habits? What patterns do I see that are self-sabotaging my goal?

Sometimes it is difficult to avoid certain triggers such as people, objects or circumstances that cause us to react in un resourceful ways. Develop a more resourceful and practical way that would help you work towards your long-term goals. For people with perfectionist traits which leads to procrastination, the way to overcome procrastination is to set your targets deliberately low, and focus on what you have already achieved rather than striving towards something unattainable. The best way to overcome procrastination is to examine the root of the problem. Ask yourself: is it because the task at hand is daunting, is it because you’re worried you won’t get it perfect, or do you just not feel good enough?

Invite new thought narratives:

Most of our self-sabotaging thought patterns stem from limited perception of self, a perception that holds the self as separate from the rest of the world. Break through your self-cantered thinking and view things as a whole without personal attachment to a single view point. Imagine yourself giving feedback and offering helpful solutions and problem-solving from a caring and unbiased perspective. Make your inner voice as one that provides helpful insights and solutions. What would you advise your friend who is in similar situation, what perspectives or solutions would you offer or propose?

Maintain focus on your goals

Focus on your important goals to get a new perspective to alter sabotaging patterns. Achievement goals strongly influence positive versus negative self-talk. Goals keep you focused on your improvements over perfection. Ask yourself how important are your goals to you and whether you are willing to put the work and effort required to attain them. Learn to accept and deal with failure, perceiving it as temporary and within your control. Self-sabotaging thoughts need to be challenged with evidence, logic and a big helping of compassion.

Take time to self-reflect

Mindfulness and other self-reflection practices provide an opportunity to recognise sabotaging thought patterns, attitudes and behaviours that creep up during our personal and professional endeavours. If you find yourself aiming for perfection, reflect on being consistent. You don’t need to be perfect in order to reach your goals, you just need to be consistent. Instead of aiming for perfection, utilise your strengths in planning, organising and executing.

If you Identify that you are procrastinating, reflect on what your excuses are. Are these excuses for real and something you can overcome? What resources you need to overcome? What specific actions do you need to take so not to make excuses?

If it’s because of fear of failure, uncertainty, or rejection, work on becoming self-aware of your fears. Once you are aware of them, you can begin to see that they are misconceived beliefs and can immediately address them. For instance, sometimes the issue may simply be that the task at hand feels unsurmountable, In this instance breaking it down into bite-size chunks and rewarding each mini-achievement can help you manage the task.

To Conclude,

So, Are you caught up in a repeating cycle of sabotaging thought narratives?

What triggers your self-sabotaging behaviour and how does this affect your goals?

What are your recurring thought patterns?

What behaviours do you tend to fall back on when faced with adversity, pressure or uncomfortable situations?

Do you blame, criticise, or judge the actions or inaction’s of others instead of taking personal responsibility for outcomes?

Reflecting on the above questions and strategies can make you aware of your sabotaging patterns.

Self- sabotage is a learned pattern, so you have to take corrective action again and again to create a new habit. Once you have identified your new behaviour, take time to practice it as often as possible. The next time you feel yourself getting bogged down by your negative thought narratives or self-defeating habits, follow these simple tips to replace them with more positive thought patterns. And remember that you always possess the capacity to change your sabotaging patterns and don’t have to be your thoughts, attitudes, habits or behaviour.

How to improve your critical thinking

Too often we … enjoy the comfort of opinions without the discomfort of thought.”– J.F.Kennedy

Each one of us perceive and understand the problems, events and circumstances of our lives in different ways based on our thoughts, beliefs and habitual behaviours that we cultivate on a daily basis. How we think affects everything from our ability to solve problems to overcoming obstacles, make decisions both big and small and how we understand meaning, value and purpose. Thinking has been described as the capacity to reflect, reason, and draw conclusions based on our experiences, The ability to think clearly and rationally is important in whatever we choose to do and so is the ability to analyse information and integrate different sources of knowledge in solving problems. But most of the times, our thinking gets stuck in a habit loop like a trigger that leads to a routine and a reward in the end reinforcing said routine. This is because our brains are pattern making survival machines and habits are how it ensures that we don’t have to work too hard about what to do when familiar situations arise. In the same way, we form habits of thought when it comes to how we think about different information, circumstances or situations and tend to internalise patterns of thought like we do habits.

This is one of the main reasons why we are so resistant to change and tend to look at information from a single point of view. Also, What we learn in one context, we tend to apply it to others, mixing up triggers that lead to routine thoughts and perceive information, events or circumstances in single perspective leading to both problems of comprehension and understanding. Because our thinking patterns emerge from mental habit loops, we form a response to experience or information and struggle to solve problems or lack decision-making process or sense of meaning or purpose. This is due to the fact that our current thinking patterns are not adequately suited for arriving at solutions, decisions or right conclusions.

The only way to diversify and make our thoughts better fit the form and shape of a problem or to overcome an obstacle is to seek out new critical thinking patterns. Critical thinking allows you to analyse information from an unbiased and reflective perspective to help trigger new insights and understanding that enables you to find suitable answers to most difficult challenges.

