“You spend your whole life stuck in the labyrinth, thinking about how you’ll escape one day, and how awesome it will be, and imagining that future keeps you going, but you never do it. You just use the future to escape the present.”
― John Green, Looking for Alaska
Once in a while, we sit down and try to figure out what we need to start doing. We ponder our past actions and their results, where we are right now, and what we should do next.
While these are logical steps to take, we neglect the fact that putting more things into our lives means we have to take out other components. After all, we only have so much time and energy in the day. And in order to make space for what we want to do, we need to discard our bad habits first.
Here are the 20 things you need to stop doing now:
1. Stop daydreaming about the future.
Research has found that fantasizing about an idealized future decreases energy levels, giving you less motivation to actually pursue those daydreams. So when does picturing the future become detrimental, and when is it helpful? Think of the difference between the two as fantasizing versus envisioning. When you fantasize, you imagine something so distant from reality it’s difficult or impossible to take action. Envisioning the future, on the other hand, is about seeing realistic possibilities of where your everyday actions can lead you. When you can differentiate between the two, you learn how to move forward versus pretending that you are.
2. Stop looking for a reason to get started.
We fall into the trap of thinking there’s a perfect time to pursue a goal. Maybe we wait until our careers have reached a certain point, we’ve accumulated enough money, or someone has given us the permission to do so. And while certain conditions are better than others, the stars aren’t going to align to create the perfect scenario. Someone I knew once said that there is never a perfect time to start a family because something always gets in the way. Similarly, there’s never a perfect time to start working on your idea, trying something new, or picking up a skill. The best time to start is now. Along the way, you’ll make mistakes and keep learning.
3. Stop waiting for your situation to change.
Being stuck in a rut can lead to a vicious cycle. You feel down, so you don’t do anything to change your situation, which makes you feel even worse. Once you get into this cycle, all the components of your life begin to weigh each other down. If you’re feeling trapped, focus on just one thing you can work on today. Before you can run, you need to walk. Improve one small component of your life first.
4. Stop doing something just to fit in.
When you try to change who you are to fit in, you can only pretend for so long. After awhile, you become exhausted. Maybe you’re chasing a career that doesn’t suit your personality because it’s prestigious, or staying in a bad situation for fear of change. The more time and effort you expend, the more difficult it becomes to cut losses. Be honest to yourself. If you have to change your interests, values, and beliefs to fit in somewhere, it means you’re in the wrong place.
5. Stop living to please others.
Yes, you need to take care of people around you, such as your family and the people around you. But that doesn’t mean you should do things solely for the purpose of pleasing others. If you always follow others’ expectations to your own dissatisfaction, you’ll end up looking back and feeling resentment. It’s time to take a pause and evaluate what it is that you want.
6. Stop blaming other people.
Sometimes it really is someone else’s fault that something bad happened. But what can you do? Blaming other people is a futile exercise that doesn’t solve anything. Instead, it creates more anger and does nothing to push you forward. If someone wronged you, let go of those bitter feelings and move on. Forgive. Focus on your actions instead.
7. Stop worrying about factors outside your control.
Anxiety is especially prevalent today, with all the events happening in our lives and beyond. Chronic anxiety manifests itself into physical symptoms, such as breathing problems, ulcers, and heart disease. While there are an infinite number of things you can worry about, there are only a finite number of things you can control. Remember that you can’t change what others say or think about you. You can’t decide the actions other people take, or how they affect you. What you can do, though, is decide what your next step is.
8. Stop fixating on things about yourself you can’t change.
There are certain parts about yourself that you can’t change, such as where and when you were born. There’s no question that some of these factors affect your life on a large scale. But when you get stuck on them, you lose focus on other parts of your life, such as your attitude, your actions, and the opportunities in front of you. Accept the things you cannot change, so that you can start working on what you can change.
9. Stop dwelling on past mistakes.
We all have moments in our past that, upon reflection, could have been done better or differently. Occasionally, I wonder if things could have turned out better had I made different choices. Still, I remind myself not to get stuck on the past. Instead of pondering over what you can’t change, use those past mistakes to proactively think about how you would do things today. Failures can be used to your advantage, if you’re willing to turn them into lessons for the future.
