What was your last spontaneous encounter with a friend to have coffee? If you’re anything like I used to be, you probably can’t remember when. You’re likely rushing from appointment to appointment, digital calendar and planner in hand… and you’re looking at least three months ahead if you want to squeeze a friend in. Are you right?
If I was to make a guess, I’d say you also probably aren’t working toward the goals and achievements that are highest on your bucket list, either. Somehow you haven’t found time between your job (your boss can’t do without you), your volunteer work (if you don’t do it, it probably won’t get done!) and everything else you’re supposed to be doing.
Being busy gives us a sense of importance and helps us to feel needed. But by saying “yes” to everything, we are also actively sabotaging ourselves, our dreams, and our goals—damaging our mental and physical wellbeing and distracting ourselves from what we really, truly want.
Is self-sabotage a crime?
You can self-sabotage by any thoughts or behavior that prevents you reaching your goals.
Many of us find that being too busy to complete our tasks boosts self-worth and distracts us from meaningful self-care. By engaging in unfulfilling, meaningless distractions day after day, we block our ability to achieve authentic success. This often results in physical symptoms and exhaustion that don’t seem to have a direct cause.
One of my biggest problems was scheduling coffee dates 3 months in advance. It was a constant rush from one thing to the next, then I crashed at night and started over every day. It was impossible to do everything and my days were defined by how many tasks I completed.
Although my bosses loved my proactive “get-stuff-done” attitude and I thought my behaviour made me super successful, eventually my body began to suffer. Chronic migraines plagued my life and kept me from living the normal, fulfilling days. I experienced constant fatigue and nausea almost daily.
My third and final meal in a row was in my car, so I decided to eat in the car. After being surrounded by tons of napkins, and feeling nauseated with my stomach problems, I realized that something had to be done. It was enough.
“It is not enough to be busy. The question is: what are we busy about?” – Henry David Thoreau
Stop self-sabotaging behavior
Sometimes, it can take a while before we realize that our destructive actions are being recognized. This isn’t surprising, as often it’s our subconscious brain running the show. Although our conscious brain may identify a want or need, there is often a deep-seated subconscious barrier telling us, “This isn’t safe and I don’t like it. Retreat! Retreat!”
However, by being conscious of the thought pattern and making some basic shifts we can break free from resistance and transform our unproductive behavior.
1. Plan fewer events, and slow down when you rush to get from one task to another
Yes, it is. SoThis is obvious but you must be aware of where gaps can exist in your schedule if you’re an overscheduler, like me. Actress Kate Walsh (of Grey’s Anatomy fame) refers to this as a “ventilated schedule” and I love that term. This practice is essential and yet it’s also not easy.
Make room for downtime in your calendar to recalibrate and reflect (Sundays work well for me), and then—most importantly—do not schedule anything during those times! If anyone asks you to do something or go somewhere, you can tell them that you have a prior commitment (which you do—to yourself!).
2. Only say “Yes” to things in alignment with your goals and values
For a second, take one of the unscheduled spaces in your calendar and be present with it. Are you really pursuing the life that is right for you? Which goals are you aiming to achieve? Is it important for you to take on the tasks? Do you take on these tasks to help others? With this new knowledge in mind, start saying no to the things that don’t push you along your chosen path.
When we say Yes To everything, we actually say No To the things that matter to us Do want. Our energy is being diverted and diminished instead of being focused on the true goal. We can’t be our best selves and reach real, sustainable success. Being tired, overbooked and overwhelmed makes it difficult to enjoy any success we have. By carefully evaluating where your resources and time are being spent, you can eliminate this issue.
3. Recognize that being “busy” is a cultural problem, not your problem
Our society glorifies being so busy we can’t see straight. In the hopes of being viewed as reliable and productive friends, parents, employees and volunteers, we celebrate exhaustion and endless lists. But it doesn’t have to be that way, and change starts with you.
Yes, people will push back on your new-found priorities, and you may even second guess yourself when faced with something that you’d normally say yes to. Trust me—unlearning our old habits takes time. I’ve been working on this for quite a while, and even I fail miserably sometimes! You can also learn how I get myself on the right track.
To Self-Sabotage to Self-Supporting
It is important to remember that our greatest fans and advocates are us. It is possible to be more fulfilled, happy, and successful in your career by taking a step back and slowing down. And although you’ll still face plenty of roadblocks while working toward your chosen goals, you’ll feel more confident knowing that you’re not the one who put them there.