Your job might not be the most dangerous thing in the world, but it sure can scare the pants off you when you discover you’ve been sawing off the branch of the tree that your career is built on. It’s ironic, isn’t it? You have ambition and drive, yet you find yourself undermining your job in small, incremental steps that you’re completely unaware of. If you’re like most people, you don’t see the water you’re swimming in and can’t understand how self-sabotage has stalled your career. Here are 10 scientifically-backed strategies to mitigate self-defeating work patterns and sustain your career trajectory:

  1. Curb your perfectionism. Uncurbed perfectionism causes you to set unrealistic goals, try too hard and over focus on your mistakes, preventing you from generating your best work. Chances are, if you’re a perfectionist, even when others don’t demand perfection, you demand it of yourself and others anyway. And it can stop you (and your career) in your tracks. According to the American Psychological Association, perfectionism has increased from the 1980s until now—the rise believed to be the country’s increases in pressure, stress and anxiety. If you want to sidestep perfection, ask yourself what you can do to view your capabilities in a more realistic light and set reasonable goals. Your best work isn’t perfection; it’s your best work. That’s good enough and as good as it gets.
  2. Cultivate resilienceHaving solid interpersonal and internal resources such as peer support, strong social relationships and knowledge of where to get help during challenging times is essential. Internal resources are those personal qualities, accomplishments or successes you possess that you take pride in, which helped you withstand and surmount adversity in the past. A new study found that contemplating how you overcame past hardships widens what neuroscientists call the resilient zone. Reminding yourself of how you overcame past personal and professional adversity can be a resource that strengthens your belief in yourself.
  3. Replace faultfinding with self-compassion. Your relentless faultfinder—everybody has one—is quick to judge, minimize your accomplishments or demote you to an underdog. Your faultfinder causes you to over focus on your mistakes and blinds you from seeing your strengths. You might even believe kicking yourself when you’re down increases your chances of success. But studies show it’s the other way around. Coming down hard on yourself after defeat reduces your chances of rebounding. Instead of attacking yourself when you forget, make a mistake or fail at a task, self-compassion helps you bounce back. Talk yourself off the ledge with pep talks, an atta-girl or atta-boy or a positive affirmation, and nurture yourself with the same loving-kindness you give to friends and loved ones.
  4. Recognize that powerful positions and job pressures are a package dealWhile power is associated with leadership positions, the stressful demands of the job also create anxiety and physical discomfort, according to new research. The authors of the study recommend having access to social support, taking frequent breaks and developing strategies for dealing with anxiety such as mindfulness practices or stress management techniques. And if you feel burdened by the powerful position you’re in, it’s essential to not conclude that you’re not up to the task and to remember that feeling pressured is a natural consequence of feeling powerful.
  5. Broaden your perspective. A broad perspective allows you to build on the many positive aspects of your career. Avoid blowing disappointments out of perspective; look for the upside of a downside situation; underscore positive feedback instead of letting it roll off; focus on work solutions instead of problems; pinpoint every opportunity in a challenge; refuse to let one bad outcome rule your future outlook.
  6. Stick your neck out. When your focus is avoiding failure, you miss the pursuit of success. Growth happens outside your comfort zone. Instead of fleeing from the unknown, you build your career by stepping into the unfamiliar. Once you start to stick your neck out and accept failure as an essential steppingstone to success, you become willing to go through the required hurtful steps (they’re called “growth pains”) to get there. What edge can you go to in your career? What unpredictable bridge can you jump off to sprout your wings? What limb can you reach to get to the fruit of the tree?
  7. Send procrastination packing. You watch yourself stalling or postponing action on the project due tomorrow morning. Instead of planting yourself in front of the screen, you organize your desk, re-arrange furniture or engage in unnecessary cleaning. You call yourself lazy because you can’t get motivated despite the looming deadline. But you’re not a couch potato because you’re being productive. Studies show that procrastination is a form of short-term mood repair. You’re doing something against your better judgment, but you do it anyway because of the relief it provides. Taking small measurable steps that are easy and doable, tricks your emotional brain, gets you motivated and reduces procrastination. Once you take that first small step, you realize the task isn’t as challenging as you thought when you were avoiding it.
  8. Practice deep listening with empathy. Engaging in predatory listening—lying in wait with a prepared argument to make a rebuttal or build a case from your point of view without really listening to a colleague—is career suicide. Do you communicate your feelings as facts, refuse to entertain other perspectives or turn a deaf ear to a co-worker’s thoughts and feelings because you’ve already made up your mind that you’re right and the other person is wrong? Forcing your point of view, commanding, finger pointing and criticizing creates professional gridlock. Deep listening actively engages you in what another person says and feels. You use direct eye contact and listen with empathy without giving advice unless it’s asked for. Empathy liberates you from your narrow perspective and helps you see the big picture and refrain from snap judgments.
  9. Shun People PleasingWe all want to be acknowledged and appreciated for our work. But if you trim yourself to suit everybody else, you whittle yourself down to dust. If you have sold out and leased your soul in hopes of reaching the top of the career ladder, get in the mode of pleasing yourself first and proving yourself second. When you’re afraid to speak up, disagree or say no, you could be unwittingly sabotaging your career. Scientists report that nonconformists are not necessarily the rebels or troublemakers in the workplace. They are individualists, more likely to work together for the greater good of the company; whereas “yes-people” are less likely to do so because conformity and approval are more important to their self-esteem and security.
  10. Stop second zingers in their tracks. We’ve all had the experience of a career disappointment or colleague setting us off. A manager makes a rude comment; a co-worker talks over us in a meeting; we have a computer glitch, and we lose our temper. When we’re under stress, two zingers fly our way. The first zinger is the stressful situation, and the second zinger is our reaction. With the second zinger comes the ability to choose our actions, but we often zing ourselves anyway, causing self-inflicted stress. Suppose your boss takes credit for your idea. You react by lowering the boom on her. The second zinger—while your upset is perfectly understandable—only adds insult to injury, making you say or do something you might later regret. After you pay attention to your first and second zingers for a while, you develop an inner sense of separation from the urge to react. You start to feel disappointment without frustration or acting out. It keeps you from adding more stress on top of stress and gives you the clarity to take appropriate action to mitigate the first zinger.