Creating failure from success – 9 ways to Self-Sabotage

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Roadblock to goal

Roadblock to Success.
Photo courtesy of

How to self-sabotage.

Many people seem to get right to the threshold of success and then suddenly do exactly the wrong thing, the one action that is likely to create failure.  Here are ways that you might turn your potential success into a failure and some reasons why you might be doing just that.

1. Don’t believe in yourself.

The belief that you don’t deserve success can undermine any effort to improve your life. People who tell themselves they don’t deserve things can’t accept success even when they achieve it. Believe that you are worth having happiness not because you are more special than someone else but because you are the only unique you there is. You are special just like everyone else.

Saying positive affirmations and working on your belief that you deserve success can help this.

Believe that if you try you will be more successful than if you don’t try.  Self-efficacy is the belief that if you make the effort you can do this. Foster that belief in the “Yes I can” times of your life and in the lives of your family and children if you want to risk success.

2. Underestimate yourself and aim low to create failure.

People who believe they can’t do something are rarely surprised. If you aim low enough you will not be disappointed. You can’t hit a target if you don’t aim for it. Closely related to the belief “I can’t do it” is the belief that it is better to not try.

People who set high goals for themselves and then accept that what they achieve is better than not trying are happier and more productive than those who never try for fear of failure. Failures are required for learning and growth. Make lots of mistakes, learn from them and grow. Try to not make huge costly mistakes or repeat the same mistake over and over. But when you do fail, dust yourself off and try again.

Not trying at all will guarantee failure.

3. Accept nothing short of perfection.

Lots of people see things as black and white. They think that if they can’t do something perfectly they are a failure. If you require perfection from yourself eventually you will fail and that just confirms that you are no good and shouldn’t try.

Great basketball players do not hit every shot but they do keep putting the ball up there. Unless you are aiming for failure you need to cut yourself some slack.

Not trying at all is a sure shortcut to failure.

4. When things are going well look for something irresponsible to overdo.

You can work hard for months to become successful and then if you work at it, you can destroy all your progress with a single act.  People, who are working on their finances, trying to get out of debt, can always find something to splurge on and put themselves back in debt.

Have you been looking for work for months? Finally got that interview for a wonderful job? The night before the interview did you go out and get drunk? If you have a really bad hangover you can flush that interview without even trying. Showing up late and hung over eliminates the worry of getting that job.

Better yet, call that prospective new employer from jail. Apologize you can’t see him until you get out, ask for help with bail.

5. Keep testing yourself – find a way to fail.

Trying to stop drinking? Go visit your friends at the bar and see if you can spend the whole evening there without drinking.

On a budget, do lots of window shopping, check every sale and see if you can resist.

Test yourself with temptations you known will sabotage your life reputedly. It is nice to known that it is too hard staying on track and it was not your fault that you yielded to temptation.

Repeat this mantra – “The credit card made me do it.”

6. Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow, or the day after.

Always show up late. Put things off until they are no longer an option. When your ship comes in make sure you are still in bed asleep.

Procrastination is the enemy of success. We all do it because it avoids pain. Sometimes progress is painful. If you are looking for failure you will want to practice procrastination.

7. Never prepare for anything.

People who plan ahead run the risk of accomplishing something. If you fail to plan you have a great plan for failure. Never research anything. Make all decisions impulsively and based on ignorance. Why confuse yourself with facts when you can make lots of mistakes based on no information.

Practice in sports and in life is for winners. If you want to fail, avoid this one.

8. Spend as much time as possible worrying and brooding about your problems.

If you concentrate on worry you can allow your problem to grow while you stay stuck in inactivity. A worried about problem expands until it is impossible to solve. This avoids the need to actually take any action.

Frequent long worry sessions will keep you too busy to do any problems solving.

9. Never evaluate or revise a plan that fails. You knew that nothing was going to turn out all right anyway.

Successful people are constantly reviewing and revising their goals and plans. You don’t want to be like that, do you?

Could you be your own worst enemy?


If all of these ideas on how to self-sabotage and prevent success won’t work then you just may be stuck –  Planning ahead, taking action, aiming high, accepting yourself and your successes, learning from and forgiving the times you fail and revising your plans to increases you rate of success.

Best wishes on creating the happy life you deserve.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at

4 thoughts on “Creating failure from success – 9 ways to Self-Sabotage

  1. Pingback: 9 ways to be your own worst enemy | counselorssoapbox

  2. Pingback: Progress, Planning and Perfection | Human In Recovery

  3. Pingback: Procrastination gets a bad name? | counselorssoapbox

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.