Nine Ways You’re Sabotaging Your Success Without Realizing It

5 min read


I decry the injustice of my wounds, only to look down and see that I am holding a smoking gun in one hand and a fistful of ammunition in the other. -Craig D. Lounsbrough

Finding success is challenging. Part of the battle is coping with doubt and uncertainty while the other part is putting in the required effort and energy to fulfill your dreams.

Even if all goes as planned, you often feel incomplete. You focus on the next task to be finished or fixate about what you should’ve done better. The result? An infinite loop of questioning your legitimacy and judging yourself against an unfair, sliding scale. Before you realize it, you’re pulled into the undertow of a negative, unhealthy mindset.

If you’re frustrated with this cycle and ready to stop backstabbing yourself, keep reading.

  1. You focus excessively on small, unimportant parts of a task and neglect the vital things.

Why do you continue doing this? It’s often a combination of intimidation and procrastination.

The important parts of a task can be intimidating. They require you to ditch the comfort zone and learn something new. The ambiguity of this scenario can be overwhelming, so you’d rather linger over what you know best – the basics, the mundane, the trivial parts of a task that aren’t as scary.

But it’s better to roll up your sleeves and attack larger challenges incrementally. Instead of torturing yourself with doubt, break up bigger tasks into wieldy pieces and build towards greater goals, focusing on progress instead of perfection. It takes self-awareness to recognize this tendency to shy away from the unknown, but it’s worth mastering this mindset.

  1. You never give yourself enough time to make the magic happen.

No one has enough time. We’re all bogged down by household chores, family commitments, and other demands. On top of that, we have to actively resist the seductive but unproductive lure of Netflix, social media, and video games.

Whatever your daily grind looks like, allocate time to chase your dreams, whether they involve your career, a side hustle, educational opportunities, creative endeavors, or fitness goals. Your dreams are like anything else in your schedule – they won’t be a priority until you make them one.

Consistently failing to work towards aspirations harms your progress. You start feeling worthless and questioning whether your dreams are worth investing time and energy into.

Make a concerted effort to etch out blocks of time to pursue your passions. It may be hard if your dreams don’t involve your day job, but it’s worthwhile. Whether it be an hour or ten minutes, make that time count.

Protect that time. Explain to relatives and friends that you need these moments to chase your goals. You may need to be discreet with co-workers, but you can’t let your job siphon away your greater purpose. If you don’t take your success seriously, can you expect others to?

  1. You solely measure your worth based on results.

You obsess over your metrics like a kid tracking his favorite baseball player’s batting average.

Are you meeting the SMART goals from your annual review? What’s the hit rate on your proposals to clients? How many readers visited your blog this week?

But using stats as a lens to look at your long-term goals can be a hazardous game. You limit yourself to two outcomes – either delight or disappointment.

Having tunnel vision on results can fray the thread linking emotion and duty. One great day could lead to becoming complacent. One crappy afternoon might have you hitting the reset button on your goals.


To grow in your endeavors, you cannot allow results to dictate your worth. Your value is much more than your statistics – take your potential and progress into account.

  1. You start doing the job of your haters for them –way better than they ever could.

It’s easy to listen to that voice in your mind that disses everything you accomplish. That voice becomes louder and more obnoxious when you’re doing something significant.

It’s one thing to heed your instincts or exercise caution at the sight of red flags. It’s another to allow your inner critic to dictate your strategy or slam the moves you did (or didn’t) make.

Don’t succumb to that internal voice’s pressure to be perfect. Not everything you’ll try will be a rousing triumph. But what you think of as a failure, others might see as acceptable or even great. It’s about making your inner hater shut up. Remain upbeat and tune that negative voice out the best you can.

  1. You know what needs to be done, but you take shortcuts and skip steps.

As an achiever, you’re used to conquering colossal goals. You sign up for NaNoWriMo to write a novel in a month. A New Year’s resolution has you going from couch-to-10K in a few weeks. A challenge by your spouse has you tackling all the landscaping in your backyard over a weekend.

Big aspirations are achievable. But if you try to tackle huge tasks head-on with unrealistic expectations, you’ll likely lose steam and peter out along the way.

Instead of blindly diving into the great American novel, try your hand at consistently completing some blog posts or short stories. Incrementally train over several months for an upcoming race. Break up the backyard makeover into manageable parts instead of trying to finish in two days.

Rushing and cutting corners will leave you vulnerable. Start small and work your way up. Learn what you need to know as a novice, master those skills, and then use that knowledge to take on larger challenges.

  1. You manufacture mental penalties for coming up short.

Do you judge yourself harshly? Or chastise yourself more often than you give yourself credit?

When you attain a victory, even a small one, you likely give yourself props and then humbly push forward with the next goal. But when you fall short of expectations, you probably place unforgiving consequences on yourself.

By doing this, you’re burying landmines along your path toward success. You fail to value your wins by concentrating on your defeats.


Cut yourself some slack. Just because you missed the target doesn’t mean that it’s game over. Recognize what you can do to be more effective the next time. Afford yourself the benefit of the doubt that you provide others. It’s a simple habit, but one worth developing.

  1. You set the bar so high that you’ll never reach it.

The definition of success is not one-size-fits-all – it is customizable and personalized.

Some folks focus earning on a corner office, six-figure income, or fancy title. Others have an alternate view of achievement. It’s vital to not view the traditional fast-talking/big house/expensive car version of success as the end-all-be-all.

Step back and appreciate tiny victories as you rise toward lofty goals. Otherwise, every accomplishment will begin to feel like a subtle letdown.

Positioning the bar too high puts unrealistic expectations on yourself. Relieve this pressure by remembering your ultimate goal but focus on hitting near-term objectives.

  1. You run from your fears instead of chasing them down.

If you’re afraid to do something, it’s a sign you should be doing it or at least trying to learn it.

Whether it’s public speaking, getting serious about a hobby, learning a new language, or modifying your parenting style – change will trigger some pain temporarily, but it will hurt longer if you waste time running away from it. Pushing your boundaries is the only way to receive new experiences and attain fulfillment.

  1. You pretend to be something you aren’t.

Comparison and admiration of others may be beneficial in doses. But if you completely mimic someone else’s style, tactics, and actions, it can become unhealthy…and ineffective. But hey, it works for them, so it’ll work for you, right?

Wrong. Parts of other people’s “game” might work for you on the surface. But in the long run, being a blatant complete copycat is a dead-end road. You aren’t them. You are unique.

Stop the personality plagiarism. Do you instead of trying to be somebody else.

So how do we stop the homemade cycle of self-sabotaging behavior? The answer is personal, but there’s one common factor – release some of the pressure you put on yourself.

Constantly pressing adversely impacts your work and mentality. You don’t need to do everything perfectly. It’s okay to think small and grow big. Achievement starts with tiny steps, not huge leaps.

Stop insulting yourself and give yourself a break now and then. If you’re making a consistent effort to learn and improve, you’ll eventually develop into the person you wish to become.

Adrian Potter Adrian S. Potter is an author, engineer, consultant, and public speaker. He writes poetry, short fiction, essays, and articles on a variety of subjects including creativity and personal growth. He is the author of the poetry collection Everything Wrong Feels Right. Adrian’s words have appeared in Roads & Bridges Magazine, LILIPOH, North American Review, and Kansas City Voices.

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