The wisdom of not doing things, differently

I’m one of those people who enjoys New Year’s Eve. I like the whole self-reflection thing, and I’m a sucker for the idea that Things Are Going to Be Better Next Year. I’m pretty much made for the New Year’s experience. I love making lists and am constantly doing a mental self-inventory of things I might improve about myself.

Several of my friends are posting new years resolutions to Facebook. One has gone so far to post a pretty honest self-critique to Facebook in hopes of spurring personal change.

I think that’s great, but I don’t do New Year’s resolutions anymore. I don’t blame people who do. I just don’t. They don’t work for me. For me, it simply isn’t possible to intentionally create a new habit from force of will and start on January 1 to make it clean start date. I have never had success intentionally adding a new behavior to my catalog of habitual acts and/or modes of thought.

But I came across an idea that needs sharing. The idea is this: You aren’t a bad person. In fact, there’s a great deal about you that is pretty terrific. You have gifts, talents and abilities that people need, admire and respect. You have lots of habits that serve you well and carry you toward excellence.

If you aren’t as excellent as you believe you need to be, it probably isn’t because of something you aren’t doing. It is very possible that you are being hindered by something you are doing. It is much easier to stop doing something old than it is to start doing something brand new. So, instead of making a list of new things you are going to do to improve, make a list of things you intend to stop doing.

This isn’t a resolutions list. This isn’t a list of new behaviors to start. It is a list of old behaviors to stop. Stop doing those things that interfere with your basic excellence. Keep this list with you. Add to it. Consult it often. Ask people who care about you to help you remind yourself when you do something on your stop doing list. You will succeed. You will uncover more of the excellence that is already there.

A few items from my personal Stop Doing list:

  • Stop explaining yourself to others unless they ask for an explanation.
  • Stop being vague when being direct would serve someone better.
  • Stop avoiding unpleasant conversations.
  • Stop assuming that the current situation is the best possible situation.
  • Stop interrupting.

Feel free to tell me how I’m doing with any of these at any time.

Happy New Year.

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3 thoughts on “The wisdom of not doing things, differently

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