The art of self sabotage

As I sit here to write this article it is 14:00 on a Saturday, half the day is gone already and I have managed to accomplish all the basics to stay alive — mainly brunch, water and now ice-cream, I paid my house internet bill which I had been putting off all week but overall I have failed at what I actually wanted to achieve — a weekend of wild camping.

This must be a familiar story… “I want to do X”… what actually happens is “Y” or worse of all nothing.

It seems that I am not the only one doing it too, everyone I talk to has difficulties actually getting themselves either motivated enough or organised enough to do what they actually want to do, there are always reasons not to do something and time slips by.

Clock face

The gravitas of the status quo is certainly powerful and breaking inertia takes a lot of energy.

Nothing happens until something moves.

Albert Einstein

Sometimes as I write kilometers worth of tasks on my list I wonder if I actually delay things in order for these to naturally fall off my list automatically… can’t attend a conference if I let it blissfully go by, I keep myself occupied enough for time to slip past and I miss out, then to do list has shrunken a little on one side and grown exponentially on the other as I take on more and more aspirational tasks as I accept more invites, become part of more teams and take on more clients. Perhaps it is time to be more realistic about what I want, what I need and what I need to put on hold and narrow it all down to good quality of life.

Self sabotage is that which I do that keeps me away from the high priority activities and for me that means a life without anxiety, with happiness and health, a good balance between work, play and most importantly enough rest.

I recognise the great creativity of my subconscious when I manage to somehow push off a little task only to feel compelled to do it at a time which derails a 3 day trip. When I lull myself into inertia by endlessly scrolling past what others are doing on social media while I myself have only just managed to leave the house to buy bread and pay a bill.

Self judgement

So as the part of me skillfully and creatively distracts me from breaking inertia another part of me pipes up to critize me, the judge, the nagging mother so then the next things I am feeling is total misery.

Unhappy masked person
Unhappy masked person

Not good. Most importantly because I get further and further away from that which I want: a happy life!

“I decry the injustice of my wounds, only to look down and see that I am holding a smoking gun in one hand and a fistful of ammunition in the other.”
― Craig D. Lounsbrough

So, what now?

Like a good designer I sit down to hatch a plan, I observe what has happened without judgement, I cannot change the past but I can certainly learn from it.

  • Did I really want to go on the trip?

I think this is important, the reasons for the trip and why I had planned to go are in effect motivators that I can draw on in the run up to break that inertia that has me pinned down.

  • How much physical, mental and emotional time do I need to break the inertia?

If I recognise in myself that I am too tired to embark on a long trek in a heatwave then I can reschedule my trip to a point where this will not physically wipe me out, after all I want to do this for pleasure not as a sadistic exercise. If I am too tired then my priority is to rest and look at what the underlying cause of this constant exhaustion is.

Even if I would have been fine on my own I recognise that there is some trepidation into going out in the open by myself, it has been many years since I have done this. Perhaps that too was a component that weighed me down.

  • What kind of tasks would have helped me to make it happen?

Tons… packing the night before, buying food for the trip, remind myself of the what needs doing before I can go — I can think of a lot of answers to this one but one does stand out— I had not picked the area where I wanted to do, so having a destination or at least a rough direction of travel would have helped me to get going, to feel that I will be safe and that I know how to get there and back without issue.

and then?

So all that’s done I am a little wiser than when I started the day, I don’t feel miserable or unhappy about missing out and am grateful that I now have a day and a half left to make sure that I can tackle these elements one by one to actually go on the trip in a couple of weeks.

I will take a long walk this evening to the park, read a good book in nature, write some more and do some client work I had been putting off so it does not get in my way.

Hazel Gale encouragingly says “the person who lives a “towards” existence can always feel as though he is achieving as long as he is learning. With this mindset, the very concept of failure is negated. Now, any experience which causes you to grow, can be deemed a success, no matter what the outcome.”

What about you?

How are you sabotaging yourself? What have you been putting off? What are you going to do about it?

#permaculture practitioner, teacher and designer — co-founder of #ecohackerfarm