15 Self-Sabotaging Habits and How to Avoid Them

UPDATED: August 31, 2021
PUBLISHED: October 9, 2019
self-sabotaging habits

People tend to sabotage themselves through a myriad of ways, including self-doubt, an inability to accept mistakes and consistent procrastination. Avoiding self-sabotaging habits is an essential part of growing into a healthy person, but it isn’t always easy to do. A number of these habits can be difficult for people to spot in themselves.

Identifying these kinds of negative habits, however, needs to be a priority for young businesspeople who are just starting out, as it can save them a lot of time and grief in their professional—and personal—development. To find out more, we asked members of the Young Entrepreneur Council what self-sabotaging habits are particularly common in leaders, and how to best to handle them. Here is what they said to watch out for:

1. Impostor Syndrome

“I don’t actually deserve any of my success; I’m a fraud.” This is a common thought among many successful leaders that can have a disastrous effect on the way they function. To prevent this from impairing your ability to lead, always remember the difficulties you’ve faced and overcome to get where you are today. If you made it this far, you aren’t an impostor. You just need some perspective.

Bryce Welker, The Big 4 Accounting Firms

2. Overworking

Self-sabotage is inherently human, because it stems from biases like cognitive dissonance, which we all have. Leaders in particular often fall into the self-sabotaging habit of overworking. We think that we need to constantly work because we’re entrepreneurs, forgetting that rest and recovery are equally important. This can be avoided by scheduling regular breaks into your workday.

Frederik Bussler, bitgrit Inc.

3. Not Admitting You Are Wrong

It seems like a big problem right now is everyone taking a stance on things and not willing to admit that they are not always right. Instead of just simply admitting they are wrong, they do the opposite and double down on their original opinion. Nobody is perfect and it’s OK to be wrong sometimes. True self-growth comes from the lessons learned and how you move forward in those circumstances.

Scott Kacmarski, Reps Direct

4. Procrastination

It’s so easy to allow yourself to dawdle to the last minute, telling yourself you still have more time. Unfortunately, waiting until a project or job has to be completed leaves little to no time to fix mistakes and do a thorough job. You can break the habit of procrastination simply by setting deadlines and mini-deadlines for yourself to work toward your objective.

Blair Thomas, eMerchantBroker

5. Externalizing Blame

Externalizing blame can be a big impediment to personal growth. I often hear people blaming others when they are unsuccessful in a job, when they let their health go or when they drop the ball on their personal passions. Owning it doesn’t mean you alone are responsible, but it is freeing and productive because it allows you to accept your part in it and grow.

Ashley Merrill, Lunya

6. Making Excuses

There is usually at least one variable we can find to blame for an unexpected outcome. However, placing blame should be avoided because it’s a barrier to solutions. By taking responsibility for failure, you allow yourself the opportunity to identify how the problem occurred and how to prevent it from reoccurring. Otherwise, you will keep finding excuses for problems, rather than solving them.

Matthew Podolsky, Florida Law Advisers, P.A.

7. Applying Emotion Within Decision-Making

Generally, the fastest way to make smart decisions is to use data to determine an initiative’s ROI in order to justify moving forward or passing on the opportunity entirely. Many business owners, however, think too emotionally and limit themselves from being able to pursue promising campaigns or partnerships that can meaningfully grow their business.

Firas Kittaneh, Zoma

8. Outsourcing Your Thinking

I see a lot of entrepreneurs and busy people outsourcing their thinking to so-called experts and trusting their conclusions too readily without exercising some critical thinking and research on their own. Yes, it is important to outsource your time to experts and trained staff, but it’s always prudent and wise to double check their conclusions for big decisions, as much is at stake.

Justin Faerman, Conscious Lifestyle Magazine

9. Having No Vision for the Future

A self-sabotaging habit that leaders should be wary of is when they only think about the here and now. A great leader has to have a vision for the future in mind. Of course, leaders should be able to be present. But the present should be decided based on the vision for the future.

Diego Orjuela, Cables & Sensors

10. Lack of Trust

If you’re a leader, you probably got there by accomplishing loads of extra work by yourself. It’s really easy to fall into the trap of “if I want it done right, I should do it myself.” This mindset is a great way to burn yourself out and lose creativity. Don’t forget there are other people out there with great opinions and work ethic, so don’t lose your sense of trust in others.

Andrew Saladino, Kitchen Cabinet Kings

11. Not Having a Routine

Having a daily routine can help you stay on track. For example, without any sort of daily routine, you may find yourself having to run to the grocery store multiple times a week to get items you’re missing, or you might leave an important task until the end of the week and have to rush to get it finished. Instead, create a routine for yourself—for work and for personal chores.

John Turner, SeedProd LLC

12. Lack of Planning

“Winging it” works if you’re going out for the weekend or playing a game. You should never wing it if you hope to run a profitable business. Make sure you plan out what you hope to accomplish, your future goals and your struggles throughout the year. Revise, grow and improve based on what you learned the previous quarter to reduce the chances that you’ll self-sabotage.

David Henzel, LTVPlus

13. Doing Tasks Without Focus

I have a hard time focusing on one thing at a time, especially when I receive emails, messages and get interrupted by others. I now set a calendar event for everything on my agenda for the day so I have no choice but do it. I also uninstall Instagram or Facebook when I have an important task to do, and I delegate tasks more now, too.

Daisy Jing, Banish

14. Lost Interest

One common self-sabotaging behavior I’ve noticed is that business owners often continue pushing long after they have lost interest in their idea. When this happens, you have to step back and analyze the situation. Ask yourself why you feel this way, and what can change your thought process. Sometimes there’s a simple fix, other times you have to move on to something that inspires passion.

Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

15. Perfectionism

Are you going to be remembered by that email you spent 20 minutes writing, or would it have been equally successful if you hadn’t rewritten it twice and pulled out a thesaurus? It’s often our instinct to give everything our all, but lowering the level of effort we put into certain tasks can free up time to invest in more important things where that extra attention can yield more of a return.

Sam Saxton, Paragon Stairs

Related: 8 Paradoxical Habits of Wildly Successful People

Photo by Nadine Shaabana / Unsplash.com

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.