What-is & Wanted vs. Unwanted: self-sabotage

Are you starting a project or getting some new venture underway?

Maybe you’re launching a new program, creating a new product, or leading a new initiative within your department at work.

External factors might get in the way of your success. But just as likely is YOU getting in your own way.

While self-sabotage can sneak in anytime, it especially likes to make an appearance when you’re stepping outside your comfort zone or attempting something new.

Here are 8 common ways self-sabotage shows up to slow or stop your success:


The day gets away from you.

You go down the rabbit hole of the Internet, a colleague stops by to chat, you take the easier, softer way of quick To Dos rather than strategic brainwork. You react to the “urgent”, but not truly important.

Allowing interruptions and seeking diversions, you never give yourself the opportunity to fully engage and find flow.

As your day draws to a close, you realize you’ve spent time on everything except your most important, highest priority project.

Unrealistic time expectations.

Some women (I’m raising my hand here) have unrealistic expectations about how long things will take to do. Unrealistic as in pie-in-the-blue-sky absurd.

Clean the house from top to bottom? You estimate a few short hours. Uh…how about a couple days?

Write that business plan? You say: Shouldn’t take more than an hour. Yeah, right…how about an hour times 5?

Unrealistic timeframes lead to disappointment and frustration, which just creates unnecessary friction as you try to finish the task at hand.


DIY often has a cost.

Sure, you might save money in the short run. But when it takes you eight hours to figure out how to do something that would take an expert less than an hour, did you really save money?

The bottom line: You often pay a high price for cheaping it out. The money “saved” ends up costing far more in terms of your time.

Sometimes using your own resources rather than getting external help is just a cut-rate form of sabotage.


You’re not perfect. What you do won’t be perfect. What you create won’t be perfect.

Get over it.

Striving for perfection is a waste of time and energy. Setting impossibly high standards beyond reach and reason prevents you from getting started and delays you from finishing.

Shoot for great or good enough. At times, aim for excellence.

But stop chasing perfection. It’s nothing more than sabotage dressed up in picture-perfect clothes trying to look good.

All talk, no action.

Do you talk a lot about what you’re going to do? Is your M.O. to get stuck in planning to the point you don’t actually start?

It’s easy to talk about what you’ll do. And it’s easy to plan what you’ll do.

But talking and planning without action is usually just a busy-feeling kind of self-sabotage.

It feels like you’re doing something, but without action to move all the talk and the plan forward, you stay in pretty much the same spot.

Expecting a how-to manual.

Whether it’s launching a new service, undertaking a big project at work, or spearheading a cause…do you have trouble starting because you don’t know all the steps from A to Z?

Waiting to start until you have it all figured out is a sure sign of self-sabotage.

Because taking a step forward (even a clumsy, half-right-half-wrong one) let’s you see a little further down the path. Each next step makes subsequent steps all that much clearer.

If there’s a how-to manual of “The 10 Steps to…”, by all means get a copy and follow it.

But often when you’re creating something new, it means figuring it out as you go. Ditch the idea you have to know everything to start. Just take the first step and let how unfold.

Your idea of done.

Let’s say you’re undertaking a new project. And you think you’re just being thorough as you outline the laundry list of bells and whistles and 822 things you want to include. Your idea of done is exhaustive—not to mention exhausting.

Self-sabotage can be so sneaky. Because sometimes wanting things to be comprehensive and complete is really just fear of putting your work out there.

Perhaps you’re afraid of done-enough-to-launch.

Let’s face it: Launching means showing up, being visible. Which means people will see you and see your work. …and they might not always like or rave about what you’ve created.

Of course, “doneness” is relative. But kick the tires on your notion of ready-enough-to-launch. Make sure self-sabotage isn’t what’s clamoring for more.

Oh no! A setback! Shock!

Setbacks are inevitable. Setbacks aren’t the exception, they’re the rule. So why do we act so surprised (and often devastated) when they happen?

Whenever you’re creating something new or trying something new, setbacks will happen. You’ll encounter a complication. There’ll be a hitch, hiccup or holdup.

But a setback doesn’t have to be a stop. You can choose to see the problem as only a pause.

While you certainly don’t need to go looking for setbacks, roll with them when they happen. Lighten up, have a sense of humor, show yourself some grace, and treat hurdles as part of the process—merely pitstops on the path to making progress.

Don’t spoil your success by getting in your own way.

  1. What will you give the focus of your attention today?
  2. What’s a realistic timeframe for the activity you’re undertaking?
  3. How can enlisting an expert save time and money in the long run?
  4. Where do you need to lower the bar to great or good enough?
  5. How can you stop talking and planning and start acting?
  6. What’s the very next step to take?
  7. What would minimally done look like? (Read this if overwhelm is your kryptonite)
  8. What attitude toward setbacks will help you move forward?