- - Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Do you have a tendency to self-sabotage your success?

Do you have a tendency to quit when obstacles present themselves?

Do you make a lot of excuses for not succeeding?

Do you seem to get in your own way?

If this sounds like you, then you may be engaging in self-handicapping. One of my favorite examples of self-handicapping involved the nineteenth-century French chess champion, Alexandre Deschapelles. He was a world-class player, but had great insecurities about his abilities. As a result, Deschapelles would play an opponent only if he could start the game one pawn short. Thus, he would not look like a fool if he lost, and claim he had a disadvantage. But if he won, this handicap would show how superior he was.



Regardless of profession, many people are just like Alexandre Deschapelles. Our egos are like egg shells-easy to crack. We do not want to be thought as a failure, and will thus engage in some type of behavior that protects our ego. Self-handicapping is all about protecting our fragile ego.

You have probably met many individuals at work who use a self-handicapping strategy. When a big proposal or presentation is on the line, they have a tendency to blow it off or give it very little effort. And they continually make a variety of excuses as to why they did work diligently on that task at hand. Then, when they fail, they can blame it on those excuses. But, more importantly, if they do succeed, they believe they look that much better given their limited effort.

Do you engage in self-destructive strategies that protect your ego? The following tips will help you with this common problem:

1) Set realistic goals. Pain to our ego increases when our goals are unrealistic. While many self-help books suggest setting high goals, these can be destructive to our self-esteem. That is, when quotas are set too high, you may commit an act of self-destruction (quit or use substances) as your self-handicapping strategy. To prevent this, set goals that are reachable for you, instead of an ideal. Not only will you get a boost when you reach them, but you will also not produce obstacles that block your way.

2) Lay it on the line. Hale Irwin, winner of three U.S. Opens in golf, has stated that playing competitive sports is akin to standing naked in front of a big crows where everyone can see all your faults. Many individuals will try to cover up by self-handicapping. Those people who are not ashamed of failing and looking foolish are the ones who are most likely to achieve their potential and ultimate success in every endeavor they choose.

Gregg Steinberg is a professor of human performance at APSU. He is the author of the Washington Post bestselling business book, “Full Throttle.” Mr. Steinberg speaks about emotional toughness to Fortune 500 companies as well as coaches business executives. Visit drgreggsteinberg.com and see his TED talk about super-resilience at https://tinyurl.com/o2anxsz.

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