A lot of times we self-sabotage without even being aware of it. Months pass by, and we are often left asking ourselves what happened.
Why aren’t we anywhere near our goals? What’s wrong with us?
Behavior is said to be self–sabotaging when it creates problems and interferes with long-standing goals. Many times self-sabotage is so subtle that we don’t even realize until it’s too late.
In an experiment “Xerox Copy Machine Study, 1978”, the researchers looked at about 120 adults and what reasons would be good enough to get compliance to skip the line for a copy machine.
The experiment had three versions:
– Version 1: “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?” About 60 percent of people let the researcher skip the line make five copies.
– Version 2: “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush?” In this case, 94 percent of people let the researcher skip ahead in line.
– Version 3: “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make copies?” About 93 percent of people let the researcher skip ahead in line when they had to copy five papers despite the fact that the reason provided made no logical sense.
If people were mindful, they would have realized that the Version 3 made no sense. However, a lot of people just took any reason as “good enough.”
Keep in mind that, when the request was large (jump ahead to make more copies than the subject, in this case, 20) people were a lot more mindful, and the fake reason didn’t work anymore.
It seems like we have a sort of threshold after which we become more thoughtful. What is the lesson here?
Of course, you can apply this to get a better outcome when interacting with other people by making sure to use “because” when you’re seeking compliance but what about our day to day behavior.
What about stick to your diet, exercise, going to bed on time?
When it comes to what we consider big decisions such as designing a diet or picking an exercise plan we usually give it some good thought and make the right decision.
Often, things that lead to success are tiny, and they don’t seem very significant. And when we don’t do these small things, we justify the inaction with a bogus reason. Many times these stories that we tell ourselves don’t even make sense.
For example: Someone looking to get better quality sleep says, “I didn’t get to bed on time last night because this TV Show was on.”
Or someone looking to be more consistent with their protein intake says, “I didn’t get my protein because the meal in the restaurant didn’t have that much.”
Are these good enough reasons?
Is the TV show more important than sleep which helps you recover, focus better, enhances fat loss and feels happier? Could the person have ordered a different meal?
Of course, there are legitimate reasons for not doing the right things, but often we will rationalize our behavior with any reason. This subtle self-sabotage is happening to us every single day without us even being aware of it.
Awareness is the key to solving this and only after we’ve identified this, can we start making changes.
Another way of looking at this experiment is that we often have scripts that we execute when it comes to these small decisions. If you’ve been following a lifestyle you’re not happy with you’ll have a lot of these scripts that will require time and conscious effort to change.
The lesson here is that when it comes to the small day to day behaviors that can mean the difference between success and failure, failing to do what we need to do can be driven by irrational reasons as well as logical ones.
Become aware of the petty reasons you approve off in order to carry out unproductive habits. Our brain by design is wired to follow the path of least resistance.
Building the right thought channels in place by eliminating the irrational reasoning for our actions will help eliminate self-sabotage and improve our chances of success in whatever path we endeavor.
Thanks for reading!
About the author:
Wilfred Paul is an Exercise Physiologist, PT & Weight Loss Consultant with a passion for helping people actualize their health & fitness goals. He is also a content writer for Forbes, Medical Daily & The Independent UK.