So, what exactly is critical thinking?

According to dictionary meaning, it is the process of thinking carefully about a subject or idea without allowing feelings or opinions to affect you. In other words, it is a way of thinking in which we don’t blindly accept all arguments, opinions and conclusions we are exposed to, but rather, evaluate everything in light of what’s true. If we break that down, the definition of critical thinking is essentially the ability to carefully and deliberately analyse information in order to understand things better. It is the process of thoughtfully considering, analysing and questioning the information we receive from all sources, including other people, news, television and the internet. The main goal of critical thinking is to separate truth from what is false, considering the contexts of issues and getting at the underlying assumptions beneath information we receive.

Understanding critical thinking

Critical thinking is self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It’s thinking in this way that prevents us from unconsciously succumbing to the propaganda and manipulations of others. It’s important to note here that thinking critically certainly doesn’t mean that we belittle, disagree with, or undermine anyone else’s perspective – it just means that we’re more committed to the process of evaluating the accuracy on our own. Moreover, ‘critical thinking’ is generally thought of as a mode of thinking in which one improves the quality of thinking by skillfully analysing, assessing, and reconstructing his or her thought by asking questions. In order to be considered as a critical thinker, the person must be reflective, self-aware, self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective.

Critical thinkers take an issue and break it down into it’s component parts, analysing an issue from as many angles as possible to come to best possible solution. A critical thinker is able to deduce consequences from what he or she knows and can use that information to solve problems, seek evidence, question assumptions and examine the reasoning. Thinking critically means us making well-reasoned judgments that are logical, rational, non-emotional and well-thought out. Here are few characteristics of strong critical thinkers:

Curiosity or inherent inquisitiveness – instead of taking everything at face value, a curious person will wonder why something is the way it is.

Active listening – To participate in active listening and hear other point of views.

Truth-seeking – A genuine concern to become and remain well-informed in truth.

• Authentic confidence in reasoning, in one’s own abilities to think reasonably, maturely and sensibly.

Open-mindedness – Being receptive to new ideas, divergent world views, all possibilities, interpretations and perspectives.

Flexibility of thought in considering alternatives views and perspectives.

Humility – the willingness to acknowledge one’s shortcomings or being aware of flaws and also your strengths in your thinking.

Self-evaluation– the ability to evaluate their own thinking using standards of reasoning such as clarity, coherence, depth and relevance.

Analytic and are meta-cognitive-they are aware of their thought process and understanding how and why they arrive at particular conclusions.

The value of thinking critically

To improve the quality of our lives, we must establish consistency in our habits, thoughts and new patterns of taking action. The true value of any new skill you learn is in direct proportion to the frequency of its use. In order to take yourself to the next level of productivity or self-improvement in your problem-solving, you must realise that the same pattern of thinking that has gotten you to where you are will not get you to where you want to reach. One of the biggest challenge in self-growth is resistance to change. “Critical thinking is a way to intervene in your thought process,” says Linda Elder, an educational psychologist “It’s a way to routinely and consistently seek problems in your thinking.” With the power of critical thinking, you can free your mind of any thought patterns that no longer serve you. and condition yourself to new empowering alternatives.

The latest research has shown the effectiveness of critical thinking in the workplace that helps in doing so and in coming up with a creative solution to a problem through the process of self-evaluation and self-analysis. Strong critical thinking skills can put you on the path to achieving more of your goals and can help you rid your mind of limiting thinking patterns that you’ve accumulated throughout your life. Research also has shown that employees who possess good critical thinking skills are more creative, outshine their co-workers in job performance, and are more effective leaders as it helps acquire new perspectives and strengthen arguments.

Critical thinking skills allows you to really evaluate facts and data rather than just accepting them at face value. It gives you the ability to identify and understand the logical connections between concepts, detect faulty reasoning, systematically solve issues, and test arguments. Thus enabling you to expand perspectives and possibilities to find new solutions that will help you to overcome problems and challenges by separating facts from opinions, causes from effects, and ideas from assumptions.

How to improve your critical thinking

Critical thinking is a valuable skill that all of us can improve with the right process. A host of logical fallacies and habitual thinking patterns like jumping to conclusions, failing to notice assumptions, thinking hypocritically, being superstitious, blaming others or dismissing other perspectives can cause barriers to critical thinking. Here are some strategies and questions to improve your critical thinking skills in personal or professional areas.

Ask questions to seek clarity

A series of questions help you reveal what you think of an argument or idea. It is important to always ask yourself why something is important and how it connects to things you already know. Formulate questions that will equip you to swift through the information you receive critically to find what you are looking for. Gather thorough objective insights about events and circumstances that are manifesting within your reality. This is achieved through a process of organising, comparing, translating and interpreting a variety of perspectives to distinguish between facts, opinions, and between causes and effects.

