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Leadership Thought #491 – How To Avoid Self-Sabotage

May 31, 2018

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It seems like every day we read online or in print media about another famous person or business leader who commits self-sabotage.  It’s as if they can’t help it.  There is something about success that turns certain people against themselves.   You would think getting to the top of the mountain in life would be its own reward, but this can amplify an individual’s shortcomings and vulnerabilities, as well as their strengths.  Here are six reasons why people end up sabotaging themselves:

First, speaking your mind is a good trait if it doesn’t degenerate into personal attacks on others.  Just because you think something doesn’t always mean you should say it.  We all must exercise our own personal censor button on occasion.  What is a funny observation to you may not translate to a larger audience.  Of course, in a free society you should be able to say anything you want, but certain lines you cross at your own peril.

Second, it’s also important to have a reasonable familiarity with the key facts before stating a strong opinion.  Something our public leaders seem to have forgotten these days.  Just because you have strong feelings about something doesn’t make you right.  Emotion without thought can be a dangerous combination.  You also regularly need to expand your information inputs, so you aren’t succumbing to groupthink and ideological tendencies.  Sadly, once you have a following, if you are not careful with your statements and assertions, you can ignite behaviors in others that can prove harmful.

Third, some risks are worth it, others are not.  Just because you hit it big once by putting all your chips on the table doesn’t mean this is a perpetually wise strategy.  Once your decisions start to impact others this must become part of your calculation.  You should still dream big and push yourself to excel, however, replicating unicorn strategies is much harder to pull off with time.  Consequences always exist when you make choices and should be weighed accordingly.  Not all cliffs are worth jumping off, especially when you have something significant you could lose.

Fourth, never forget the people who made your success possible.  It is rare that someone is successful alone.  There are usually colleagues, friends, and supportive family members who made it all possible.  People who cared about you before you were successful are tremendously valuable in life.  They tend to tell you the truth and have your back.  They are also wary of putting you on a pedestal which is never good for your ego.  Unfortunately, I’ve seen many instances of individuals discarding people in their lives for the attractive allure of a new set of people who they feel are more equal to their new standing in life and /or feed their continual need for validation.

Fifth, change for the sake of change is silly, but I’ve observed many people who have become addicted to change anyway.  They just can’t stand the status quo even when it is going well.  Sometimes you need to pause, catch your breath, and reflect on where you are currently and where you are going.  There usually is a preferred roadmap if you think it through and most successful journeys have periods of straight lines.  It often takes time for change to take root.  Change without appropriate execution is just manufactured chaos.

Sixth, enjoying your success is a good thing.  Taking it to an extreme is not.  There are only so many toys/things you can really enjoy at any one time.  In addition, something stops becoming special once it is commonplace.  People will also (to varying degrees) succumb to obvious temptations: food, alcohol, drugs, and sex.  We are all vulnerable to certain vices.  Be mindful because too much of a perceived good thing is usually not a good thing.  There is a reason the respective highs of certain activities diminish with overuse and become unhealthy habits.

In conclusion, be wary of self-sabotage by not thinking through the ramifications of your communication, jumping to conclusions without adequate understanding of the relevant facts, taking unnecessary or unwise risks, leaving the people who made you successful behind, becoming a change junkie, and enjoying the fruits of your success too often (and in a detrimental manner).  It is extremely hard to first achieve, then sustain happiness and success over a long life.  There are many landmines along the way.  Do your best to avoid them and learn from the mistakes of others.

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