How to Sabotage Success: 5 Things NOT to Do

Do you known someone who has great potential, but can’t seem to put it all together. Or maybe you have a co-worker who just seems to do everything the most difficult way; never able to channel efficiency and effectiveness? Whatever the context may be, we all known people and organizations who just don’t have their act together. It may seem unusual to look to these individuals for insight and wisdom, but they have some really valuable advice to offer. If you have interactions with someone who lives a life of hassle, don’t fret. Just observe their behavior and rest easy that you now know what NOT to do!

There are many ways in which people prevent themselves from taking that next important step. Some people may thrive on conflict, think they’re better than others, and be unable to maintain healthy relationships. Other people listen to subtle fears, let anxiety control their behavior, and talk themselves out accomplishing what they’re capable of. Then there’s people who want to take the easy path by simply avoiding personal responsibility, and blindly following others expectations. We need to be aware of all the subtle habits, tendencies, and essentially unconscious ways that we sabotage our own success. Below are 5 things to watch out for and avoid in your journey to greatness.

Be an Elitist

“Show me an elitist, and I’ll show you a loser.”Tom Clancy Sometimes people believe they are simply too good, proud, or smart to be in a position that is anything short of great. Everyone has to start somewhere and this can mean working your way up the corporate ladder or improving a poorly established situation. This can be hard for an elitist to accept. They may say, “forget them, they started this mess, let them finish it.” Or, “I’m smarter than this, and I deserve better.” There is valuable information to learn as you progress professionally and personally. Even if a job is below your level of talent, view it as a stepping-stone to the greater things to come. We isolate ourselves when we take a perspective that we’re better than others or too good to learn from every situation. Don’t be an elitist. Ask for help when you need it, be willing to work hard, and remember that everyone has to start somewhere. I really believe that there will always be someone out there who is more experienced, more knowledgeable, and more advanced, so don’t take the stance that you’re the end all be all. Seek to learn from others, and make something out of every experience.


To be efficient in the many everyday tasks we undertake, we need to stay focused, as well as develop time management strategies. Defocusing takes place when you are paying attention to all the things other the main issues or priorities in life. This can happen by becoming distracted by emotional frustrations, or by indulging in counterproductive habits, such as drinking, partying, or other excessive pleasures. Another word for defocusing is procrastination. You can pile so much on your plate that you feel paralyzed by the thought of all tasks you “must” do. At this point it becomes hard to even get started or do anything at all. You don’t know where to start. We have to decide what’s most important to accomplish, and give attention and energy to that task. Develop to-do lists and undertake the most urgent tasks first. It can also be helpful to break big tasks up into smaller more manageable chunks. All in all, learning to keep focused will bring progress. You may have many roles to fill, but try and find the time to do at least one thing everyday that gets you closer to your goals.

Playing Dumb

It becomes very easy to avoid taking responsibility and making important decisions if we believe it’s too difficult and we won’t be able to understand. Playing dumb is an excuse to working hard and finding solutions. It also exemplifies what it means to have a fixed mindset. With a fixed mindset, people assume difficult tasks are out of their range of ability. If they can’t do it right the first time, and it’s hard work, they aren’t meant to do it. No one has all the answers, and this means we have to learn along the way and acquire new skills and knowledge. Even more extreme, are people who play dumb to get others to do things for them. It’s much easier and more productive in the long run to learn to delegate tasks and assertively elicit others help. Playing dumb only leads to a lack of confidence and micro-managing relationships. It begins a cycle of dependence on others and a loss of empowerment. Recognize you’re capable of learning if you’re willing to stick with it and try. Don’t assume because it’s hard work that you can’t do it. Nothing important comes easy in life.

Deny your Weaknesses and have no Worries

“Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.” – Mark Twain On the opposite spectrum of playing dumb, are people who simply believe they don’t have any problems at all, and deny the serious issues that are causing futility and inefficiency in their life. Everyone has weakness and areas where improvements can be made. More importantly is the acceptance that life isn’t a cakewalk. Hard work is essential and preparation is necessary. Stressful situations will arise and obstacles will present themselves. Though excessive worry can be debilitating, complete nonchalance and indifference leads to stagnation and a lack of growth. If you have a weakness in an area directly related to your goals, it needs to be developed. Growth is essential even for skills you already have. Your skills today, may not even be applicable in the world of tomorrow, so be prepared to learn and have a plan for growth.

Comply with all expectations

Some people will do whatever is expected of them. Whether influenced by friends, family, or social mores, you must learn to problem solve before making important decisions. Blind compliance prevents people from finding their true passion. They become inhibited from taking an unconventional route, due to worrying about how others will think and react. You’ll never know what you’re capable of unless you try something new and experience situations that cultivate your skills and talent. Finding your passion is a process, and the more life experiences you have, the more you learn about yourself and the kind of life you want to lead.

Knowing What to Avoid

Everyone wants to do great things in life. We all want to see great places, experience great events, and meet great people. In order to do this it can take courage, self-discipline, and and the willingness to discover your potential. You may have been spending your energy focusing on how to do things right, and what system to use in order to be most productive. This is important, but you can’t neglect those habitual behaviors and excuses that have been holding you back. People take an active role in dismantling their life, whether they mean to or not. Becoming vigilant to the habits and characteristic behavior you engage in can be a major place to start in the process of changing unhealthy habits. Look to other people for feedback, and examine how situations tend to unfold in your life. If there are patterns of dysfunction, this is probably not a coincidence. If you need to start taking personal responsibility for your life, ask yourself, “What can I do?” “How can I improve the situation?” and “What help do I need to get from others?” No one can be helped unless they are willing to help themselves. Start to help yourself by closely examining your habits and how they effect different areas of your life. What other personal traps can people avoid to improve their chances for success?

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