12 Guaranteed Ways to Sabotage Your Career Goals

Let’s face it, jumping out of your comfy rut and pursuing your dreams can be scary.

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Let’s face it, jumping out of your comfy rut and pursuing your dreams can be scary. And who wants to be scared? To save you from actually having to come face-to-face with your potential, here are 12 surefire ways to let the air out of the tires so your dreams never have a chance to gain momentum:

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Make decisions based on what “they” think you should do: If you really want to shut those pesky dreams down from the get-go, then ignore your own feelings and make your decisions based on what somebody else thinks. It doesn’t matter who, as long as it’s not you. Choose your career because it’s what your parents expect, or because people will admire it, or because it fits our cultural definition of success. Under no circumstances should you ever look inside and take a good hard look at what energizes and inspires you.

Alternative: Ask, “What feels right to me?”

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Don’t prioritize your dream: Making everything in your life a priority except for your dream is another great way to ensure that it grinds to a halt. If you make everything else more important than what you really want to do, guess what filters down to the bottom of the to-do list, ensuring little or no action gets taken on it? You guessed it!

Alternative: Commit to taking action on your dream as one of your top three priorities.

Look for the quick fix: If you want to make sure you are never in danger of turning that dream into reality, repeat after me, “It has to happen right away.” The more impatient you can be, the greater the potential to be frustrated when it doesn’t happen immediately (and odds are very good that it won’t happen immediately). And that will give you reason to throw your hands in the air and say, “See? It’s not possible.”

Alternative: Change your mindset from seeking a quick fix to taking a first step.

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Equate today’s reality with tomorrow’s potential: In my experience, most people look at the potential for making an immediate career change and come to the conclusion that they can’t. At least not right away. There is almost always some kind of foundation to be laid, preparation to be made, or obstacle to be overcome before the actually change can take place. And that makes for a perfect excuse to never get started. Make this your mantra: “If I can’t do it today, then it’s impossible.” See how easy that was? You didn’t even have to take a single step.

Alternative: Ask, “By when could I do it? How? What needs to be in place for that change to happen?”

Make the obstacles the path: I can’t foresee your future, but I can almost guarantee that you’re going to encounter obstacles on the path to any dream you might pursue. So what better way to get in your own way than to fixate on those obstacles? They’re going to be there anyway, right? You might as well focus on them and make sure they stop you dead in your tracks.

Alternative: Make each obstacle a starting point, rather than an end point. Ask, “OK, how do I get past this one?”

Don’t question your assumptions: Don’t get me wrong. Assumptions themselves aren’t going to help you sabotage your dreams. It’s the flawed assumption that you never examine that will do the trick. Things like, “That person would never say yes to that request.” Or, “They would never let me do 'x'.” Or even the tried and true, “I can’t do that.” Whatever you do, if you find yourself making assumptions about what’s possible in your life, do not look at them more carefully. You might find that they’re completely bogus.

Alternative: Ask, “What assumptions am I making? Are they valid? Is there another way to look at it?”

Try to sprint a marathon: If you really want to convince yourself that “all that talk about dreams is a bunch of hooey because I tried it and it didn’t work,” come sprinting out of the gate without settling in for the long haul. Get excited about the possibilities, commit yourself to running hard towards your goal, and then burn out because you didn’t put any kind of system in place to support your efforts for the long run.

Alternative: Ask, “What will help me stay focused and maintain momentum for the long haul?”

Say, “I can’t.” A lot! Any time you’re faced with something that isn’t a slam dunk guaranteed success, look at the obstacles and declare – loudly and with vigor – “I can’t!” If that doesn’t work, you can make your argument even more convincing by enumerating the countless reasons why you can’t. You can ratchet up the effectiveness on this one by combining it with “Make the obstacles the path.”

Alternative: Replace “I can’t” with, “How could I?”

Listen to the cynics: If you can’t convince yourself that you can’t, let others help you. You’ll find no shortage of cynics, skeptics, and nattering nabobs of negativism to lend a hand. They may say it with a smile under the guise of being “realistic,” but what they’re really doing is projecting their own lack of belief onto you. Take advantage of that!

Alternative: Seek out positive, motivated people to spend time with and get feedback from. Spend time with people who lift you up.

Try to do it all yourself: I don’t care how smart you are, how capable you are, or how much of a genius you are in your chosen field, you can’t do it on your own. You will always need support. There will always be things you don’t know, or aren’t good at. So take advantage of that fact and try to do it all yourself. It’s a guaranteed anchor for your progress!

Alternative: Ask, “What support do I need? Where can I find it?”

Wait until the time is right: If you want to shut down your dreams completely while still paying lip service to intending to pursue them, this is a great option! The fact is, the time will never be right. There will always be something getting in your way. You will always be able to find a way to consider yourself not-quite-prepared.

Alternative: Ask, “What step can I take right now that will lead me in that direction?”

Focus your attention on the negative: Whatever you do, don’t pay any attention to the positive. Don’t look at what you have done well. Don’t acknowledge your successes. Ignore the progress you have made. Focus instead on the negative. That will make sure you feel too uncertain and insecure to risk any real action (or even more dangerous, get any real traction) on the path to your dreams.

Alternative: Make a habit of identifying, acknowledging, and celebrating the positive.

After years as a professional malcontent, Curt Rosengren discovered the power of passion. As speaker, author, and coach, Rosengren helps people create careers that energize and inspire them. His book, 101 Ways to Get Wild About Work, and his E-book, The Occupational Adventure Guide, offer people tools for turning dreams into reality. Rosengren's blog,The M.A.P. Maker, explores how to craft a life of meaning, abundance, and passion.

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