How to Break the Cycle of Self-Defeat

Think back when you were a little kid and got scared. What did you tend to do?

If you were like most kids you went looking for your mommy or some similar form of security.

This pattern doesn’t go away so easily. When you get scared or worried today you probably still tend to seek comfort and retreat to where you feel safe and secure.

Do you tend to do what’s familiar, safe, and easy even when greater things are on the horizon?

This isn’t unnatural, but if we don’t actively seek out personal growth, we’re likely to stay in the same place and live by the same habits we always have, despite how self-defeating they may be.

When a new opportunity arises, we may decide it’s too risky and not even try. Or we may decide to go for it, experience some setbacks, and give up before we even make progress.

What’s currently holding you back that you’re too afraid to change?

Here are a few suggestions to help you move beyond the familiar everyday lifestyle that limits your growth.

Be willing to let yourself fail

Successful people fail on occasion. It’s how we learn and improve. If somebody tells you they haven’t failed, it’s probably because they aren’t trying hard enough.

There’s nothing inherently wrong in failing and in fact it offers us a chance to grow and gain wisdom.

The only way we can truly know we are getting closer to our potential is to fail. If we don’t push our limits we can’t grow. Anyone can go through life doing the same thing over and over knowing it will be easy and knowing it will be safe and secure.

We must not fear failure if we are to ever do something more than ordinary. Even if you value security consider how this plays a role in your life and if it inhibits you in the pursuit of better things.

What’s your excuse?

Excuses are some of the most subtle yet power forces in life. You probably don’t even realize how much of your thinking is based on deep seated excuses.

Excuses are essentially a defense mechanism we use to make ourselves feel better when we aren’t living up to our potential.

For instance, I got in a lot of trouble when I was a youth. For a long time I used this as an excuse for my behavior and lack of motivation. Until I turned this around to be a source of motivation and strength it was easy to call on this in times that required me to push past limits.

Realize when you’re making excuses and how this can limit your sense of control and empowerment.

Tame your horse

A wonderful metaphor for how our mind keeps us in the cycle of self-defeat is the horse and rider. If a horse is trained to follow a certain path it can difficult if not impossible to get it off this course.

Our unconscious mind is the horse and we are often the rider at it’s mercy. When something new or unexpected arises, our horse immediately alerts us of the potential danger. The horse makes us feel uncomfortable, unsafe, and think of all the possible bad things that could happen.

Our horse keeps us focused on how things “should” be and what we are “supposed to” do. Our horse doesn’t welcome change, and anything different or new is perceived as a threat.

Knowing this will take place can help you tame your horse by not immediately react to the irrational way of viewing things your horse promotes.

Stop selling yourself short

We all encounter limitations in some form or another. Sometimes they’re “real” and we have to accept our circumstances, but most of the time the limitations we experience are self-imposed and based on some faulty belief that we’re not good enough or don’t deserve to be successful.

Consider how much you hold yourself back based on faulty beliefs and conditioning from society and culture.

It’s a fact that most people won’t be world-class, one of a kind champions. Only a small percentage of people will ever really reach the pinnacle of success.

However, this fact doesn’t need to hold us back from using our unique potential.

Most people who are “average” have much more potential than they realize. The simple fact that people consider themselves to be “average” holds enough conditioning to prevent any true breakthroughs.

Assuming you have at least average mental and physical ability, you will be able to get to the next level by sheer fortitude if you’re willing to try. You just have to want it badly enough.

Do you have the will to succeed?

Our emotions and thoughts are connected to our will. When we begin to feel discouraged and think less of ourselves it effects our will to persevere. We can’t give up at the first sign of resistance. Nothing in life worth pursing is easy. If this was the case we wouldn’t experience any growth.

Whatever the situation may be, taking the familiar road is all too easy. You must break the cycle.

The will to succeed comes from overcoming the faulty beliefs and conditioning you are prone to, and beginning to push past the discomfort that arises when you try something new.

