As we journey through life we learn all kinds of behaviors. Some help us grow and thrive, while others serve as coping and defense mechanisms. The key is to learn which behaviors are helpful and which are not. Then we can stop doing the things that no longer serve us and start living the life we deserve.
While preparing for this post, I came up with more than 30 things to stop doing. I distilled this list down to the 13 things that have had the most dramatic impact on my life. I hope these 13 things will help you too.
1 – Stop Being So Hard on Yourself
I get it, I’m my own worst critic too. Or as Seth Godin says, the world’s worst boss.
Here’s what I learned from many years of not good enough. I’m doing the best I can and I’m already enough, just as I am. Anything above and beyond is a bonus. I’m going that extra mile for myself and not for anyone else.
That said, I still rumble with this from time to time. Especially when I put my whole self out there.
The day a released my first product for sale, and that time I shared all of my limiting beliefs, were hella emotional days for me. I got caught up in what was wrong with my work. I focused on those who didn’t like it. And by focusing on the wrong things, I lost sight of the value
When my husband makes a mistake, I forgive him and forget about it within a day or two. Yet I sometimes have a hard time letting go of mistakes I made 20 years ago. So my goal is to learn to treat myself the same way I treat the people I love most.
Don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to your loved ones. You’re doing the best you can and that’s more than enough.
2 – Stop Putting Your Health at the Bottom of Your List of Priorities
Recent data suggests that how you treat your body today determines the type of shape you’ll be in 50 years from now. With the information and technology we currently have, it’s likely that most people reading this today will be here in 50 years. We have a lot of years to work and make money. But we only get one chance to take care of our health today.
Say no to mandatory overtime so you can focus on getting enough rest. Stop overscheduling activities for your kids so you can eat healthy meals as a family. Quit saying yes to every request from your church, extended family, or child’s classroom so that you can take time to move your body and center your mind.
Anyone who has ever had a serious illness will tell you that “health is the greatest wealth,” Please don’t wait until it’s too late. If you’re still alive and reading this today, know that you’re not too old and it’s not too late.
3 – Stop Spending Money You Don’t Have on Things You Don’t Care About
Study after study suggests that Americans could do better financially. Nearly 80 percent of American workers say that they’re living paycheck to paycheck. And it’s not just low-income households. Almost 60 percent of those surveyed who are making six-figures said that they’re in the red.
Why have we accepted this as the new normal?
While every story about how we got here is different, the solution is the same. We need to start spending less than we make and start digging ourselves out. And while we’re at it, it’s a great time to start thinking of ways to increase our income.
My husband, Jer, and I are no different than anyone else. We weren’t born into wealthy families and we learned that the way to buy expensive things, like cars, is to borrow money. But in our 30s we realized that we didn’t want to live like that anymore. So we started our journey to financial freedom and by age 37 were completely debt free.
During that time we drastically cut our spending. In 2013 we spent $455 on clothes and shoes for both of us. This is what we learned. There’s absolutely nothing we could have spent money on that makes us feel the way financial freedom feels. It was worth every sacrifice.
All these years later we only spend money on things that bring us joy. We pay ourselves first and never spend our hard earned money trying to impress others. I wear my Target and Costco wardrobe with pride.
Each year, more and more storage units are built to accommodate all the stuff we already have. A growing percentage of households can’t park their cars in their garages because they’re so full of stuff. Most of us don’t need more stuff but almost all of us could use bigger savings accounts.
4 – Stop Blaming and Making Excuses
Excuse making is easy to spot in someone else, but more difficult to identify in ourselves. Look for phrases like I can’t or I’m not. In almost all of these situations, you probably could. You’re just choosing not to.
Blame and excuse making are similar creatures. Blame is playing offense and excuses are on defense. Both are avoiding accountability.
Consider the phrase, I can’t afford this. I used to say it all the time. It’s a total cop-out and a mindset that will keep you broke. Changing that phrase to, I’m choosing not to spend money on this, puts you back in control.
Stop blaming your kids, husband, co-workers, and the president when things don’t work out. Start taking responsibility for everything. When you hold yourself accountable your life will start to change.
5 – Stop Taking Things Personally
This has been a hard thing for me to learn. When someone makes a passive-aggressive remark about the gift I just gave them or comments on the size of my thighs, it’s difficult to not feel hurt and annoyed. But over the years I’ve learned that it’s not about me. It’s about how that person’s perception of me makes them feel about themselves.
What other people say about you is a projection of their own fears and dreams. So why would you take it personally and let it ruin your day? Give yourself the gift of acknowledging that it’s not about you and let it go.
6 – Stop Pretending to be Positive All the Time
Raise your hand if you were taught that there is only one answer when asked the question, how are you? Do you know what that one answer is? It’s good! Even if you’re not good, you say good anyway.
