When I first learnt about "self-sabotage" from Tony Robbins, it struck me as a foreign concept. Tony shared stories of people who worked hard for their promotions, only to deliberately destroy a career-making project by underpreparing. He reasoned that these people feared success. I had never experienced anything like that before, nor have I observed it in people around me. I had a pretty healthy and level-headed view of success, and thus mentally bucketed self-sabotage with a class of self-control problems I don't have to worry about, like drug addictions.
Recently, however, I have a subtler understanding of self-sabotage during a meditation session. Although I intellectually know the joy that lies on the other side of endlessly proliferating thought, and had even experienced it before, I couldn't will the mental chatter to stop. Eventually, I gave up and magically, my mind calmed down.
I quickly realised that this ran a similar pattern to the many healthy habits I have tried to adopt. For instance, although I know the benefits of sleeping early, I struggle with it consistently. I have even set bright red alerts and reminders and alarms, and have willed myself to do it a few nights, but I couldn't sustain it. Upon deeper reflections, I learnt that our will is very limited. Many times, we want to do something intensely, and we may even have a clear plan of action, but we fail to follow through.
The reason is that our subconscious mind is the real and powerful force driving our lives, and its job is to protect us, albeit in very naive and emotional ways. It steers us toward pleasure and away from pain. In order to achieve any long-term or challenging goals, we have to first love this hidden beast. We need to appreciate where it's coming from, what its needs are, and then work with it.
And if you think about it, there is no loss to that, since what this beast really wants is to protect us! It is just little clumsy in its plans and actions.
So now, during meditation, instead of nailing my mind to the breath what comes may, I incline my mind towards the engaging beauty inherent in it. The mind abhors boredom, so you have to work wtih it to engage with every moment. In life planning, instead of just setting goals logically based on my ego, I ask my subconscious what it truly wants and needs first. In daily life, instead of just pushing through like a bulldozer, I also take care of my body's needs.
I self-sabotage because I have been ignoring the hidden majority of what drives my life, and reintegrating with it has led to a more holistic, grounded and joyful way of being.