Critical thinking Questions to self-reflect: What information do you already have? Why is it important? Where did it come from? Why this is or isn’t significant? What is the point or ‘big idea’ of …? Can you provide reasons for your perspectives and the stance you have taken? What else could this mean? Can you restate this another way? What could have triggered this problem? Do you agree that …? Why or why not? What information would you need to make a decision about …? How could you prioritize …?

Confront your biases and assumptions

Critical thinking is about recognising biases in our own thinking. Thinking critically is all about confronting those biases as often as possible. Analyse each and every circumstance from alternative perspectives. Do not jump to any rushed conclusions or make unnecessary assumptions about the events and circumstances you are experiencing. Break down all the possible assumptions that may be colouring your perception of reality by questioning possible misunderstandings or misleading conclusions. Ask questions to help distinguish facts from assumptions. Gather information and seek to gain insight by asking open-ended questions that probe deeper into the issues.

Critical thinking Questions to self-reflect : Could this be an assumption? Why do I think my assumptions hold here? What things are misinterpreted here? What is another explanation for this? Can this perspective be justified? Is this relevant to the solutions I am hoping to realise? What is most relevant in this? What do others believe about this scenario? Have I already formed any opinions? What are the differences between … and …? How is … related to …?What ideas could you add to … and how would these ideas change it?

Look for alternative perspectives

Whenever you are confronted with a problem, gain clarity from different angles and perspectives. Question yourself and others about the potential causes, reasons, and possible solutions. It is important to self-check to ensure that you take an objective view and recognise your biases. Begin questioning the validity of your perspectives. What are your reasons for saying or holding that perspective?

Critical thinking Questions to self-reflect: What would someone who disagrees with me say? Describe … from the perspective of ….?What do you think about …? Explain your reasoning. Does anyone see this another way? What are the reasons for approaching from this perspective? Have I considered the opposite point of view? How are alternative perspectives justified? How does this perspective apply here in this situation? What else should you consider? If we consider it, how will it change?

Look for evidence

Don’t take everything at face value. Evaluate and assess things that you hear, read and see before you draw any conclusions. When you are presented with news, information or questions, consider the possible solutions and implications of each. As you gather information, consider the motivations of each source and thoroughly examine and investigate the information you are working with.

Critical thinking Questions to self-reflect: What evidence can you present for/against…? How does … contrast with …? what’s the original source of the information? How is this related to? Is this conclusion based on evidence? What is the relationship between? What are the possible causes that triggered this problem in the first place? What possible conclusions can be drawn from this? What evidence can I find backing up these conclusions? What other ideas can justify this? Do you agree that …? Why or why not? What information would you need to make a decision about …?

Be aware of common thinking errors:

To develop critical thinking, you will have to make value judgments rather than being judgmental. It is important to be aware of your own short comings and limitations and prejudices. Evaluate information objectively and be open to new ideas. Be aware of logical fallacies, which are errors in reasoning that make you embroiled into taking sides. Don’t jump to conclusions and practice open-mindedness.

Critical thinking Questions to self-reflect: What assumptions exist? Is your interpretation of the information logically sound? What solutions could you suggest the problem of …? Which might be most effective solution and why? When might this be most useful and why? What possible changes could you make to solve this effectively? What would happen if? What could be done to minimise this problem? What is the best potential solution for this problem? What criteria could you use to assess …?

Pay attention to relevant details

One of the most important part of developing critical thinking skills is learning what details matter. We are exposed to loads of information and opinions everyday that it’s easy to get lost in the details. You need to train yourself which details matter and which don’t. Think about who benefits from a statement and what are the motivations behind their opinions.

Critical thinking Questions to self – reflect: Which details are most important and why? What concepts are at work? What patterns do you notice in …? What is shaping your approach to this situation? What are your concerns? What would need to change for you to have a different opinion? What are the most important parts or features of …? Where is … most/least …? How could you judge the accuracy of? What ideas could you add to … and how would these ideas change it?

So, Are you a critical thinker? and in what areas might you benefit from thinking more critically in certain aspects of your life? Do you always defer to other people’s opinions? How confident are you in your own judgment and reasoning ? Do you evaluate your own thinking? Do you jump to conclusions? Do you try to see things from different perspectives? How receptive are you to new ideas? Do you try to understand reasons behind things? Do you evaluate pros and cons of your decisions?

To-do

• challenge assumptions

• question creatively

• construct, analyse and evaluate arguments

• Be open to alternative perspectives

• discerningly apply values of inquiry

• engage in a wide variety of cognitive skills, including analysing, explaining, justifying and evaluating.

To conclude,

Critical thinking is an essential habitual thought process that is important to cultivate and grow on a daily basis. The better your critical thinking is, the more effective will be your decision-making and more likely you are to achieve your goals. Take some time out to self-reflect on your thoughts by asking yourself critical questions to gain clarity on issues, conclusions, or beliefs. Question deeply to examine or evaluate assumptions and to overcome your habitual limiting thought patterns. With time, practice, and diligence using the above strategies, meaningful thinking can become a part of your daily routines and you will be able to better develop your critical thinking abilities and adequate reasoning,