10. Stop looking for shortcuts.
Some methods are more effective than others. For instance, working with a trainer to get into shape is better than forcing yourself to go to the gym. But that’s not what I mean by “shortcut”. An acquaintance I know always chases after the biggest business opportunities without putting in the work. That meant not taking the time to gain the trust of others, lacking patience to see results, and making rash decisions without considering the consequences. If you pursue an endeavor that has taken others a great deal of time, energy, and devotion, it won’t be fun and exciting all the time. Don’t go chasing after a magic bullet.
11. Stop getting distracted by the newest fad.
New people, places, and things are always interesting. Yet after repeated exposure, even the most exciting things eventually lose their luster. You start to look around and wonder if that new opportunity is better, or if you should drop what you have to chase after something else. But before you do, remember that everything has its downside. While it’s entirely possible you may end up in a better situation, you might also end up realizing that things aren’t as appealing as they once seemed.
12. Stop neglecting the present.
Our minds are so busy wandering to all sorts of places that we forget what’s in front of us. We get caught up in our memories, aspirations, and daydreams. In the process, we misuse our time and miss out on the present. If you’re going on a hike, enjoy the greenery and serene sounds of nature. If you’re working on something, quit daydreaming about your wonderful vacation. It would be tragic to look back at critical events and realize that your mind was elsewhere all that time.
13. Stop doing things without pause.
Do you constantly feel like you just have to do something, or have some sort of plan lined up? While we normally see these as positive attributes, they become problematic when we fail to stop and ask “Why?” In the past, I’ve found myself taking on a task without reflecting on whether it’s the right step to make. If you find yourself picking up certain routines, think about where they’ve led and what made you pick up them up in the first place. Have you been doing things or leaping at opportunities because they’re right for you, or simply because they’re convenient?
14. Stop giving empty promises.
There are fewer things more disappointing than when someone makes promises, but never delivers. Eventually, the person’s words lose their meaning and become devoid of trust. If you want to help someone, think carefully about what that entails before offering to do so. Interestingly, the people that speak the loudest often end up doing the least. The next time you want to do something, take initiative and help out. Let the results speak for themselves.
15. Stop purchasing objects to seek happiness.
It may be counterintuitive, but spending money on experiences creates greater satisfaction than physical objects. Experiences, due to their temporary nature, create fond memories. We also grow strong bonds to the people and places we encounter on an overseas trip or an excursion. Objects, however, lose their initial shine as we get used to them. So if you want to treat yourself to something, consider joining a class over purchasing yet another piece of decor.
16. Stop taking things for granted.
It’s easy to accept the things and people we have as a given. We become blind to what we have until we lose them. When you take things for granted, nothing you have can ever gratify you. To combat this, here’s something I’ve been practicing: I say “thank you” to people whenever possible. That means thanking people for giving me feedback, for notifying me about something, or for a kind gesture. When you thank someone, the other person feels appreciated and you internally become more grateful, even for the little things. After awhile, your surroundings start to look a bit brighter.
17. Stop putting aside your health.
When you’re caught up in the whirlwind of life, health can end up pushed aside. To get more done, you cut back on sleep and skip your exercise routine. After a tiring morning, you grab that sugary drink because you need an energy boost. Unfortunately, the effects of bad health habits don’t show up until years later. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends getting your cholesterol measured at least once every 5 years starting from age 20, which means that health is not a “later” problem, but something that needs to be addressed today.
18. Stop riding the emotional rollercoaster.
Don’t let all the little things get to you. If something great happened to you, enjoy it while it lasts. If something unfortunate happened, know that it will pass. Remember that both good and bad things are finite. Even when permanent changes happen, we become accustomed to them and gradually return to our baseline happiness levels. Humans are remarkably resilient creatures.
19. Stop letting other people set the standards for you.
When people tell you to quit trying so hard, you wonder if they’re right. When they show you what’s acceptable, it’s much easier to lower the bar for yourself rather than raise it for others. We find ourselves saying, “So-and-so did that, so it must be okay.” If there’s a mismatch between your standards and someone else’s, it’s time to spend more time with people who raise you to the level you want to be.
20. Stop letting someone else determine your worth.
When someone praises you, it feels incredibly satisfying. Unfortunately, rejection and harsh words have the opposite effect by tenfold. You instantly feel deflated as your confidence gets knocked out of you. Moving forward, these past memories color your approach to future endeavors. But the thing is: everyone has different opinions. What one person detests, another person absolutely loves. Who you are and what you do won’t suit everybody. Decide your own worth.