7 Mins Read

Are You Self-Sabotaging Your Sales Career?

Brandon Fluharty  |

Brandon Fluharty |

⚡️ Today’s level up ⚡️

Today’s edition addresses an issue I see holding many good sellers back from excelling at their craft: self-sabotage. It’s a sneaky little devil, so let’s learn how to identify and squash it for good.

Let’s go!

Read time: <7 minutes


Your inner voice – a critic or champion?

“The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly. Used wrongly, however, it becomes very destructive.” – Eckhart Tolle

There’s a lot of talk (rightfully so) on LinkedIn on the corrosive nature of toxic bosses and their negative impact on individual performance.

But do you know who can be more toxic than a bad boss?

Your own inner voice.

I know that was the case for me throughout my sales career and, frankly, even today, as a writer and micro-business operator. The amount of inner negative chatter, self-defeating talk, and constant comparison far outweigh the external noise, which I’d safely bet is at a ratio of 100:1.

What is the natural outcome of this onslaught of internal turmoil?

You doubt yourself, shy away from hard work, and constantly procrastinate on the important things. Left unchecked, it really weighs you down, putting you into a deeper rut.

Let’s explore where this comes from and a simple blueprint for keeping these destructive thoughts from harming your performance and overall well-being.

Getting to the root of the negativity

“You don’t become what you want, you become what you believe.” – Oprah Winfrey

Where does self-sabotage even come from?

Self-sabotage often stems from a variety of psychological and emotional factors, many of which are deeply rooted in your past experiences and beliefs. Here are nine core sources:

1. Low self-esteem and self-worth: People who struggle with self-sabotage often have a deep-seated belief that they are not worthy of success or happiness. This can stem from childhood experiences, criticism, or past failures.

2. Fear of failure: The anxiety about not succeeding can be so overwhelming that one might prefer to avoid trying altogether. By sabotaging their efforts, individuals can protect themselves from the potential pain of failing.

3. Fear of success: Success can bring about significant changes, and not everyone is comfortable with change. The responsibilities, expectations, and visibility that come with success can be intimidating, leading to self-sabotage as a way to stay within a familiar comfort zone.

4. Negative self-talk: The internal dialogue that constantly criticizes and doubts one’s abilities can erode confidence and motivation, leading to self-destructive behavior.

5. Unresolved trauma: Past traumatic experiences can create psychological barriers that manifest as self-sabotage. This can include abuse, neglect, or any significant emotional pain that hasn’t been properly addressed.

6. Imposter syndrome: The feeling of being a fraud and the fear that one will be exposed can lead individuals to undermine their own efforts, as they believe they do not truly deserve their achievements.

7. Perfectionism: Setting unrealistically high expectations of yourself can lead to procrastination and avoidance. When perfection is the goal, the fear of not meeting that expectation can cause one to give up or sabotage their efforts.

8. Need for control: Some individuals self-sabotage as a way to maintain control over a situation. By creating a predictable outcome (even a negative one), they feel a sense of control over their fate.

9. Conditioned behavior: Repeatedly experiencing certain outcomes can condition individuals to expect those outcomes. This can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy where one unconsciously ensures failure because it is familiar and expected.

Addressing self-sabotage often requires a combination of self-awareness, psychological insight, and sometimes professional help. Techniques such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), mindfulness, and coaching can help you recognize and alter these destructive patterns.

Ultimately, understanding the root cause is the first step towards breaking the cycle and building a more constructive and positive mindset.

A simple blueprint for overcoming negative chatter

“I am the greatest. I said that even before I knew I was.” – Muhammad Ali

To get to the root of your self-sabotage using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), you must identify and challenge the thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors contributing to this pattern.

Here’s a structured approach to guide you through this process:

1. Identify your self-sabotaging behaviors

Start by recognizing the specific behaviors that constitute self-sabotage in your life. This might include procrastination, negative self-talk, avoiding responsibilities, or undermining your own efforts.

→ Exercise: Keep a journal for a week and note down instances where you feel you engaged in self-sabotaging behavior. Be specific about what you did, what you were trying to achieve, and the outcome.

2. Recognize triggering situations

Understand the situations or events that trigger these behaviors. This could be specific tasks, interactions with certain people, or particular emotions.

→ Exercise: For each instance of self-sabotage you noted, write down what was happening right before the behavior occurred. Identify any common themes or triggers.

