15 Ways to Stop Self-Sabotage

Updated on March 7, 2018
ChristinS profile image

Christin is a natural health and wellness advocate with 20 years' of experience studying and working in the health and supplement industry.

how to stop self-sabotaging behaviors
how to stop self-sabotaging behaviors

Every person has their own set of talents and natural gifts; they also have their own set of challenges and struggles to conquer. Many people allow their limitations and fears to define them, not understanding that they are obstructing their own potential for true and lasting joy in life. For some of us, finding our calling and learning to value ourselves is a lifelong battle.

Where do you fall into this spectrum? Do you ever feel like things are pretty good, but there's just something missing? Or do you fall at the other end where you feel hopeless? Perhaps you vacillate between these extremes. Regardless of where you are right now; there are things you can do to grow as a person and feel more accomplished and proud of who you are.

Conditioned for Failure From the Start

We live in a society that feeds us unrealistic ideas. As a woman, I grew up with images of “Barbie” and plasticated women being an ideal I was never going to reach as a 5'1 brunette with average looks. It was taught that to be valuable, women must be smart, but not too smart, attractive and able to find a husband and have babies. Women were encouraged to raise families, or be a nurse or teacher – not scientists, for example.

Males didn't and still don't have it easy either. They are brought up to be “strong” and competitive. When they cry or express sadness as boys they are called “weak”, told to “man up”, and this leads to men who grow up with a bad habit of repressing emotions. This can lead to chronic stress, anger, difficulty with intimacy and a lot of other problems.

There are so many influences that sabotage both men and women right out of the gate in life. Sexism, racism, all the different “isms” and they flow in all directions. Instead of being encouraged to be unique and to value our individualism, we are taught early on what to do, buy, and be in order to “get ahead” or “be successful”. Life is about conformity, passing the tests, making the grade, competing with the Jones' etc.

Many equate “success” by the amount of money you amass or the title you carry. For those who don't want to be a CEO, where does that leave you? For many, success would be living a life doing what you love, even if you never had a mansion, sports car, or fancy title etc.

The truth is we are all influenced by external sources much more than we like to believe or admit. The good news is we can undo that programming and start to live authentically – and with that comes true inner peace and happiness.

Think about this: Anxiety disorders and depression are at all time highs. Why do you think that is? Could it be that there isn't a pill for that? That the key to overcoming soul-crushing anguish and defeatism lies within the power of your own mind and that empowering people is not the goal of those who profit off of suffering? Just a thought ;).

So, for anyone struggling to find themselves and figure out what your potential is – this hub is for you. Here are some tools you can use to live your best life, on your own terms. When you start to undo the conditioning that's been foisted upon you – at first you'll be astonished, then you might get mad! But, you'll be inspired and empowered to take charge of your own destiny in life and that will lead you to your personal definition of “success”.

You can't live anyone elses life but your own
You can't live anyone elses life but your own | Source

How to Start Realizing More of Your Potential

Walk it Off

Literally. Walking or other forms of light exercise keep the body and mind functioning clearly. Sedentary life styles aren't just hard on your body – they are hard on the mind. The brain needs food and the best way to feed it is through highly oxygenated blood you only get by being active. Motion provides energy, being sedentary robs you of your vitality and makes you lethargic.

Feed Your Mind

Learn something new every day. An idle mind leaves a lot of room for things like anxiety and stress to build. When you focus your brain consciously, you are in better control of where your thoughts go.

Learning is a way to build and keep a healthy mind throughout life. It also helps you better understand the world you live in and those other people who share it with you ;). Learn something new and share knowledge and experience with others regularly. Taking an interest in things outside of ourselves is often the best way to discover hidden passions and talents.

Don't be a Negative Nelly

Yes, we all have bad days. We all get irritable from time to time, but don't wallow in it. Frustration feeds on itself and builds into cynicism and despair. When something pisses you off, express it enthusiastically and then move on! Don't repress your emotions or deny them, but don't accept them as fact either. Get mad, then hurry up and get glad again – life goes on.

