Why Do Smart People Sabotage Their Success? Reasons and Solutions

February 25, 20194:37 pm
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Anthony Weiner, a smart and accomplished congressman, was a very dedicated man who has good career and reputation. He, once, was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New York’s 9th district and has received notable achievements in his life. However, in 2011, he was accused as a criminal because he was pleaded guilty after found to be involved sexting with a 15-years old girl. “After the scandal, Weiner then resigned from his job and his life became quiet miserable”, The New York Times reported.  

Why do you think Weiner, who is such an intelligent individual, ended up ruining his career and reputation by committing such deed?

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Daniel Sonkin, Ph.D shared his view on why do intelligent people often do something harmful to themselves or their career. As quoted in Mental Help, procedural memory, one of brainwork system, is probably the cause of self-sabotaging action. Procedural memory happens when we do repeated action without our self-concern – or we can call that as auto-pilot action. For example, when you work in an office, you do all the repetitive tasks such as sitting, opening laptop, turning on laptop, then starting to work. All these activities are done automatically without you realise it. When done for a long time, these repetitive actions can lead to stress, and thus, stress can lead to self-sabotaging action.

“When a person has a history of not dealing with their emotions constructively, there is a good chance that when things (repeated action) get stressful, the brain is capable of kicking into auto-pilot when emotions such anger, fear, or sadness begin to feel overwhelming”, said Dr. Sonkin. Moreover,  when you try to only show your emotion without doing further action such as expressing, understanding, and looking for solutions to recover your ‘feeling’, you will likely to go on a thoughtless behaviour that will result on self-destructing action.

In Weiner’s case, he was a dedicated man with all the glamour life as a congressman. But his repetitive work as a congressman probably gave burden to Weiner. As a result, he became stressful and cannot maintain his feeling of stress which lead to sexting scandal.

Fortunately, Dr. Sonkin said, “We don’t have to be like Weiner. Self-harming action caused by repetitive activities can be stop.” It can be done by looking new activities outside your repetitive work. By doing so, you can block and even stop your automatic behaviours. Another solution is by understanding the foibles and make it as your weapon to turn them around. Harvard Business Review has revealed five things smart people automatically do that could damage their career.

01   They devalue relationship building

Brilliant individuals sometimes see their success as something natural because of their intellect and do not see other skills as important. However, in most workplace cases, you need more than a brilliant mind to get ahead. Only focusing on greatest strength and forgetting weaknesses will lead to self-sabotage.

Solution > Learn simple skills that do not come naturally to you. You can start by identifying specific workplace diplomacy behaviours that will improve your success.

02   They find teamwork exhausting and frustrating

When an individual can grasp information faster than his team and has high standard for his own performance, it will be difficult for him to work in team. Intelligent individuals can sometimes find it difficult to delegate because they can do task better, especially those who are perfectionist streak.

Solution > You should give more self-compassion to your internal reactions. Also, learn to genuinely appreciate that diverse minds can bring the most to a team.

03   They attach a lot to their self-esteem which possibly decrease their resilience

HBR mentioned that smart person might seek to avoid situation that triggers their feeling of not being smart. Sometimes, the feeling can also be threatening for intelligent people. For example, it will happen when bright individuals work with more skilled team, receive critical feedback, or take risk and failing.

Solution > ‘Iron sharpens iron.’ So, when you are surrounded yourself with smart people, you are doing the right thing. See the benefits of working with them who are, in respect, smarter than you and develop your relationships with critical feedbacks.

04   They get bored easily

When you are a smart and curious individual who has love of learning, you might quickly lose interest in anything once you figure it out. Thus, you rather choose to learn new things which will end up being less lucrative than finding a niche and repeating the same formula that will bore you.

Solution > Instead of attempting dramatic change, you can decide when tolerating short periods of boredom can be more beneficial on your success. For example, ‘devoting 5 hours a week to an activity that’s monotonous but lucrative.’ Likewise, you should still spare your time for your learning curiosity including work, hobbies, physical activities, understanding yourself, and so on.

05   They sometimes see in-depth thinking and reflections as solution to every problem

Bright people are accustomed to succeeding through their thinking skills. They often fail to see that different approach might be more beneficial.

Solution > You should notice when thinking becomes unhealthy obsession. Look for the other angle, consider when strategies other than thinking will result better. When you feel overwhelming by your thoughts, find few minutes of an absorbing activity such as puzzle or poem.

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