You can stop them anytime
Some of the best decisions we make are to stop doing something. More and more, I’m convinced we undermine ourselves simply because we see other people do it, and nothing happens to them — not right away. Consequences take a little while to catch up with you.
When they do, it’s never pretty.
Obviously, forging better habits and mindsets has a lot to do with the changes we want to make. But sometimes you can’t kickstart better habits until you kill the old ones holding you back. Once you stop poisoning yourself, you can see straight and start living.
You catch little peaks at what your life could be like. I’m not talking mansions with swimming pools and butlers. But a house of some kind would be nice, wouldn’t it? If not that, then maybe some expendable income — or just a lighter, breathier mind and soul.
1. Stop eating out all the time
It’s not just making your pants tight. It’s also making you slow, miserable, and broke. Last week I had lunch out for the first time in months. A sandwich with soup cost almost twenty dollars. Ouch.
It was enough for two meals, easy.
Let’s not even talk about the sodium.
In my twenties I did this all the time. I thought eating out with friends made you an adult. It doesn’t.
Now I understand that $20 can buy enough healthy food for at least two full days, and maybe three if you’re smart.
All you have to do is stop. The next step is to start cooking for yourself. Google makes it easier than ever to learn how. A little change like that gives you more money, a healthier body, and a sharper brain.
2. Stop hanging out with your toxic friends
They fall into lots of categories — energy vampires, codependents, narcissists. They’re not bad people, but they need to work on themselves rather than feasting on your time and energy.
Get rid of them.
It’s not that hard. Half the time, all you have to do is stop answering their texts. Stop agreeing to meet them for drinks at the last minute. Stop waiting half an hour for them to show up.
They’ll latch onto someone else.
When you’re in a toxic relationship of any kind, you don’t see how much damage it does. You get used to the backhanded compliments, the ego cradling, and the constant drama.
Cutting them loose frees you up to actually start pursuing your goals, in ways you never thought possible.
3. Stop starting fights over things you don’t care about
Humans have a nasty little habit of wanting to be right, and wanting to win. Sometimes the stakes don’t even matter. When we’re kids, we get into all kinds of stupid arguments.
It doesn’t really change as we grow up.
Only the topics do.
Instead of yelling about superheroes and Disney princesses, we get mad about things like forms and deadlines.
Think about this the next time something trivial irritates you. Stop and consider how much of your day you want to waste exchanging verbal gunfire with someone you barely know at work. Then imagine something you’d rather do, and then go do it.
Regardless of the situation, the fastest way to get anything done is by not giving into your urge to shame someone, rake them over the coals, or get in the last word. That buzz wears off fast. Plus, you’re just giving the other person more chances to piss you off.
And on that note…
4. Stop giving people chances to piss you off
So your boyfriend or girlfriend keeps forgetting to turn the bathroom light off. That friend keeps letting you down. Your ride to work keeps showing up late, and it’s causing problems at work.
That sucks, but all you have to do is stop giving them chances. Don’t dump your boyfriend because he leaves the light on.
Buy a light with a sensor.
Find another ride to work if you can.
Part of us secretly loves it when someone lets us down. We want to play the victim every now and then. Overtime, it becomes one of the worst habits. We spoon out control of our lives to everyone who’s unqualified. Then we sob over the results and wish for better friends. You can’t find better friends until you ditch the ones you’ve got.
Also, you probably have some decent friends. You just need to start giving them your love, instead of the attention mongers.
5. Stop spending so much time at bars
Maybe I’m wrong, but I doubt the love of your life’s going to come swirling into a dive at 1 am. By all means, go to bars. But don’t hang out there all night waiting for a miracle connection.
Stop going to bars just because you have nowhere else to be.
Go to bars because you like having a drink with some friends. When you’re done, go somewhere else. That’s where your life is.
6. Stop arguing with idiots online
By now, most of us have figured out that we’ll never change the mind of a total stranger by sharing links to The Guardian.
Just in case you’re still doing this, stop.
There’s one one good way to change someone’s mind, and it’s the old-fashioned one. Talk to them in person. Have a beer. Yeah, I just told you to stop hanging out in bars. But this time it’s okay.
Throwing up links and typing in all caps at some faceless egg on Twitter is easy. It doesn’t make you an advocate of anything.
It just makes you tired and bitter.
Having a conversation with someone is hard when you don’t share the same views. It takes patience. Sometimes, it’s dangerous. And it usually calls for more than a handful of witty comebacks. If you’re not up for that, fine. That’s a sane choice. Put your time and attention into something that’s going to have a real impact. For example, clean your bathroom.
7. Stop saying “yes” all the time
There’s a reason so many articles out there talk about declaring your boundaries and resisting the urge to please everyone. Any given day, at least three people are going to ask you for a favor.
Who knows, maybe more…
We say “yes” for lots of different reasons. We think the right “yes” will finally get us that promotion. We say it because the alternative makes us feel selfish. The word “no” makes us feel guilty.
We’re scared of missing out on opportunities.
These are all bad reasons. The only good reason to say “yes” to something is because you actually want to do it. You want help them. You want to take on the extra responsibility. And you’re prepared for it.
Most of the time, you’re not. Declaring your boundaries isn’t just about taking care of yourself. It’s also about knowing your limits. When you take on too much, someone else is going to suffer. This is how we wind up overworked and frazzled — no good to anyone.
8. Stop comparing yourself to everyone
This is one of those things you’ll never be able to stop completely. We compare ourselves to other people all the time, without even realizing it. But the less you do, the better.
A healthy person simply sees when they’ve started comparing their body, their salary, or their job title to someone else’s.
And they stop. They do that by choosing to focus on something else. Otherwise, you can waste entire days doing nothing but wishing you had what someone else takes for granted. Envy is the worst way to procrastinate. It’s not even half as fun as Netflix and video games.
9. Stop broadcasting your plans to the world
The best way to guarantee you’ll never do something is to announce it on Facebook. You’ll get a rush of likes. The dopamine hit feels great. Now your brain is satisfied. It doesn’t want to work anymore.
Telling everyone your big goals has the counter-intuitive effect of short-circuiting your reward systems.
So stop doing it.
Find a few accountability partners, and keep your big news a secret until you’ve actually made some tangible progress.
You can find evidence for this phenomenon everywhere, but especially dive bars where hipsters talk all night about writing their novels, opening their photography studios, or traveling the world. They can’t do any of that, though, because they spend all their time and money drinking wine and trying to one-up each other’s daydreams.
10. Stop thinking you’re so special
The only way we matter is to someone else. We’re important to the people who care about us. We’re not important to the ones we want to impress, or the ones we want something from.
Imagine your worst problem, and your greatest achievement. There’s lots of people out there dealing with the same, who’ve done just as much with their lives. You’re one of them, but not the only one.
This helps when you don’t get the things you thought you deserved. When you let go of the VIP attitude, something great happens. You start focusing on your work and relationships for their own sake.
The rejections and disappointments don’t sting so much.
Live better by a nanometer
Most of us know to stay away from drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes by now. We know we should eat healthy. It’s the bad habits we don’t even know about that are holding us back.
Fortunately, it’s easier to stop doing these things than it is to handle a serious addiction. You just have to catch yourself. Every time you do makes your life better by a nanometer.
Those nanometers really add up after a while.