3. Identify underlying thoughts and beliefs

CBT focuses on the thoughts and beliefs that drive your behaviors. Self-sabotage often stems from negative core beliefs about yourself.

→ Exercise: Reflect on the following questions:

  • What thoughts were going through your mind right before you engaged in the self-sabotaging behavior?
  • What do these thoughts say about your beliefs about yourself, your abilities, and your worth?

4. Challenge and reframe negative thoughts

Once you’ve identified these negative thoughts and beliefs, the next step is to challenge and reframe them.

→ Exercise: For each negative thought or belief, ask yourself:

  • Is this thought based on facts or assumptions?
  • What evidence do I have that supports or contradicts this thought?
  • How would I view this situation if I were being more compassionate towards myself?

5. Develop alternative, positive thoughts

Replace the negative thoughts with more balanced, realistic, and positive alternatives.

→ Exercise: Write down a positive thought or affirmation that counteracts each negative belief. For example, if the belief is “I’m not good enough,” replace it with “I am capable and have achieved many successes.”

6. Behavioral experiments

Test the validity of your new, positive thoughts through action. Behavioral experiments can help you gather evidence that contradicts your negative beliefs.

→ Exercise: Create a plan to approach a task or situation differently than you normally would. For instance, if you usually procrastinate, set a small, manageable goal and take action. Reflect on the outcome and how it felt compared to your usual approach.

7. Build new habits

Consistency is key in changing behavior. Building new, positive habits can help replace self-sabotaging behaviors over time.

→ Exercise: Identify one small habit you can incorporate into your daily routine that aligns with your goals. Focus on this habit until it becomes second nature, then add another.

8. Seek outside support

Changing deeply ingrained patterns can be challenging, and it’s important to seek support when needed. This could be from a therapist, coach, or support group.

Practical application example:

Let’s say you have a pattern of procrastinating on important work tasks. Here’s how you might apply these steps:

→ Identify Behavior: You notice you delay starting work until the last minute.

→ Recognize Triggers: You feel overwhelmed by the size of the task and doubt your ability to complete it.

→ Identify Thoughts: “I’m going to fail,” “I’m not good enough to do this well.”

→ Challenge Thoughts: “What evidence do I have that I’ll fail? I’ve completed similar tasks successfully before.”

→ Reframe Thoughts: “I have the skills to do this. I can break it into smaller, manageable steps.”

→ Behavioral Experiment: Set a timer for 25 minutes and start working on a small part of the task. Reflect on the outcome.

→ Build Habit: Implement a daily routine of setting aside specific time blocks for work tasks, starting with the most challenging ones.

A helpful toolkit

It seems for me personally that my natural thinking state defaults to negativity.

I wake up not with peace and promise, but with general anxiety and a feeling I am “not worthy enough” or “doing enough.” When left unchecked, this can wreak havoc on my day. I delay important action, even when I know action is the best “therapy” to undertake.

That’s where having a strong personal operating system comes in handy.

Here are my go-to tools to ensure I can enact on the more positive blueprint outlined above:

A journal: Wherever I am – my office, traveling, or at my bedside, I am arm’s length from a journal. Yes, we have our phones, and the new(ish) Apple Journal app on the iPhone is pretty slick, but I find something extra therapeutic with physically writing out my thoughts.

Sunsama: I’ve been using this tool for over four years and still absolutely love it! Even if my negative thoughts overtake my focus for a moment, they can’t destroy my day because my system is stronger. Everything I need in a single view keeps me on track with the most important things, including my morning “startup routine,” which combats some of the negative “rust” that might accumulate unintentionally overnight.

Thrive Space: This personal tracker has evolved over the years and will continue to evolve (have some exciting things planned for the next version). The premise is simple: Intentionally track the right inputs so that I can better drive the ideal outputs. It’s also built on powerful research around a quarter-based model for the day. If one part of the day fails, it doesn’t mean the entire day has to be lost.

By systematically working through these steps, you can gain insight into the root causes of your self-sabotage and develop healthier, more productive patterns that free up your energy to do the best work of your life.

That’s a wrap! See you next week.



Here’s how I can help you right now (changes coming soon – get these while you can):

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3 | Book a 1:1 coaching session right now

You can book a 60-minute coaching session with me (although the Pro above option provides access to 1:1 coaching with me at a 70% discount.

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