Reality Check: Who’s the most effective saboteur?

Amanda and Annie are cousins. They have similar backgrounds, and they have faced similar challenges throughout their lives.

There’s a significant difference between Amanda and Annie’s lives, though. Whenever a setback arises, Amanda is easily thrown off course while Annie seems to find a way to overcome it.

For example, Amanda and Annie had enrolled in educational programs; then their cars broke down. Annie got right on the phone and found a funky little rooming place near her school. It wasn’t fancy but she made it work, walking to school till she could get her car fixed.

Amanda, however, couldn’t seem to manage. People offered drives, but they were too early, or too late, or too inconvenient. Without her own transportation, Amanda attended class sporadically till she finally dropped out.

Over the years, the result of these differences has been dramatic. Annie continues to work through whatever barriers crop up. She’s finished her education, is nicely started in a career, and is saving a down payment for a house.

Amanda never did finish an educational program. She’s had many short-term jobs, quitting whenever life interfered. Some obstacle always comes up. She wonders, “Why does the universe conspire against me?”

Currently, Amanda is working in retail. She loves it; enjoys the customers, and has a positive attitude. Her manager took notice, and suggested to Amanda that she has a real future in this business if she takes manager-trainee training.

Amanda is both scared and thrilled. She’s thrown herself into the training with vigour. Nothing will get in her way this time!

However, in spite of her manager’s encouragement, Amanda is feeling uncertain. It’s hard work, she has little free time, and it’s not really fun. It’s crossed her mind that she could quit.

Two weeks into training, and Amanda’s step-grandmother has taken ill.

Amanda is ready to drop everything. Even though there are half a dozen closer relatives who will assist, Amanda will linger at the hospital, worrying. She’ll spend hours commiserating with her uncles, nieces, and step-cousins. Her sacrifice knows no bounds; she’ll quit training, miss work, perhaps even get fired. It’s what she “needs” to do.

When Amanda complained to Annie about this most recent bad luck, Annie asked, “Are you seriously thinking of quitting? Have you considered what this means?”

“What does it matter? Gran needs me!”

“Does she, really? Or are you looking for a way to avoid training and the opportunity it will bring?

It’s a sobering question. Amanda has already begun rehearsing conversations about her misfortune: “If only Gran hadn’t gotten sick, I could have been a manager.” Her friends would commiserate. She has bad luck, events sabotage her.

Is it true? Events happen to everyone. However, Amanda has inevitably been choosing to respond in a way that sabotages her goals. She has been her own most effective saboteur.

The good news is that if you realize that you are your own worst enemy, then you have the power to change. You can learn to encourage yourself to find a way around those inevitable obstacles.

Have you ever observed anyone sabotage their own success?

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