Self-sabotage is a career-killer. If self-sabotage is getting in the way of you achieving your career goals, you need to stamp that behaviour out for good!

How to stop sabotaging your career

Have you been sabotaging your career? In my last post, 6 Types of Self-Sabotage that are Affecting Your Career, I talked specifically about the 6 most common varieties of self-sabotage within the career space.


This is a really important topic and I have seen so many people come unstuck because of self-sabotage. How would you feel knowing that you missed out on your dream career, or that it took twice as long to achieve your dreams because of something that you were doing? In this post I am going to take you through some strategies to stop sabotaging your career once and for all.


There is an old saying, that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. Now, I am not suggesting that you are insane, but you do keep repeating the same self-sabotage behaviour and wondering why you aren't achieving your dreams.

Now, I must admit, I am not a huge Harry Potter fan, but I am drawn to a quote from J.K. Rowling when I consider this topic. In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Dumbledore (the old wizardy dude) said "Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery." So, in order to move forward and really show self-sabotage who's boss, you need to first understand your behaviour.

The best way to look for behavioural patterns is to start keeping a journal. In particular, you want to look for and record the details of decisions you make, as these often hold clues. It may be difficult to remember these moments, so try keeping a notebook with you so that you can take a couple of quick notes to jog your memory. When making notes, you want to focus on the reasons behind your decisions. So for instance, if you said no to an invitation, ask yourself why. Keep doing this exercise for a week or two and you should be able to identify any patterns where you're consciously or subconsciously sabotaging your career.


Once you have identified the patterns of self-sabotage in your career life, it is time to turn them around. In step 1, you may have recognised that you are suffering from imposter syndrome and have trouble internalising your achievements. Perhaps this has manifested in the way that you try to avoid situations where you might be praised and you have found that this is holding you back from taking up new opportunities in your company. Your aim is to turn this behaviour on its head and learn to overcome the feelings behind it.

By using goals and resolutions, you can take practical steps towards kicking self-sabotage in the butt. Just to clarify:

A goal is something you work towards. You achieve it or don’t achieve it. You then change your goal or create a new goal. Lather, rinse repeat.

A resolution on the other hand is the creation of a habit. It is something that you keep doing. You don’t stop once you have achieved something.

With the above example, your resolutions could be:

  • To keep a daily journal of achievements and focus on how you have affected each outcome.
  • Praise yourself for your achievements and reward yourself in some small way
  • Use positive affirmations and refer to yourself as an expert in your field
  • Attend a support group for people with similar self-sabotage behaviours

Your goal could be to work up the courage to deliver a presentation or speech at your workplace where you promote your expertise. By using goals and resolutions you can develop a powerful action plan to overcome these negative behaviours.

Use goals and resolutions to put a stop to your negative behaviours.

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Once you have set your goals and resolutions, you need to work out how these will fit in your daily life. You should schedule time in your calendar each day, week and month to complete your resolutions - you need to complete your resolutions regularly so that they form ongoing positive habits.

You should also work on breaking down your goals into bite-sized chunks and mark your deadlines in your calendar. First, mark the date that your goal will be achieved. Be really specific and plan your achievement perfectly. In the above example, you would schedule the date you are going to deliver your speech. You should book the meeting room and schedule time to work on your presentation. Invite people to your presentation.

By creating a plan like this and setting it in stone, you are more likely to make it happen. Most of us will drive ourselves towards our achievement so that we don't have to cancel the room booking, retract the invitation or go back on something we have promised. It is in our nature. Yep, it is a lot of pressure. But sometimes a kick in the backside like this is what you need to stop sabotaging your career.


Accountability partners are awesome in general, but can be a really effective way of putting a stop to self-sabotage. An accountability partner is someone that you buddy up with to help you stay on track. The idea is that you would share your goal with your accountability partner and talk to them about the steps you have put in place to help you achieve it. In the sense of self-sabotage, you would come clean with your accountability partner about the behaviours that you know are standing in the way of your success. Your accountability partner is there to help keep you in check and to remind you when you need to change things up.

In my last post about self-sabotage, I mentioned that cartoon devil who sits on your shoulder and encourages self-doubt; your accountability partner is your cartoon angel sitting on the other shoulder bringing light to the situation. The beauty of an accountability partnership is that it usually works both ways. It might be difficult for you to recognise where you're sabotaging your career, but I bet you will spot it a mile away when you see someone else committing the same mistakes. So, in essence, you are helping each other AND helping yourself by building your awareness of what self-sabotage looks like in real life.

Where can you find an accountability partner? You might want to enlist a friend or a work colleague - most people have something that could use some extra accountability. You can also look at Facebook or LinkedIn groups in your industry and post an ad for an accountability partner OR try accountability on an even broader level by joining a mastermind for your field. 


Celebrating your successes will help to change your behaviour. In celebrating wins, you are proving to yourself and those around you that goal setting actually works! You are telling yourself that all of the hard work and effort you put in was worth it.

Celebrating success is about behaviour reinforcement. You are reinforcing or reminding yourself that your actions were positive and for a good cause. It is a way of demonstrating to yourself that you are "worth it" and you "deserve it". Celebrating your wins also forces you to focus on the positives.

When I talk about celebrating, I don't mean munching down a whole chocolate cake, downing a bottle of champers or maxing out your credit card on shoes. You could treat yourself to a movie, a meal with your with your partner, a beauty treatment or just a good old pat on the back and a few words of encouragement.

Give yourself the kick in the butt you need! Stamp out self-sabotage and achieve your career goals!

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Have you tried all of the 5 previous tips and you are still sabotaging your career? It might be time to seek some professional help. This could come in the form of a career coach or life coach, who is able to provide you with personalised strategies to assist with your specific issue. In some cases you might also need counselling to deal with the root cause of your issue, so that your form of self-sabotage doesn't become more dangerous. You may find that you need to shop around for both coaches and counsellors as it is important that you find someone who you click with.

In the past, there has been a lot of stigma around seeking help, but there is nothing to be embarrassed about. Reaching out for a helping hand is a demonstration of strength, so if you need help, just ask! Find out more about working with me, here

Stop sabotaging your career and take control. Look yourself in the mirror today and make a promise to yourself. Share your career goals in the comments and let's keep each other accountable!


About the Author


Bec McFarland is an experienced HR practitioner, manager, career coach and the creator of Pop Your Career. She delights in sharing practical, straight to the point career advice, spending time with her family and eating Mexican food.

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