The truth is that we all go through periods in our lives that are really hard. It’s part of being human and it’s okay to say, “This really sucks.” I know I like to say, “We don’t have to be grateful for everything, but we can be grateful in all things.” I’m not contradicting myself.
It’s possible to say things are kinda sucky right now and still live in gratitude.
Ignoring your anger, hurt, disappointment, and sadness, won’t make it go away. It’ll just sit there and fester until one day you explode.
I also believe that discontentment is a great teacher. If things aren’t going well in your marriage or career, your feelings need to be heard. They’re trying to tell you something.
Here’s another thing to remember. Pain and struggle don’t accrue points. Your sister’s cancer doesn’t get more suck points than your friend’s divorce, or ever that promotion you didn’t get. Pain is
Feel what you feel. Complain about it to a good friend. Just don’t let it consume you.
7 – Stop Saying Yes to Things That Don’t Empower You
For some of you, this translates to—Stop saying yes to everything!
When you say yes to everything, who are you saying no to? That’s right, you’re saying no to yourself. How do you feel physically and emotionally when you’re constantly saying no to yourself?
Stop trying to make everyone else happy. However wonderful that would be, it’s impossible. The only person who can make someone happy is themselves.
Next, stop wasting your life on things that aren’t important to you. This could mean that nightly scroll through Facebook, commitments that don’t fall into your zone of genius, or relationships that cause more pain than joy.
Saying no is hard but not as hard as feeling resentment and regret. If something is no longer helping you live a positive life, gracefully say no.
8 – Stop Glorifying Busy
Stop rushing from commitment to commitment. If you go through each day feeling like you’re always behind, you’re overscheduled.
This rushing and unnecessary stress, is literally making us sick. And who is it for? When I lived that lifestyle, it wasn’t for me. It was to appease everyone else’s expectations but my own—See number 7.
When will you give yourself permission to slow down and enjoy the journey?
You’re already good enough too. Your accomplishments are icing on the cake. They’re for you to enjoy. Not to be used to prove your worth to someone else. (Yes, I already said this. I’m repeating it on
Don’t take it from me. A friend of mine who beat breast cancer continually mentions that she refuses to rush around like she used to. She consistently says no to being overscheduled and over-busy.
The next time you find yourself in a rush, ask yourself if what you’re rushing to do is filling your cup or draining it? Create a habit of finding stillness each day and declare that busy is no longer a badge of honor.
9 – Stop Staring at Your Phone All Day
Why is it that we’re more connected than ever before, yet 50 percent of Americans report feeling lonely? Loneliness is said to be more deadly than smoking and obesity. Maybe these headlines are exaggerated but it doesn’t take an expert to see the effects loneliness is having on our culture.
We are longing to connect, to feel heard, and to feel like we matter. We’re fooling ourselves if we think that we’re getting that from our screens.
I understand that it’s a challenge. I’ve become dependent on my phone just like everyone else. I’m almost embarrassed to admit how much I paid to fix the charging port that quit working on my iPhone while we were visiting Hawaii. My phone has become my everything: my watch, alarm clock, calendar, notebook,
There’s also a dark side to these devices. Like picking up my phone when I feel bored or alone. Or grabbing it to check something and half an hour later, I find myself scrolling through Instagram and can’t remember why I picked it up in the first place.
All of this scrolling isn’t just wasting time. A new study from the University of Pennsylvania shows a causal link between the time spent on social media and depression. Like most studies from university psychology departments, the participants were students. But that doesn’t mean us older folk are immune. I’ve taken several extended breaks from social media when I realized that it wasn’t making me feel good. And to this day I have safeguards in place so that my newsfeed doesn’t negatively affect my life.
What can we do to change this?
Take time to disconnect. When Jer and I travel, our phones spend most of the time in airplane mode. I also like to schedule one screen free day each week when we spend time doing things together like hiking, biking, or adventures that don’t involve a screen. At home, I try to keep my phone in a different room so I’m not tempted to pick it up.
I turned off all notifications on my phone more than six years ago. I found that it was impossible to get any work done when I was constantly bombarded with alerts. There’s no email important enough to interrupt a meeting or put my life at risk while driving.
And for goodness sakes, when you’re out with friends, put your damn phone away. Turn it off, put it in your purse, or lock it in your car’s glove box. That face to face connection is more valuable than anything you could get from staring at your screen.
10 – Stop Worrying About What Other People Think
This is a biggie for a lot of people. I think the reason that it’s so hard to stop doing is that our survival depended on what people thought of us for much of our human existence. But as our world and communities have expanded, this has become
When I’m feeling exceptionally frustrated with my success and productivity, it’s because I’m worried about what other people think. If I take a step back and look at how I feel about where I am and how far I’ve come, I usually feel content and sometimes proud. But as soon as I start assuming that someone is judging my progress, I slip into a dark place.
