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How to Stop Self Sabotaging

If you find yourself feeling discouraged, or repeating a limiting belief, it’s time to shift the narrative in your mind to make real life changes.

The million dollar question is — how do we make such an extraordinary mental shift, particularly when we’ve subconsciously been telling ourselves a storyline that isn’t true? Before we dig into that answer, first it’s important to understand how our thoughts and feelings play a role.

The following exercise can help identify how you may be inadvertently sabotaging yourself — you can use it for any problem, issue or challenge.

The basic premise of this tool is based upon the idea that our thoughts direct our energy, and our energy drives our reality. Once you can pinpoint what your thoughts and feelings are about a situation, then you can rewrite the tale that you’ve been telling yourself.


On a piece of paper, write down this acronym — STFAO —then complete the prompts.

Situation: The first step is acknowledging your situation. The situation should be specific, and only contain facts; there should be absolutely no opinions included with regards to the circumstance.

Thoughts: The next step is determining what your thoughts are about the situation. Thoughts play out as sentences in your mind and usually include opinions. As thoughts, we tend to make a judgement that the situation is either good or bad. By understanding what your thoughts are, will help navigate how you can improve your feelings, no matter what the situation is.

Feelings: Reflect on what your feelings are surrounding the situation. Feelings are the sensation inside of your body right before you make a decision to take an action (or conversely, make a decision not to take an action). Unlike a thought, a feeling should be transcribed in a single word.

Activity: Notate what your activity or inactivity is regarding the situation. Are you taking action, or on the contrary, are you avoiding forward momentum?

Outcome: Write down what the outcome is of your activity or inactivity.

To bring this tool to life, here is an example of what a completed exercise looks like:

Situation: Eating fast food everyday for lunch.

Thoughts: One fast food lunch daily won’t make a huge impact on my health.

Feelings: Indifferent.

Activity: Not preparing a lunch from home.

Outcome: Exceeding recommended daily calories from a single meal.

You can see that it’s easy for this person to justify eating fast food every single day — they’ve convinced themselves it won’t make an impact on their health. But, the outcome is they’re exceeding a healthy intake of calories for the day. Say that number is 500 extra calories per fast food meal, 5 days a week, or 250 extra calories a week — that is 13,000 additional calories over the course of a year. It’s hard to argue that the nutritional value of fried food, and the excess calories, isn’t taking a toll on their physical body.

Our concealed thoughts are often the root cause of our results; once we uncover this insight, we realize how we’re responsible for our outcomes.


Once you have this awareness, it’s time to shift the negative narrative. Be sure to give yourself some grace — overnight you’re not going to change what very well may be a lifetime of thinking this way. You’ll want to incrementally shift your thoughts from pessimistic, to impartial; this shift is much more reasonable than going straight to a grandiose thought.

For example, if you used to think that eating home cooked or baked foods for lunch everyday wouldn’t impact your overall health, you can begin to acknowledge that it can make some difference. Think of this subtle shift in thinking as walking up a staircase; it would be difficult to suddenly jump 3 steps at a time, when you’re used to walking up one step at a time.

As you work through this STFAO identification process, practice self compassion. If paying attention to your thoughts is a new concept for you, know that it’ll be a journey, so simply congratulate yourself for having awareness, because that is the most important step.

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