When you set a goal, and the stakes feel high, it can be easy to make excuses after failures to avoid negative feelings such as regret, shame or guilt. Without thinking about why they do it,
people sometimes make tasks harder than they need to be so that ready-made excuses “protect” them from feeling badly. The downside is missing opportunities to enjoy best efforts and true
tests of skill.

Classic self-handicapping

The classic self-handicapping example is the Frenchman, Deschappeles (no, not the American comedian Dave Chappelle!). In Europe, during the early 1800’s, Deschappeles, rose incredibly quickly to the status of “Chess Grandmaster.” Because he had risen so quickly, he may have wondered if he really deserved this status. But rather than acknowledge self-doubt, he boastfully began games by trying to bet money, starting without one pawn, and by letting by letting his opponent have extra moves. When he would win, he was able to elevate his status, making statements like, “See, I’m that good.” And if he would lose, he was able to minimize his role in losing, saying things such as, “Well, of course I lost because I started with a handicap. (It doesn’t have anything to do with me).”

Catch yourself self-handicapping early

Catch yourself making circumstances harder than they need to be, and prevent self-sabotage! Common self-handicaps might include staying up too late before your big event, buying tempting foods “for other people” while you’re dieting, or baiting someone when you are “trying to have fewer conflicts.”

Self-handicapping consists of these key behaviors:

  • Finding or creating an obstacle
  • Exaggerating the power of that obstacle
  • Reducing any responsibility you have over failures
  • Enhancing any role you feel with successes

Put forth your best efforts

If you can learn to cope with frustration, disappointment, self-doubt, and other emotions thatcome from failures, you can learn from mistakes and enjoy successes.

Here are some tips to enjoy giving your best effort without letting the threat of failure become a big factor:

  • Think through obstacles in advance
  • Know its okay if you fall short even if it doesn’t feel okay
  • View mistakes as learning opportunities
  • Enjoy successes, but stay objective

Unlike Deschappeles, you can catch yourself self-handicapping and put forth your best effort!!!