4 ways people sabotage themselves

Are you a saboteur? Self-sabotage can have a negative effect on all aspects of your life, from maintaining a healthy relationship, to experiencing academic success, to getting job promotions, and more. Here are some of the ways that people tend to engage in self-sabotage:

Having a fixed-ability mindset.

Having a fixed-ability mindset is when you say that you are just good or bad at something instead of acknowledging that prowess is acquired through incremental learning steps. Some people just tell themselves that they’re bad at things to eliminate the need to feel responsible if they fail. As Dr. Rodolfo Mendoze-Denton writes in Psychology Today, “You see, when the going gets tough … saying to yourself ‘I suck at this’ may not be great for further learning, but it sure can protect your self-esteem. By invoking an inherent lack of ability, you reduce your personal responsibility in the negative outcome, since you couldn’t have done anything about it anyway. In other words, a fixed-ability mindset absolves you, and you don’t have to think about what you did (or didn’t do!) to contribute to that bad outcome.”


Procrastinating is a sneaky type of self-sabotage. With procrastination, you can often feel like you’re doing something modestly productive, but deep down you know that you’re just procrastinating. Ultimately it’s a form of self-sabotage because procrastination lowers your productivity and decreases your work output, essentially putting limits on your growth and advancement.


It may seem obvious that things like heroin addiction are effective forms of self-sabotage. However, there are also more subtle addictions that can sabotage your personal and career growth. Cigarettes and alcohol are both perfectly legal addictions that can have negative effects on your health and your career. In many fields, professionals view cigarette smoking as evidence of bad decision-making and a lack of concern for oneself. Too much drinking can be an effective form of self-sabotage in any field of work. Less obvious addictions like gaming can simply rob you of your productivity much like procrastinating does.

Choosing to be unhappy.

Nobody thinks that they choose to be unhappy, but in a phenomenon known as psychological reversal, some people repeatedly make decisions that return them to misery. In an extreme and obvious example, you might think of a person who repeatedly enters abusive relationships. In less extreme scenarios, though, you might antagonize your friends or pick fights with your significant other. If you find yourself repeatedly in the same types of unhappy situations, you may need to step back and take a look at the bigger picture and figure out if there’s some psychological reversal going on.

Can Akdeniz

Can Akdeniz is the author of seven books and founder of Business Hacker, a popular business blog. His books such as Go Nuts, Cool Boss, Happy Company and MBA 2.0 have changed how people think about business, productivity and work.