How do you break the cycle of self-defeat? How have you changed self-defeating habits or pushed past your limits?

Photo credit: Aristocrats-hat

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  • Ken Wert

    There is comfort in playing it safe. But there is no passion or excitement and no adventure or discovery and very little learning. We learn the most from our failures. So living life safely is such a limiting way to live. There is so much joy and happiness to be had by living life with the desire to live it fully.

    Thanks for the motivation to do so!

  • Joe @ Shakeoffthegrind

    Hi Ken,

    You are so right! Once we are able to begin pushing our limits we notice how much more is out there and that we can continue to expand and experience more. Once we start to take healthy risks it almost becomes an addiction, or an aspect of life that makes things more exciting and fulfilling. It’s as if we can’t totally be satisfied without continual growth, which I think is a good thing. Thanks for commenting!

  • Debbie Happy Maker

    Very well put Joe.  I used to be one that was scared to try.  Not anymore.  Sometimes i wonder if I know when I should walk away, but by doing that you never know where the road my have lead.
    I guess before I was selling myself short.  I have grow a few feet since than and loving every minute of it.
    Thank you for the wonderful reminder not to sell ourselves to short and I will keep the horse going the direction I chose.
    Blessing to you,

  • Royalmark

    Sharp shooter. You really hit it right on track there.

    We just need to come out of our comfort zone and enter the challenge zone to defeat failure.

  • Joe @ Shakeoffthegrind

    Hi Debbie,

    Thank you so much for sharing your insight with us! I can connect with your idea of not always knowing when to walk away, though I would rather try and learn along the way then wait until the “perfect” moment which will never come. There are things I have been holding off on recently and I know I just need to get going and make it happen. When action is taken it feel so much better than going through excuses!

  • Joe @ Shakeoffthegrind

    Hi Royalmark,

    Thanks so much for stopping by! It’s nice to meet you. I like your phrase the challenge zone! I think that’s a perfect way of putting it, and is something to be embraced by all of us!

  • Santatatiana

    Thank you very much, Joe, for your really inspiring and encouraging post! I used to swim against the current all my life and succeeded. But recently I’ve got a kind of tired and disillusioned.

  • Royalmark

    Yeah! The perfect way. I’m so glad you like the phrase Joe.

    It’s a pleasure conversing with you too.

  • Joe @ Shakeoffthegrind

    Hi Tatiana,

    Welcome and thanks for leaving your thoughts! I also get tired and a discouraged when things aren’t going as I planned. When this happens I know as long as I stick with it, my motivation and fire to succeed will return. I really believe that if we do what we can each day, even if it’s small, we are getting closer to our desires and it’s only a matter of time. I appreciate you reading the blog!

  • Dia

    Hi Joe,
    Nice post!  Most of the successful people failed at one time in life.  The key is to learn from our mistakes and go forward.  As long as we stay stucked and feel defeated, we will not do ourselves any good.  Thanks for sharing Joe

  • John Sherry

    Love this Joe, not just because you understand the subject but chiefly down to how you act as a guardian challenging us to think stronger about ourselves. Our positive parent looking out for our needs. Good man!

  • Anonymous

    “Be willing to let yourself fail” - oh that is Huge!  Self defeat is awful and when it’s a habit it keeps us living small. It can feel “impossible” to break the cycle – but it is possible – and you offer a great path to freedom.

  • Joe @ Shakeoffthegrind

    Hi Dia,

    Thanks for stopping by! It’s a truly empowering perspective change when we can view failure as a beneficial experience. No one wants to fail, though understanding the value we can get from it is a major way to break through our limits. We can’t let the possibility of failure keep us stuck.

