I have my goals set out for the month. Many of them are the same goals I’ve had since the beginning of the year. These goals are things that I really want to achieve. They are things that I know will make my life better and move me closer towards the success I want. So, why am I still doing everything I can to avoid doing what I need to do and achieving these goals? At first, I thought it was because my planner wasn’t inspiring enough, so I bought a really cool Agendio planner, but I was still not getting things done. Then I learned about a concept called self-handicapping, and I think that may be the problem.
What Is Self-Handicapping?
Self-handicapping is doing or saying something in advance that can be an excuse for a potential failure.
Let’s say you have a test tomorrow. Instead of staying at home and studying for the test, you go out and party with your friends. Of course, the next morning you have a hangover and can barely remember what you did last night nevermind the information you need to know on your test.
You knew that going out to party all night was going to hinder your ability to do well on the test. Therefore, you deliberately sabotaged your ability to do well on the test.
And if you do poorly on the test, you can use the partying as an excuse.
- “I was so hungover that I couldn’t have done well no matter what!”
- “My mind was so fuzzy that even though the answers were on the tip of my tongue, I couldn’t get them out!”
- “I was so focused on that new guy/girl that I met that I couldn’t focus on the test!”
If you do well on the test, you can claim your success despite the partying. But, as someone who has been to college a few times, I can say that partying the night before a test will affect your test score in a negative way.
Anyway, the partying takes the blame away from you specifically and puts it on other people or things. It helps keep your self-esteem intact so that you don’t have to admit that you failed because of YOU. And that’s what self-handicapping looks like.
Or as Ryan said about Donald Trump’s tweet…
Psychology 101: Self-Handicapping. https://t.co/nxvUkHkS3G
— Ryan (@rlhaaland) August 14, 2016
If the disgusting and corrupt media covered me honestly and didn’t put false meaning into the words I say, I would be beating Hillary by 20%
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 14, 2016
How I’m Self-Handicapping
Because I work online, I can use the online world as an excuse. I will watch YouTube videos all day or get lost in the world of social media.
And because I work at home, I can use that as an excuse too. I will ‘need’ to go clean an area of the house right in the middle of writing an article for one of my blogs.
I find that this only happens towards stuff that relates to my own business that I’m trying to build up, not my freelancing business. If I need to write an article for a client, I may get lost in the online world here and there, or wander off in my house and find something important to do for a few minutes, but I always make sure I write their articles well and that I submit their work as soon as possible.
Why? I know that I’m going to get paid by them. I know that I won’t fail in that area. I know that each article I write for someone else is going to be accepted and published on their site where it will either inspire or not inspire other people, which, either way, doesn’t matter to me because it’s out of my hands and doesn’t affect me.
Writing my own articles is a different story, though.
- They have the potential to annoy people.
- They have the potential to be seen by no one.
- They have the potential to be criticized!
And that’s scary.
I’m trying to inspire other people to live a happier life, and the thought of not being able to do that perfectly is what causes me to self-handicap!
Stop Self-Handicapping – What’s Been Working For Me
Just the awareness that I’m building failure into my life is enough to help me get down to doing what I need to do to achieve my goals.
I can clearly see why I’m doing ridiculous things when I should be working or why I’m not doing my best. I know that I’m self-handicapping myself because I will excuse my lack of success to my procrastination and distractions later on.
I also found this article which talks about the likelihood of self-handicapping at certain times of the day. According to the article, people self-handicap during their peak hours. For me, my peak time – the time when I am most alert and creative – is in the morning, so I typically try to bang out my most important stuff related to my long-term goals at that time. But even though it’s my peak time, I find myself feeling tired when I try to work and full of energy when I do something useless like watch a YouTube video. It’s clear that I trying to self-handicap myself (I was so tired I couldn’t write the post properly!) during the hours that I am the most alert and could produce the best results.
The article also says that during off-peak hours, the cognitive tools for top performance are not there. In other words, you won’t do your best during your off-peak hours.
Knowing this information, I start doing my most important task in the morning, which is write an article for my blog. I easily build an outline that includes all the points I want to talk about. It’s easy for me to find information and put it together because I’m alert and on top of my research and brainstorming game. I get as much done as I can in that time. Then I leave the final organization until the hours at the end of my work day when I don’t need to be on top of my game.
For me, the final organization is where I have the most problems during my peak hours. That’s when I’ll leave my computer and do something else. That’s when I will get stuck in the YouTube vortex of whatever topic is interesting me. I think it’s when I’m most worried about publishing an article that’s stupid or about all the things that could go wrong.
Perhaps that’s a drawback of being cognitively alert! You can see what could go wrong too clearly!
But, I have found that don’t self-sabotage during my non-peak hours. Instead, I do what I need to do so that I can finish work and get on with the rest of my day. It works very well!
Also, affirmations and mantras are a big part of my life. So, I’ve been using the affirmation ‘I act in spite of fear‘ to help me do what I need to do despite the lingering fear that it won’t work out the way I want it to.
Lastly, I’ve stopped making excuses before I do something. I still think negative things like ‘this won’t work out’ or ‘nobody will like you’, but I don’t dwell on them so that they feel too real. Instead, I recognize them as my fear talking, and not legitimate excuses, and then I get busy doing what I need to do.