Your Emotions are a Map

Your emotions don't define you, but they do show you in no uncertain terms what your mind is up to! If your thoughts are mostly negative, your emotions will follow suit. Sadness, guilt, anger, etc. are all signs of thought processes that are steering your energy in the wrong direction. Express your feelings and let them out in a healthy way, then work to turn your thinking around and direct it towards more constructive things.

Never ever repress your emotions. You can learn to express all of your emotions in ways that are productive. Many people “swallow” their anger. They let it fester until it explodes, rather than deal with the minor irritation as it happens. It's like allowing a small splinter to grow into a gangrene infection – doesn't make much sense does it? Address it while it's relatively benign.

Learn to live your life for yourself and not for anyone else.
Learn to live your life for yourself and not for anyone else. | Source

Express Yourself

We live in a world where expression is not always welcomed or appreciated. Do your own version of art – you don't have to be a master at it. Write in a journal, do a collage, do anything that taps into the creative part of your brain. If you are highly analytical, this is even more important because it helps develop more “whole brain” thought, which in turn leads to more innovative ideas and better problem solving skills.

Think Hard!

That brain of yours is like a muscle that needs to be worked to stay strong. Put stress on your brain. Read something above your level and work to comprehend it. Do puzzles that challenge you or do a hard math problem. If you are a more “artsy” type who doesn't dig book learning ;), this is very important for you, just as creative expression is important for those who are highly analytical.For the same reasons, it makes you a better “whole brain” thinker with better creative problem solving ability.

Those people we admire for their ingenuity use all parts of their mind. Why limit yourself to being one way or the other? Develop both to your best ability.

Tap Your Subconscious

Your subconscious mind fuels most of what you habitually think and feel. Most people are unaware of how in control that part of the brain is. The good news? It's highly programmable and it doesn't care what you feed it. Start using tools to reprogram the subconscious beliefs that may be causing you to sabotage yourself. Self-hypnosis, meditation, guided imagery and EFT are just a few suggestions for tools you can use to reprogram the mind.

Define Yourself

Define who you are, not by society, what your parents think or want, or what you've been told you “should” do. Think for yourself. Take a few minutes and write out a description of yourself as a character in a novel. What type of character are you and what is the plot line?

Is it a feel good chick flick, an action adventure, a mystery? :) This exercise is fun and can give you insight into undiscovered aspects of yourself. You know the old saying “the truth is stranger than fiction”... chances are so are you – but in a good way.

Live Now. Be Proactive Today.

Many people always postpone their joy or determine that their success will be at some point in the future, when they do this or have that etc. The problem with this mindset, is that it continues to keep everything in the future. Dreams are great, but they don't serve you if you aren't taking action on them now.

You shouldn't wait until you have a lot of money saved up to start your own business for example. If that's your goal start now. Research, plan, make phone calls – do things every day that move you towards loftier goals or your dreams will always remain some distant object.


The key to growth and overcoming challenges is accepting them, and yourself as you are. Nobody here is without pain, challenges and their own problems to contend with. Those who are successful are not problem free; they are resilient and determined to be better despite those things. Accept yourself as the flawed and yet still amazing person you are. Acceptance opens doors.

Do you engage in self-sabotaging habits or behaviors?

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Recognizing Self-Sabotage and How to Counteract It

There are many forms of self-sabotage that can rob you of hope and leave you feeling powerless. The truth is, every person on the face of the earth has at least one self-sabotaging habit. Well, that's uplifting I hear you thinking ;).... But, actually it is! It means we are all flawed beings and having some quirks does not make you a worse person or less deserving of happiness and success than anyone else.

Recognizing self-sabotage and working to understand it can help you beat it. Even if you can't overcome everything – you can learn to cope and work around it.

For example, I am a “Nervous Nellie” by nature. As a child and young adult, I was crippled by my fears and it took a lot of soul searching and hard work to overcome it. I could have just thrown my hands up, said the hell with it, this is just how I am... but I wanted more for myself. I knew I wasn't going to do what I wanted to in life if I didn't take charge of the situation. Am I still throbbing nerve end? Yes I am some days. Does it control my life or wreck my self esteem anymore? No! Not in the least. I know how to work around it and whatever your little kinks are in life, you can learn to work around them too.