  • Joe @ Shakeoffthegrind

    Hi John,

    Thanks so much! ;) I hope I can help people feel more empowered and willing to take leaps of faith. This type of thinking doesn’t go away so easily, but it has been something that has changed how I view life. If we can begin to instill this information we hopefully start to apply it over time. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Joe @ Shakeoffthegrind

    Hi Aileen,

    I really appreciate you stopping by and leaving your thoughts! You are right that self-defeat is a habit, and much of this habit is based on conditioning and what we’ve been told. Fortunately conditioning can be changed and each time we make a choice to push ourselves toward our potential we begin to feel more and more confident and more willing to try. We just have to start.

  • Hawk Carpenter

    1. Tame ‘your’ horse, not ‘you’ horse.
    2. ..’affects’ our will to persevere, not ‘effects’.

  • Joe @ Shakeoffthegrind

    Hi Hawk,

    Thanks for offering your editorial eyes to the post. I should be a little more thorough when proofreading. Have a great holiday weekend!

  • King Author

    Dear Failure,

    I appreciate you and I realize i need more of you in my life. I think you teach me more than I could ever learn from MR. SUCCESS over there. (Mr. Success waves and smiles) I Mr. Failure is mis understood and does more for me than Mr. Success could ever do.

    Sincerely King Author

    P.S- It’s time we appreciated our FAILURES! 

  • Scott @ PSI Seminars

    I know it’s kind of a cliche, but it really is true that the only difference between a successful person and a failure is not how many times they fell down, but whether they got up one more time.

  • Joe @ Shakeoffthegrind

    Hi Jonathan,

    A wonderful message to the companion of failure. It is certianly something to find and experience more of if we tend to never do so. I think failure doesn’t have to be drastic or massive. It can be all the little learning experiences we have along the way that each teach us unique value and skills. Success is what we want but doesn’t tell us how to get there. Thanks for commenting!

  • Joe @ Shakeoffthegrind

    Hi Scott,

    Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting! No matter how cliche something may be, if it offers valuable insight and wisdom it’s worth hearing again.Tenacity and determination are wonderful attributes to have. I appreciate the addition to the post.

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  • Jk Allen

    Hey Joe – great execution on this post sir!

    When things started to change for me is what I started to view failures as learning experiences better preparing me for retakes in the future. As long was we see it in that light, we really don’t fail because we’re better equipping ourselves for the future. 

    Very nice post man!

  • King Author

    NO problem Joe. I know I been gone a while but i had to regroup..Now im back PLAYA! 

  • Joe @ Shakeoffthegrind

    Hi Jk,

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting! You are right on, and this was also a major turning point for me. When I learned to take a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset it really changed my perspective. Not know how to do something, or making a mistake, doesn’t mean I’m stupid or incompetent, but simply means I need to learn more about it. I think it’s so valuable to kids to learn this notion as well. There is always room to grow.

  • Cathy | Treatment Talk

    Fear of the unknown and how we could be judged can hold us back. So many of us don’t want to take a chance, and prefer to take the “safe” route. It limits what is possible if we don’t open every door and see where it might lead. We don’t want to reach the end of our life and wonder what could have been if we had only just given ourselves a chance to succeed. Thanks for an enlightening post.

  • Joe @ Shakeoffthegrind

    Hi Cathy,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and welcome to SOTG! You are so right. I used to always take the practical safe route, and actually thought anyone who didn’t was pretty crazy. It wasn’t until I realize that to be who I really wanted to be and to really reach my goals it required I step outside my comfort zone and expand what I thought was possible. I’m glad I have begun to do so as I now am no longer limited by the strictures of practical expectations.

  • Sibyl

    Really good post Joe. I appreciated what you said about excuses. It is so true that we can let them get in our way and hold us back. They seem so reasonable and always rational, but the reality is that they are just excuses and we do need to stop making them. I will take that message today :) Thanks for sharing it.

  • Joe @ Shakeoffthegrind

    Hi Sibyl,

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting! It’s so easy to make excuses when we are trying to change or engaging in unhealthy habits. When things get tough we have to watch out for rationalizing why our excuses are okay. It’s definitely a tricky part of how our thinking and beliefs inhibit our growth. 

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