3 Signs You Are Self-Sabotaging Your Goals
Life can be pretty exciting. No matter if your goal is to eat healthy or exercise more, you've made some great progress. Once we start noticing this progress, it seems that bad choices and "off days" derail our efforts.
Old habits start to come back, finding those pounds you once thought you lost for good. Maybe those personal training sessions are becoming more a thing in the past, just like your trainer's account wanted. No matter what your "thing" is, it has come back with a vengeance.
Related - Ultimate Guide to Setting Fitness Goals
Setting goals, coming up with a plan, and executing those plans are how we reach a goal. The hard part is that even if you want to meet your diet or exercise goals, you have to stick to the plan to get there.
Simon Marshall, PhD, is a sports psychologist and co-author of "The Brave Athlete." He brings up a point that I am guilty for myself. He says "unlike some sporadic moments of laziness, the act of doing something that directly opposes your goal is self-sabotage because you are actively taking steps to make the problem worse."
So if you are ready to make some quite harsh realizations and start making the change you deserve, here are three tips you need to be aware of.
Stop Being Your Own Worst Enemy
1.) You Have More Excuses Than You Do Progress
“Your brain stacks the debate in favor of the side that seems the easiest when it comes to effort,” Marshall says. “That leads to messages that sort of overpower the other side.”
You know that friction you feel if you are presented with a situation that goes against your nutritional or exercise goals? After you feel the friction, your brain goes into action and starts to reduce your internal inconsistencies.
This is why it is very easy to justify pretty much anything as to why you are making this less-than-ideal choice.
You start eating a little off, being more relaxed with your food choices. But it's hard to eat healthy when you have this project at work, your kids have games, and you still have to have a life.
There's really no time to cook these vegetables, and you can't even stand them. You need more recovery than everyone says, so it's okay to skip workouts. You need to get more sleep since you haven't been sleeping well, so let's take today off and see how tomorrow goes.
Does that sound familiar? I know it does to me.
2.) Those Same Off-Goal Tactics Start Looking Like a Good Thing
The more you start rationalizing excuses as to why you aren't progressing towards your goals, studies show that your brain may start emphasizing those choices are a positive thing.
Loretta Graziano Breuning, PhD, is the author of "Habits of a Happy Brain." She has been noted saying "the stress of wanting to reach your goal can sometimes feel like a threat, and self-destructive behavior may bring a sense of safety and comfort from that threat. The more often it is reinforced, the stronger that connection is."
“Your brain can ‘learn’ that a cookie relieves a threatened feeling,” she says. “Each time you eat a cookie in a bad moment, the circuit builds. Soon, your brain expects cookies to relieve threats. You don’t think that consciously, of course. But the thought of not eating a cookie starts to feel unsafe,” she goes on to say.
I came across this problem the night before this article was written. I was invited to go to a choir show, so I rode with them and we stopped at Olive Garden after. I had eaten already, so I didn't really want to go... but I had to.
I had been maintaining a reasonable diet and after everyone at the table said: "you've been doing so well, when is the last time you've had a cheat meal?" So after I gave in and had 2,000 calories, the decision at the time felt good. Not so much in the morning.
Start being more aware of your goals and if your actions are aligned with them. It takes a lot of work but eventually you will see your self-sabotage.
3.) Your Goal Starts Drifting Further Away
These self-sabotaging "breaks" you take from your goals only make it harder to reach. In fact, it is more likely to become your dominant behavior instead of just a random cheat meal or non-exercise day.
Once you start sabotaging yourself every day, you're going to feel like a need to "do something" to get rid of the stress from simple everyday stressors. This is why we run to unhealthy foods or binge-watching Netflix.
Once you do this long enough, your goals will feel like they are impossible to achieve. You've "tried everything" but you can't seem to get there. Instead of adjusting your goal to something a little more realistically attainable to your current position, you start rationalizing more and more.
Wrapping It Up
If any of this has happened to you, the first step is seeing that it can be fixed.
“Fortunately, we have inherited happy chemicals as well as threat chemicals in our brains,” Graziano Breuning says. “Negativity is curiously good at stimulating happy chemicals.”
Now it's time to get back on track. I invite you to revisit your goals and look at your time frame. Are your goals realistic and genuinely achievable? This doesn't mean you can't have a goal to lose 50 pounds if you need to, it means are you trying to lose that 50 pounds in a few months?
Keep a consistent food log and record everything you eat. Even that candy bar you hid in the bathroom to eat.
Setting your goals up so that you can reasonably attain them with a specific schedule to get there, all it takes is you putting it into action.
“This isn’t about feeling like a failure,” Marshall says. “Blame and loathing will achieve the opposite of what you want. Instead, it’s about being smart and finding better solutions. Use self-reflection to see where your subconscious gremlins are and understanding that they’re trying to protect you from discomfort.”
Self-sabotage is common.
The way to get control back is to realize you are self-sabotaging and make a plan -- you'll be less likely to have those behaviors stick around.