Perfectionism is Poison

The quickest way to never reach your potential is to be a perfectionist. Does that seem counter intuitive? Unfortunately, those who are perfectionists also tend to be procrastinators. They may have amazing ideas, but the fear of not being “the best”, or of others judging them as “not enough” becomes crippling and they don't try.

A life of mediocrity is often what perfectionists achieve because their need to be the best hinders their ability to take joy in just being good. I know someone very much like this. She is a fantastic artist and highly creative, but she always whines that her work is not as good as this person or that person.

If you constantly compare yourself to others, you'll never amount to anything. There will always be somebody better at whatever it is than you. What you bring is a unique spin, a different way – and that is more valuable than having the “best” method.

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won't have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren't even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you...”

― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Procrastination is a Dream Killer

Did you know that procrastination is usually due to mismanaged stress? It's true. When we feel overwhelmed, we respond with “fight or flight”. Procrastination is a form of running away from something that is a “threat”.

The downside is that then we guilt ourselves for procrastinating or being “lazy” - which in turn creates more stress and leads to – you guessed it; more wasted time. The next time you catch yourself procrastinating, instead of feeling guilt and admonishing yourself for being lazy or stressing about lost time; ask yourself what it is you are trying to avoid facing? What scares you? Learning to overcome bad stress coping mechanisms can help you motivate yourself and kick procrastination to the curb once and for all.

Learn to Manage Stress

Did you know that most people are so chronically stressed they don't recognize the responses anymore? Many go through life with stress and are so used to it, they think it's normal. There are several sure signs of stress in the body. Tension, shallow breathing, difficulty concentrating, mood swings, insomnia, and food cravings are all signals that your body and mind are overtaxed.

Stress is a vicious circle. It starts a “fight or flight' response in the body. When this becomes chronic, it has ill effects on your health mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Learn more about the chronic effects of stress and how to build an effective stress management plan. It will guarantee you have more time and energy free to pursue your dreams in life.

Anxiety and Depressions are Symptoms of a Larger Issue

I was someone who suffered from clinical depression as a teen. I went to counseling, was put on medications and guess what? It did nothing to address the underlying issue which was excessive amounts of stress that were not recognized or managed.

Stress leads to anxiety, which left unchecked leads to depression, which can spiral into extreme despair and suicidal thoughts. I experienced all of it in my younger years until I stood and faced it and embraced it with my arms wide open instead of trying to medicate it away. I was very powerless to it for years; it controlled me, but then I decided I wanted my life back. The only thing more powerful than my depression was my desire to not allow it to control me anymore.

I wanted power back again, so I began to study psychology, spirituality, and all sorts of self-help materials. I needed to understand why I was hurting, so that I could face it and let it go and reclaim myself and my life.

Everyone's triggers are different. For me I had a difficult and abusive childhood, lost my grandparents in my teens who were my refuge, was bullied in school, became self-loathing and got into drinking and other bad habits. I could have stayed on that downward spiral, but deep down, I was angry and tired of feeling powerless. I chose to take a stand, rather than let life beat me. At the source of this darkness though was a lot of stress and no coping mechanisms.

I had to relearn how to think, how to behave, how to respond to my emotions – all of it. There was no quick fix, but once I became dedicated to a better way, the answers I needed started to appear.

Stop Devaluing Yourself

This doesn't mean become self-absorbed or anti-social. It means recognize your own worth and make yourself a priority. Many see this as selfish, however those who regularly take time for themselves are better able to meet the demands life and others place on them. If you spend all your time sacrificing yourself for others – you can't very well reach your own fullest potential.

When you do this, you are not living your own life, but allowing others to dictate your path. You must put yourself first, and then use that excess energy and love you will have to help and encourage others.

You must recognize the value of your own worth or others surely won't. You cannot give to others or expect them to give you what you do not already have within yourself. This is a hard truth for many of us who have experienced co-dependency or other issues of needing to be needed by others to feel valuable. You establish what you are worth – no one else can do that for you.

I remember a popular movie from several years ago where the man says to the woman “You complete me” … girls were gaga over that line and I was thinking NO NO NO. No one else completes anyone. You can only have a fulfilling relationship when you are already whole. There are many lonely married people. Why? Because being with someone does not “complete” you. Ask those of us who were in bad marriages for the wrong reasons and later went on to find a healthy relationship!