This would be a good time to remind you to stop comparing yourself to others. No two people have the exact same wiring, experiences, or upbringing. So why do we compare ourselves to the incomparable? And other than a spouse or a really close friend, how much do we really know about that someone else’s
Stop trying to accommodate what you perceive as the expectations of others and write your own definition of success. If your dream is to maintain the trails in our National Parks, go do that. Don’t go to law school because that’s what your family expects of you.
Stop pretending to be someone you’re not. Stop striving to become who you think you’re “supposed to” be. When you stop trying, all of the right pieces will start falling into place. You’ll start working toward the right career path. You’ll find yourself surrounded by the right friends. And you’ll find joy in new hobbies you never previously considered.
Stop your obsession with what everyone else will think and start creating a life that’s authentic to you.
11 – Stop Living in Fear and Scarcity
So many of the problems in our world today are because so many of us have been conditioned to live in a state of fear and scarcity. Politicians, the media, and advertisers have built their entire platforms on fear and scarcity. Just take a look at your Facebook feed or political ads.
But like I shared in number 4, everything is a choice. You can choose to not play along. You can choose to change the way you think and what you believe.
Earlier this year I wrote a post about the fixed pie fallacy. The post was about building wealth, but the idea can be applied to everything in our lives.
If my neighbor has a million dollars, that doesn’t mean that there’s $1 million dollars less to go around. If I listen to a friend with compassion, that doesn’t mean I have less compassion for my next friend. Pruning my apple tree that doesn’t mean I’ll have fewer apples, it means I’ll have better ones.
Stop focusing on what you don’t have. Let go of the fear of how badly things could go. We all have a limited number of days in this life, don’t waste one more moment worrying about people and stories that don’t empower you. Focus instead on gratitude for all that you already have and set your sights on where you want to go.
12 – Stop Putting So Much Focus on Yourself
Earlier this year, Jer and I were enjoying a nice long beach day on the Big Island of Hawaii. I was reading the book Give and Take by Adam Grant and noticed that the guy next to me was reading the same book.
Later that day his in-laws asked him about the book. The mother-in-law asked, “What did you learn? That the only way to get ahead in life is to take?” He tried to respond and tell them what he was learning when the father-in-law interrupted and said, “Yeah right, we all know that everyone takes advantage of those people.”
I’m afraid that this misconception is all too common in our culture. I was raised with the mentality that no one’s going to help you out. If you want something, you better take it or someone else will. (If you read number 11, you know that I no longer believe this.) I now believe that the only way to get ahead is to give and to do it without expecting anything in return.
My husband always tells the younger guys, “If you want a raise, you have to do more than is expected of you. Why would anyone increase your pay if you keep producing the same results?” I’ve got to say that this has worked out well for everyone who’s listened. And not so well for those who didn’t.
Here’s one of many studies from the book Give and Take. “Economist Arthur Brooks tested the relationship between income and charitable giving. Using data from almost thirty thousand Americans in the year 2000, he controlled for every factor imaginable that would affect income and giving. He adjusted for education, age, race, religious involvement, political beliefs, and marital status. As expected, higher income led to higher giving. For every $1 in extra income, charitable giving went up by $0.14. But something much more interesting happened. For every $1 in extra charitable giving, income was $3.75 higher. Giving actually seemed to make people richer. For example, imagine that you and I are both earning $60,000 a year. I give $1,600 to charity; you give $2,500 to charity. Although you gave away $900 more than I did, according to the evidence, you’ll be on track to earn $3,375 more than I will in the coming year.”
Instead of asking what can I get, you might be better off asking, what can I give?
13 – Stop Waiting
Stop waiting until you’re ready. Stop waiting until you’ve figured it all out. Stop waiting until you fully understand what you’ve been called to do.
You’ll never be ready. You’ll never have it all figured out. And as you step into what you feel called to do, it will change and take on a life of its own.
Stop waiting for someday or for the kids to graduate. Stop waiting for retirement. Those days will come and go and there will be something else to stop you.
Stop procrastinating on the things that are most important to you by doing things that are not. If you found out that you had two weeks to live, would you regret those things you didn’t do today?
Put a date on it. Step into your fear. And start now.
And there you have it. What started as a list of more than 30 things to stop doing has been distilled down to the 13 that have had the most significant impact on my life. Don’t let the fact that there are 13 overwhelm you. I’ve been working on this list for a decade and have a lot more work to do. Give yourself permission to start small. Pick one thing and start today.