3 Tips to Stop Sabotaging Your Opportunities

Have you ever set a goal for yourself and right before you are about to reach it, you do something to prevent achieving it?

Oh, it might be subtle, like staying out the night before ’til 2 am getting drunk. Or not preparing for your big audition. Or not asking for help. Or even worse, not even showing up for your big thing.

Maybe you’ve even justified to yourself why you ruined your chance at getting something you thought you wanted by saying things like, “I never wanted it anyway,” “I didn’t really want to move to New York,” or “I really don’t want to be on TV.”

This is called self-sabotage. And it kills more artists’ careers than you think. The good news if you suffer from it, you can get better. You can react differently, which can lead to different results and help you get closer to your vision.

If you suffer from self-sabotaging, here are some tips you can try to help you do it differently next time.

  1. Admit you’re trying to sabotage yourself
    If you’re constantly blowing up great opportunities, you’re not going to get any better unless you first admit that you do this. Without admitting to yourself that you are a self sabotager, you are screwed. First, you have to admit it to yourself, and then you need to start admitting it to other people. You might want to talk about it in therapy, join a 12-step group, or start discussing it with some of your most trusted friends. I even went so far as to make a list of all of the opportunities I have ever sabotaged and read it out loud to a group of friends, just so I could start owning it. Once you can admit that you do this, you can move on to accepting it, which is what we will discuss next.
  2. Accept that you are a self-sabotager
    If you had cancer, you wouldn’t blame yourself for getting it. Same rules apply to self-sabotage. By accepting yourself as a self-sabotager, you can stop blaming yourself for doing it, which really doesn’t help anything. More importantly, it helps you to take the pressure off yourself to fix yourself, which rarely works. That is the problem I have with a lot of self-help books out there — they are designed for you to fix yourself all alone. This will only drive you more crazy. Instead, when you simply accept that you are the way you are, without blaming yourself, you will suddenly be able to see that you have choices to take different actions.
  3. Take different actions
    The most effective kind of action is the one the involves people. This is where the real change will come from that will lead to different results. I cannot tell you how many times I have been on the brink of sabotaging myself and have had the courage to pick up the phone a call a couple of friends and ask for their help. When I typically call them, I am usually in the stage where I am ready to say “fuck you” to whatever opportunity has come my way. (I’m lucky that today I can recognize when I’m about to do that). If I give myself the time to call some wise friends and listen to their advice and not react, I have a chance to avoid self-sabotage. This is the hardest part, since I programmed to blow up anything that is good for me. But when I take their advice, even though in most cases it’s the opposite of what I want to do, I am putting people in front of my self-sabotaging behavior and I protect me from me. And most of the time, things work a million times better than if I had blown them up.

Do you have any tips for how to avoid self-sabotage? Share them in the comments below.

Looking to try improv for the first time or looking for a new approach? Sign up for Jimmy’s Art of Slow Comedy Level 1 class, starting Feb. 26!


1 reply
    JIM READEY says:

    Thanks for this wonderful article, Jimmy. It’s a hugely important topic, and I’m glad you’ve explored it here. I’ll add just this (from my perspective as a yoga teacher, meditation coach, and mindful improv facilitator):

    4. Get to know your inner “saboteur(s)” on an intimate basis…with a kind of non-judgmental curiosity. When we do this, what we invariably find out is that each act of “sabotage” represents a part of ourselves (i.e., an ego subpart) that first emerged when we were quite young. And that the role of each subpart was to help us survive the particular situation or environment we were challenged by, at the time.

    This subpart is an old ally. It doesn’t hate us, nor is it out to get us. It possesses a kind of innocence…maybe naivete, at this point. From its perspective, it is merely trying to keep us safe from harm. And it is ever-so loyal and tenaciously committed to its task of protecting us in the limited way it knows how.

    It is only by making peace with this part of ourselves — by “accepting it,” as Jimmy might say — that we begin to let go of the old reactions, and to create the possibility of cultivating a new response to those opportunities (the ones that are, otherwise, scaring our ego subparts). We must not only carve out new neuropathways for the desired, updated behavior, but also learn to stop using the old pathways…to let them “grow over” like an unused path in the woods.

    And we do this by becoming more subtle, more senstive, more compassionate listeners with ourselves. ♥


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