I admit it. I've become a crank about the problem of "self-sabotage." Like those people who only can see the various and convoluted hidden messages in Kubrick's The Shining, while dismissing it entirely as a horror film, I've started to see everywhere the grim shadow of self-sabotage upon people's deliberately poor professional choices. But seriously... can you blame me?
To sabotage yourself is simply to deliberately, or not-so-deliberately, do that which can only end in (professional) tears. Or, conversely, to not take the steps necessary to save yourself from a bad situation. So, if a friend invites you a party because there will be people in attendance who could help your career, and you show up late, highly intoxicated and maybe even start a fight and have to be thrown out... well then, come Monday morning, guess you won't have to bother emailing the people at the party who could have helped you get that job. You know... the job you both really, really wanted and were also really intimidated by...? Yep, that job. Yep, that's sabotage.
The thing about self-sabotage is that unless you're completely honest with yourself, you can dismiss your own actions as simply beyond your control. You can, for example, send out literally hundreds if not thousands of resumes, all the while choosing not to use your alumni and professional networks. If you're not using your networks, you're probably represented by a bare-bones LinkedIn profile. That means that all of your experience and talent are effectively camouflaged beneath a disorganized, confusing profile. If you, unfortunately, choose to waste your time with this sturm und drang, you'll probably spend a lot of time complaining about how hard it is to get a job. You are correct: it's INCREDIBLY hard to get a job. But for the record, it's even harder to get a job, with a LinkedIn profile hanging around your neck like a rotting albatross, as you blithely send off thousands of resumes which are probably being immediately deleted. Now come on: I haven't even met you, but I know you deserve better.
1. Be Honest: I've had clients say to me, "Well, my mom thinks I can be on TV," or, "My dad thought I'd be a great lawyer." That's great, but since you're the one who's going to have to practice law day in, day out... ever thought about how much time and energy and YOUR LIFE it takes to achieve someone else's dream? I don't know, maybe I'm naïve, call me old-fashioned, but I'd rather you spend your life doing what makes you happy, because then you tend to emotionally and intellectually invest in your choices. When you're doing what makes you happy, you want your dreams to be realized, so you tend to think seriously about what it is you're doing and why. So, let's stop worrying about what everybody else and their dog wants, and let's start thinking about the activities and interests that make you happy, that empower you and that you care passionately about. Write out a list, start researching jobs, ask around, use The Googles. Before you decide your dream job doesn't exist, just humor me and check. As Shakespeare said, "There are more things, in heaven and earth, Horatio/ than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
2. Take Positive Action: The opposite of self-sabotage is taking positive, deliberate steps to move closer to your goals. A big problem here is that people have a goal in their mind, a goal which both excites and terrifies them -- totally normal, by the way -- and they somehow think that doing one positive step means that they'll end up achieving their dream life in the next 24 hours or something. Cue the freak out. Allow me to remind you that creating something out of nothing takes time. IT TAKES A LOT OF TIME. It takes so much time that by the time you attain your goals, you look around and hmm, suddenly you're not afraid anymore. You know that whole cliché about the journey is the destination? Bam, I just blew your mind! BUT. But you have to get started with those positive steps, even by completing just one step today, so that eventually you can have that tomorrow wherein you experience what you once only dreamed of.
3. Once is Not Enough: Cheesy, but true. Getting out of your way today, isn't good enough if tomorrow you're right back at it. You don't just diet for a day. I don't just clean the cat-hair off my clothing once. Anything worthwhile takes time and it must be repeated, over and over and over and oh my god yes OVER AGAIN till it starts to become a positive habit which can then influence all of your other not-so-positive habits. You did one positive step today? Awesome. I personally think you rawk. But what about tomorrow, Champ? Let's do this.
4. Let Other People Help You: One of the absolutely hardest things about embarking upon this process, and stopping the cycle of self-sabotage is reaching out to other people for help. We live in a very lonely society, and many of us waste so much time, judging ourselves so harshly. We forget that not everyone relishes our downfall as much as we do. So, for example, if you're trying to change your life, and you see someone on Facebook, for example, doing something you've always been interested in...why not buy them a cup of coffee and ask them how they did it? Start surrounding yourself with people who inspire you, with people who believe in you. Start allowing yourself to realize that if other people did it, spoiler alert: YOU CAN TOO! Also, people love to talk about themselves, and, once flattered, will bend over backwards to help you.
5.Commit to This Process: Not to be all Debbie Downer, but yes this is a process. It takes time and commitment every single day. Hopefully, the more time you invest in the process (i.e. YOURSELF), the easier it'll be, but understand that this is a difficult process to fully believe in. It's scary. It's liberating. It's challenging. We live in a society that has a high regard for people who make sex tapes, calling them "icons." Sigh. You are going to have to decide that you'd rather adhere to your own true values, and create a life which makes sense to you. I won't tell you it's easy, but I will promise you that it's worth it. At the very least, it's not worth it to spend your life half-heartedly chasing someone else's dreams and values, when your own are much more interesting and fulfilling.
I'm obsessed with self-sabotage, because it's boring. It's a waste of your time. This, right now, today, this very minute is the rest of your life...don't you deserve to love it? If you have suggestions which have worked for you... I'd love to hear them! Leave me a note in the comments, or email me: email@example.com!