Got a good question today from Dr. Earl Smith, chairman of the board at SafeGuard Guaranty.

What are the habits of self-sabotaging people?

I am interested in the behaviors that people adopt that are self-sabotaging. I am collecting material for an expanded article or book on the subject. Why do you think people engage in these behaviors?

Reduced to their lowest common denominator, I’d say that all acts of self-sabotage — the only thing which stops us from accomplishing anything — are the roadblocks which we set in our own minds.

Many would argue that apathy is a form of self-sabotage. I disagree. If one doesn’t care about something, then it’s not really on their scope at all. Therefore, they’re not actually trying or failing. It can’t truly be self-sabotage if it’s only important to somebody else.

Fear is enemy #1. Fear of failure. Fear of judgement. Fear of damn near anything. As Epictetus once wrote, “If you wish to make progress within yourself, you must be prepared to be seen as a fool by others.” That fear alone causes an overwhelming amount of self-sabotage. The manifestations of these fears are innumerable.

Another form is found in a separation from reality. This can be seen in over-promising and under-delivering. Overstating capabilities, etc.

When you look more deeply into it, however, you will ask why one would do such a thing. This too, could boil down to fear; fear of not getting that deal or opportunity had you been more honest and realistic. Of course, the flip-side to that argument is that the only reason we reach the stars is precisely because we stretch beyond ourselves. Because we dare to dream.

Ultimately, we have those two opposing forces. Our fears and our dreams. There are those who listen to the voices of fear and those who focus on their dreams. Indeed, we all do one or the other at different times.

The struggle, then, is to keep creating possibilities. Throw out the word “can’t”. Ignore those voices — external and more importantly, internal — which attempt to create roadblocks in our minds.

Unprecedented results are quite often preceded by unconventional methods.


“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
– Mark Twain

(April 11, 2007 – Wednesday)