Have You Heard of EMDR?

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a fascinating form of psychotherapy that is based on the premise that the mind works to heal itself from trauma in much the same way the body works to close a wound. People who have undergone traumatic experiences can use these techniques to clear the mental blocks and that linger and cause more severe disorders. Once the block is removed, healing can resume. It is a form of therapy that helps you activate your natural healing processes.

These 15 things can help you start to overcome self-defeat and live a more enriched life. Every positive step you take counts and this is a lifelong process. Those who devote time and energy to self-improvement find they are able to accomplish things that they never might have believed were possible.

Questions & Answers

    © 2013 Christin Sander


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      • ChristinS profile imageAUTHOR

        Christin Sander 

        8 months ago from Midwest

        Thank you so much for the lovely comment. I don't consider myself to have a childlike heart honestly, but I do have a true love for people and want to see more people recognize their special qualities. I appreciate you taking the time to comment :)

      • Sean Dragon profile image

        Ioannis Arvanitis 

        8 months ago from Greece, Almyros

        "We live in a society that feeds us unrealistic ideas". This is really the cause of many ruined lives. Respect for your try! I see something precious in your article. The clear heart of a child and true love for the others. I admire those. Keep up the good work. The world needs articles like this one.

      • ChristinS profile imageAUTHOR

        Christin Sander 

        13 months ago from Midwest

        You're most welcome Sonia, so glad you enjoyed the article :)

      • SoniaSylart profile image

        Sonia Sylart 

        13 months ago from UK

        In particular I found what you said about procrastination to be very illuminating. I'm bookmarking this page to re-read because there's lots of useful advice to take on board. Thanks for a very thought provoking read.

      • ChristinS profile imageAUTHOR

        Christin Sander 

        3 years ago from Midwest

        Thanks so much for the read and comment Marilyn - much appreciated and I'm glad you enjoyed the hub. :)

      • Marilyn Fritz profile image


        3 years ago from Nevada

        This is a great hub! Your information here will help many people discover new ways of thinking, and realize potential. I absolutely love how you suggest to not compare your own life with someone else's. If we could look at the back side of what we think is a perfect life of someone else, we might find a disaster!

        Great writing, very clear for everyone to understand. I will be reading more!

      • ChristinS profile imageAUTHOR

        Christin Sander 

        3 years ago from Midwest

        Thanks so much colorfulone. I think we all have those times we get stuck in a rut; all part of being human. It's good you recognize it though and work to pull yourself back - I think that's what builds strong people. Thanks so much for the read and awesome comment. Much appreciated.

      • colorfulone profile image

        Susie Lehto 

        3 years ago from Minnesota

        Christin, this is truly an article I am glad I read all the way through. I know self-improvement is a life-long process, and we should not take a vacation from working on being the best that we can be. I guess I have been stuck in a rut about somethings by letting them bother me, and I don't have to do that. This is just the refresher course I needed to get back on track.

        Great hub!

      • ChristinS profile imageAUTHOR

        Christin Sander 

        3 years ago from Midwest

        Thank you so much england236 for the lovely comment - you have brightened my day. I'm so happy you found my hub useful :)

      • england236 profile image


        3 years ago from USA

        Thank you for the wonderful article. I found it today. Love your writing, insight, and the research you have done to help people live better lives. re:self sabotage. Will read everything you have written.

      • ChristinS profile imageAUTHOR

        Christin Sander 

        3 years ago from Midwest

        Thank you so much maggs224 for the lovely comment. I'm so happy you enjoyed the hub and have found it helpful and uplifting. :)

      • maggs224 profile image


        3 years ago from Sunny Spain

        What a fabulous hub, interesting, informative, insightful, helpful, I could go on, but I am sure you have clued on to the fact that I have thoroughly enjoyed your hub.

        This hub is also enhanced by the comments that have been left and your replies. I am so glad that your title grabbed my attention. I will be voting up and hitting the relevant buttons on my way out :D

      • profile image


        3 years ago

        You as well.

      • ChristinS profile imageAUTHOR

        Christin Sander 

        3 years ago from Midwest

        Thank Brian glad you enjoyed the hub and found some helpful tips. Have a great day.

