The True Reason Why You Are Self-Sabotaging

As a life and business coach, I often hear people talk about self sabotage. After the initial smalltalk at the start of the session, my first question is usually related to how the past days or weeks have been for the client since our last session, and what progress they have made with their homework (taking action is the single most determining factor of coaching success, along with the quality of rapport between coach and client).

My initial question is often met with a sheepish smile. The gaze is fixed downwards as the client guiltily admits they have done pretty much anything else, except of the one thing they agreed at the previous session would make the biggest difference towards achieving their goals.

Clients may talk about specific actions they aim to take to improve their lives. They may want to meditate more, or to do more yoga or introduce a new exercise regime. We will sit together and plan goals and actions. We will work out a specific, realistic and time bound action plan, check what can get in the way and mitigate for these potential obstacles. The client appears motivated and keen to make the change. Yet the change doesn’t happen.

As coaches we have a supportive relationship with our clients. Like a sports coach who prepares the sportswoman on the training ground and gives her instructions before the game, we are there to set the scene for success and cheer the client to get them in the right frame of mind to win. However, once the game starts, the client is now on their own and it’s up to them to do what needs to be done in order to succeed. With the coach unable and unwilling to be constantly around like a Big Brother in order to give guidance, standards can slip and firm commitment loosened.

When the client and I pull out the looking glass to work out what got in the way, all sorts of reasons are given why they didn’t get round to doing what they agreed should be definitely done only a few weeks ago. But the reasons sound like excuses:

* I was interrupted

* I got busy

* I had a rough week

* I woke up too late

The explanation is often simpler: the way the client approached the task or activity didn’t align with their values or overall vision. If you approach your physical exercise or yoga as a chore when ‘having fun’ is important in your life, you will end up resenting it and not doing it. If you feel forced to get up earlier in order to do what you committed to because you feel you have to, your unconscious mind will come up with all sorts of excuses.

I can give more examples. There are the professionals who have identified that their biggest pain point is finding more clients. However, they are not putting in the work to find clients, despite being clear on their action plan. They procrastinate because they haven’t quite figured out who their ideal client is, or because their business activities don’t align with their mission, what they REALLY want to do (rather than what they are expected to do).

There are the clients who stay in destructive or negative relationships despite constantly repeating to themselves and the world that they deserve better. But deep in themselves, they value the relative security that relationship brings higher than their freedom or independence.

Because of all of the above, working on the client’s core values and vision is high on my agenda. The work saves a lot of time as self-awareness about what drives people in life, helps them to approach things differently.

Whenever you find yourself wondering why you are not making any progress with a task, ask yourself whether your actions and habits are in line with the core values you want to be living by, as well as your vision of how you wish to run your personal and professional life. Then realign your goals and plans so that your actions and habits become more consistent with your overall vision.

Purpose is about why we do what we do. Values are how we achieve our purpose. Frequent actions become habits. Habits are what we do every day that reflects our purpose and values. The following diagram gives you an idea of how all these different aspects are hierarchically related:

The Vision-Action Pyramid

A relatively easy way of finding out what your values are, is by using the chunking up method of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP). This is a process of expansive exploration for higher meaning. Ask yourself what the purpose or intention of your behaviour is. Keep asking for this higher meaning and if you get stuck, then ask yourself ‘what is this an example of?’ Once you can’t ask any further questions without repeating yourself, you have identified a core value which drives your behaviour.

If you are repeatedly failing to create a positive habit of doing something you feel strongly you should already be doing, take some time to reflect on the higher values that guide your life. If having fun is one of your core values and your goal is to lose weight or improve your physical condition, you may consider putting some favourite motivational music on, to get you in the mood for your exercise regime. Or you may want to attach physical exercise to another activity which is more ‘fun’ (e.g. reward yourself with a small treat after the activity).

More complex values that are difficult to weigh up against each other (such as security versus freedom in the example above) might need some additional work to unpick, and therapy or coaching are often of great assistance in that case. But raising your awareness about what drives you in life, will create much of the clarity you need in order to help you make choices which lead to the life you truly want.

Kostas The Coach is a Psychologist, Life and Small Business Coach and NLP Practitioner based in Llantwit Major, Wales. I help solopreneurs and therapists who experience the stress of overwhelm and burnout to find freedom, fulfilment and clarity.

If any of the topics discussed here has intrigued you, I would love to hear your thoughts. You can email me on or schedule a free 30 minute call with me at

Published by Kostas Panagiotou-The Freedom Composer

Creating Clarity and Freedom for overwhelmed solopreneurs, small business owners, therapists and creatives - | Composer | Birman cats

2 thoughts on “The True Reason Why You Are Self-Sabotaging

    1. Absolutely, every therapist or coach in the world would have heard these excuses a number of times 🙂 Procrastination can of course have a number of causes. I do think the link to values and overall vision and how the lack of daily alignment to them sabotages action, is often understated


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