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Five ways to sabotage your self-improvement or recovery program

Posted Mar 22 2013 5:00am

Five ways to sabotage your self-improvement or recovery program



1. Give up                     

Nothing will so surely end any self-change effort as to lose hope. Highly successful people will often tell you that they kept going when others stopped trying.

It pays to do your homework before tackling a project. Is this what you really want, can it succeed and are you committed? But once that decision is made, stick to your efforts and believe that this can happen for you if you just keep moving forward.

It is also helpful if you make sure you are on the right path.

2. Tell yourself you can’t

Negative self-talk will end any chance of success. The mind believes what we tell ourselves repeatedly. You can even make yourself sick by believing that you will get sick and acting accordingly. (See the Nocebo effect .)

3. Make excuses

Saying you are too old or two sick, any form of excuse making, will prevent you moving forward on your efforts to change. Tell yourself you can, but be realistic about your progress. Going too fast can set you up for failure and so can saying you can’t.

In this modern age, more than ever, people return to school, change careers and start new lives at ages that would have stopped previous generations. I can tell you from experience that some of the best students, the most productive new employees, can be older people who have started a new life direction.

Eventually the children grow up. Partners may leave, but you will be you. You will live your allotted time whether you try or not.

When someone says they are too old to do something they have always wanted to do, I ask them how old are you now? How old will you be in ten years if you don’t try? Will you be any older if you do try?

I am not a believer that being unhappy and not trying in this life will make you worthier in the next. We all should be seeking to have the happiest life possible and to learn all the life lessons we need to learn. That way you can reach the end of this earthly life with no regrets or fewer ones anyway.

A happy life, for the record, does not mean one that is selfish and self-indulgent. Doing for others can also make you happy. Doing the things you believe to be right adds to that happiness. Doing the right things for all the wrong reasons, helping others for their recognition, which does not lead to happiness.

Do not put off doing something good today.

4. Expect results over night

Change takes time. Really changing requires a commitment to keep trying over the long haul. Don’t let your brain overload the rest of you.

People set unrealistic goals for themselves in early recovery. They expect to lose lots of weight that first month. They expect to give up drugs and suddenly get an education, a good job and the good esteem of all their family or friends. Repairing damaged relationship takes a lot of time.

Take this process of change, one day, one minute at a time. Make little baby steps. And see how far you will have gotten.

5. Go to fast

Anything that you can do in a day can disappear overnight. Slow consistent progress will take you a lot farther than one sprint followed by weeks of inactivity.

Any process of change requires maintenance. You need to change habits. Habits made you over weight, an alcoholic or other problem sufferer. It takes time to create a habit. It takes even more time to change that habit into a new functional way of living.

There you have the short list: 5 ways to sabotage your recovery. To improve the chances of success don’t do these things.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page . For information about my other writing work beyond this blog there is also a Facebook authors page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at

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