      • profile image


        3 years ago

        This hub is beneficial, for me, since I tend not to remember my thoughts after I have processed them. Thank you for these words of encouragement. Little steps are better than giant leaps

      • ChristinS profile imageAUTHOR

        Christin Sander 

        4 years ago from Midwest

        Thanks Maggie and it's a good point you bring up. how we talk about ourselves does indeed impact our children and can influence how they view themselves as well. Glad you brought that up. Thanks for reading and commenting!

      • Maggie.L profile image


        4 years ago from UK

        Over the year I have got into the habit of running myself down to the extent that my 7 year old recently said "Mummy, why do you always say you aren't good at things?" I realised I had to take a good look at myself and how my behaviour could affect my children too. Thanks for writing such a useful article Christin. I'll be keeping this for reference!

      • ChristinS profile imageAUTHOR

        Christin Sander 

        4 years ago from Midwest

        Thanks Ruth for reading and commenting. I appreciate the great feedback and Im glad you enjoyed the hub :)

      • ruthwalker profile image


        4 years ago

        Very helpful article, I agree with what you say about medication that it is usually only part of the solution and that the power to change lies within ourselves, also that we need to learn to value ourselves rather than relying on other people to make us feel better or 'complete' us, some very good and timely advice for me atm. I also liked the bit about writing about yourself as a character in a novel, came across a book recently along those lines, 'Writing to Heal' I think it was called about using journaling to change your life story, it is an interesting concept. Anyway, thankyou, some very good advice there, will be adding to my favourites.

      • ChristinS profile imageAUTHOR

        Christin Sander 

        4 years ago from Midwest

        Thanks Sheri, so glad you enjoyed it. Yes, taking control of where our thoughts/emotions go is key to overcoming obstacles and reaching more of our potential - very true. :)

      • Sheri Faye profile image

        Sheri Dusseault 

        4 years ago from Chemainus. BC, Canada

        Very inspiring! I love this type of info and try to read something positive every day. I read somewhere that our emotions are the gage of our thought so when we are feeling badly we simply need to become aware of our head chatter and change it! Great hub!

      • ChristinS profile imageAUTHOR

        Christin Sander 

        4 years ago from Midwest

        Awesome Crystal - thanks so much I'm glad you enjoyed it :)

      • Crystal Tatum profile image

        Crystal Tatum 

        4 years ago from Georgia

        A fantastic hub, much inspiring and helpful information here. Sharing this and pinning it on my "Inspiration" board.

      • ChristinS profile imageAUTHOR

        Christin Sander 

        4 years ago from Midwest

        Thanks Eric :) so glad you enjoyed it - again!

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 

        4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        I just love leaving great hubs on follow.

        There were new things to learn today from this really well done piece, Thank you again

      • ChristinS profile imageAUTHOR

        Christin Sander 

        4 years ago from Midwest

        Thank you Mahfoudh :) So glad you enjoyed the hub and I appreciate your inspiring comments!

      • Mahfoudh Muhammed profile image

        Mahfoudh Muhammed Bouboutt 

        4 years ago from Nouakchott

        Great Hub. Greatest thing about is that everyone can relate, no matter who they or how old they are, everyone has to go through depression and self-sabotage. Your writing style is very captivating as well. I often stop reading hubs as off the first two paragraphs, not yours though. Well done.

      • ChristinS profile imageAUTHOR

        Christin Sander 

        4 years ago from Midwest

        Thank you MoonChild so glad you enjoyed the hub.

      • profile image


        4 years ago from Midwest

        I like this.

      • ChristinS profile imageAUTHOR

        Christin Sander 

        4 years ago from Midwest

        Thanks for the read and comment KDeus I'm glad you found the hub helpful.

      • KDeus profile image

        Keely Deuschle 

        4 years ago from Florida

        There is a lot of great information here on how to not sabotage yourself. It's something I have to work on and practice several of the strategies you mention. Now I have a few more to add. Thank you for a well-written, informative article.

      • ChristinS profile imageAUTHOR

        Christin Sander 

        4 years ago from Midwest

        Thanks Ruby :) I appreciate your comments and I'm glad you enjoyed the hub.

