Have you ever thought to yourself, “man I really need to kick this habit?”
As humans, we are all guilty of finding ourselves in habit patterns we aren’t always proud of. Maybe you chronically oversleep even though you keep setting your alarm to the same time. Or maybe you find yourself grabbing that box of cookies late at night even though you know what late night snacking does to your sleep and diet.
You’ve probably heard the term self-sabotage before. It’s the act of doing things (or not doing things) that block your own success.
And it’s really really common.
Like all of us fall into it kind of common.
Let’s explore how we can break free from this universal suffering and get on with our lives.
First we have to look at why this happens:
James Clear in his book “Atomic Habits” explores what is known as the habit loop.
The Cue: this is the thing that triggers our craving. It’s often our body or mind feeling a place of lack and sends a signal to our brain to start to crave something to fill the whole. Ex: you drive by your favorite ice cream shop.
The Craving: Your mind and body’s creation of ideas to fill the hole you just identified as a result of the cue. Ex: you start to ideate over what flavor you should get from the ice cream shop.
The Response: The habit or action your choose to implement to satisfy the craving. Ex: you pull a U-turn into the parking lot of the shop.
The Reward: The feeling of satisfaction you get having met the need the Cue caused you to realize you had. Ex: you happily finish that last bite of that waffle cone.
The Hijacked Habit Loop: Where Does This Start to Go “Wrong”:
Self-sabotage starts to creep into the picture when we misidentify the true need that the cue brings up into our life.
It’s really easy (and our brain often wants a fast response) to go with the first thought that pops into our head when we find ourselves triggered by our environment. That goes for both internally and externally.
Have you ever paused for a second to consider how you don’t have to relearn to tie your shoes everyday when you step out of the house? It’s because your brain craves efficiency and wants to save that energy for the bigger decisions in your life.
But it’s that same efficiency hack that has us stuck self-sabotaging our habits. Once they become engrained in our brain like our ability to tie our shoe, it can take a lot of energy to discern the real need underlying your cravings.
Identifying The Real Need- 3 Steps To Breaking the Self-Sabotaging Cycle:
Creating Friction- when we are constantly in a hurry, the habit loop becomes so automatic that you often don’t catch yourself until your knee deep in the response. Ex: you don’t realize you’re on IG until you’re 5 stories and 10 reels deep. When we go to add friction, we are allowing ourselves time to catch our thoughts prior to them being actually executed. Try adding something as simple as an extra step or two between you and the habit you want to try to break. If you’re looking to use IG less, removing the app from your home screen & turning off ‘raise to wake’ is a great simple two steps to do just that.
Mindful Action- sometimes all we need is to bring more awareness to the action itself. The ice cream isn’t bad, it’s the frequency at which we go to eat it that might need to be looked at. Once you create friction, you have the ability to bring a meaningful intention to the action you’re going to take. Essentially pausing long enough to ask yourself “Do I really want to do this right now?” Athletes know the difference between going through the motions and bringing intention to how they show up. Take advantage of that pause and set a clear intention as to WHY you’re doing the action you’re taking. You want to make sure it follows through with who you see yourself as.
Honest Reflection- you have to be able to go back to the tap with an honest objectivity at the end of the day and reflect on how you did. Going through life without any reflective periods is like gambling without any information on what you’re doing. Journaling each night or a simple note in your phone looking objectively at how you did on changing your habit allows you to tweak the gameplan as necessary.
Now here’s where it gets really fun, this is a constant practice. Meaning you’ll find yourself reiterating various versions of this over and over again in your life because we are human.
That can be frustrating, or it can be something that excites you.
Ultimately, your perspective on ‘failure’ and your willingness to give your self grace in those moments will determine how quickly you get out of the self-sabotage cycle.
Like I always say, proactive work always hits better compared to reactive work.
If you find yourself reading this in a place where you recognize you’ve been trapped in the self-sabotage cycle for awhile, I challenge you to release the need to judge yourself and instead proactively plan ways you can catch this cycle moving forward.
The beauty of being human is we will mess up, but we are loved by God regardless of our results. Go out there this week from this place and let that be what drives your new craving for better habits.
Flow On My Friend,