      • Ruby H Rose profile image

        Maree Michael Martin 

        4 years ago from Northwest Washington on an Island

        "Your best life, on your own terms", I love that. "Angry and tired," I understand that powerlessness. "Nobody is here without pain." That has been a big one for me to humble down from.

        Oh yes, "feed your mind."

        No, I didn't know anything about EMDR. Thank you for this key to unlocking even more new doors. Learning to live with it, nice....

      • ChristinS profile imageAUTHOR

        Christin Sander 

        4 years ago from Midwest

        Thanks for reading and commenting Stephanie. The subconscious does have a way of making or breaking us in life. When we can learn to work with its awesome power the transformations that can occur are nothing short of miraculous.

      • StephanieBCrosby profile image

        Stephanie Bradberry 

        4 years ago from New Jersey

        A lot of these suggestions are quite familiar to me. They are all very much in line with unleashing the power of your subconscious or all the writings about "the secret" and "the magic." Good discussion of each of your 15 points.

      • ChristinS profile imageAUTHOR

        Christin Sander 

        4 years ago from Midwest

        Thank you for the comment and vote up annart much appreciated!

      • annart profile image

        Ann Carr 

        4 years ago from SW England

        Wise advice from someone who's obviously gone through a lot and survived through self-knowledge and perseverance.

        It is a nonsense to live for someone else; when we're complete we can offer so much more to another and vice versa.

        Excellent hub, well presented. Up ++

      • ChristinS profile imageAUTHOR

        Christin Sander 

        4 years ago from Midwest

        Thanks Colleen I appreciate it and look forward to hearing when you publish your book :)

      • ChristinS profile imageAUTHOR

        Christin Sander 

        4 years ago from Midwest

        Thanks Eric, appreciate the read and comment. Have a Merry Christmas day today.

      • Colleen Swan profile image

        Colleen Swan 

        4 years ago from County Durham

        Hi Christin, Thank you for the fun pep talk. I follow much of what you advocate: one of the ways is to read a hub every day which adds to my fund of knowledge and ideas.

        A classic example of self-sabotage happened yesterday. A friend said she is publishing a book-ouch! Why haven't I done so? I guess she is more successful than I am-boohoo!

        In fact, her subject matter is entirely separate from mine, and she is not the least bit arrogant.

        One of my favorite quotes comes from one of the Greek philosophers: be kind to everyone; each person is fighting his own battle.

        Great hub, voted up. Colleen

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 

        4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.


        Do not tell anyone but today I realized that sometimes I can calm my mind by watching a show or movie. I like all granola and yoga and nature stuff and I do not get a single TV channel but just a show calms my mind.

        You gave a gift of yourself here. Thank you.

      • ChristinS profile imageAUTHOR

        Christin Sander 

        4 years ago from Midwest

        thank you grand old lady - glad you enjoyed the hub. :)

      • grand old lady profile image

        Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

        4 years ago from Philippines

        This is a very comprehensive hub about what makes us hurt ourselves, why we continue to do so, and how to recognize the pattern that triggers it. It even includes steps we can take to overcome these harmful patterns. I particularly appreciate the fact that you were willing to include your personal experience in this piece. Thank you very much!

      • ChristinS profile imageAUTHOR

        Christin Sander 

        4 years ago from Midwest

        Thanks TurtleDog I appreciate it :)

      • TurtleDog profile image


        4 years ago

        Very true hub! Very interesting about the definitions of manhood and how they promote inhibitions... don't tell my buddies this... but I think you are right on the numbers :-) Great stuff. Voted up and awesome.

      • ChristinS profile imageAUTHOR

        Christin Sander 

        4 years ago from Midwest

        Thank you WiccanSage I appreciate the vote and comments :)

      • WiccanSage profile image

        Mackenzie Sage Wright 

        4 years ago

        This is so true and an excellent hub. I used to whine about my problems a lot but when I really stopped to think about why I was in the situations I was in, I was able to trace almost all of them back to a choice I had made, an action (or inaction) on my part and each time I could have changed the outcome by being a little wiser, a little more responsible or pro-active. State of mind is sooooo important in realizing that and starting to work toward better things. Great hub, voted up.


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