So much of self-improvement is focused on doing more. Or doing new. “These five habits” or “Try these things.” If we were being realistic (and honest), we’d do better to say: “Stop doing [insert dumb shit].”
We all have bad habits. Some of these habits are innocuous, some are selfish, others are self-destructive. But we’d make gains big and small if we stopped. In fact, the world would be a better place if we all made such an effort.
So if you’ll excuse me, I’d like to ask that everyone stop doing all the things listed below. I’m not singling anyone out. I’m guilty of a lot of them myself. The root cause is almost always a lack of consideration. If we can try, if we can be more aware, life will be better for everyone.
[*] Stop telling people what you think. The Civil War General William T. Sherman had a good rule, “Never give reasons for you what think or do until you must. Maybe after a while, a better reason will pop into your head.”
[*] Stop lying to yourself about how much you need to work. Sleep is important, family is important, reflection is important. Pushing yourself past the point of diminishing returns is not.
[*] When you buy food at a counter or window and there’s a line, leave as soon as you’ve paid. Don’t organize your things, don’t chat with the cashier, don’t talk to your friend, leave. You’re not ‘taking your time’ you’re “taking time from other people.” If there isn’t a line, then sure do what you like.
[*] It’s fine if you’re a kid, but when you’re older, don’t needlessly split checks at places like this or any restaurant for that matter. If you’re with a friend, offer to pick up the tab. Or work out the math between you later. Always think: Is this convenient thing for me actually coming at a cost to other people?
[*] Tim Ferriss has a ‘not-to-do’ list with 9 bad habits to stop. I agree.
[*] “Stop talking about what a good man is like and just be one.” – Marcus Aurelius
[*] When you’re turning right, stop doing it from the middle of the lane or waiting until the last minute to put on your blinker. Start pulling towards the further side of the road as you come up to your turn. Otherwise you need to come to a complete stop and increase the chances of getting hit by someone behind you as well as just generally slowing down the flow of traffic.
[*] Stop saying “We” about a group you’ve just joined. Membership–formal or otherwise–is earned. It takes time. Understand what your words imply “that I’m equal” “that I’m fully fledged” etc–things that are particularly dangerous while you’re still earning trust.
[*] Stop calling every scandal “-gate.” Maddox is totally correct about this one.
[*] Don’t get outraged by random stuff you read online. First off, a lot of it is more complicated than it first appears. Second, this reaction is profitable for publishers and they deliberately exploit it. Third, outrage doesn’t solve problems. Sober discussion and solutions do.
[*] When you hear it’s someone’s birthday, don’t respond by telling them how close it is to any other birthday (including yours). This is just dumb. When you open your mouth, it should be to add something of value, not remark on silly coincidences.
[*] Never take your shoes off in a public place (airplanes, offices, coffee shops, restaurants). This is not your house. Respect other people.
[*] Don’t get high on yourself. Don’t tell yourself a story.
[*] When idle chit chat is dying off naturally, don’t revive it. That’s like the kid who reminds the teacher about homework. Just because you can’t deal with the void of silence doesn’t mean everyone else has to hear more noise. Let things drift towards their end, it’s a chance for reflection.
[*] Stop listening to or using your phone without headphones. Seriously, do you see anyone else doing this? It’s bad enough that we all talk on our phones all the time. Why on earth should the rest of the world have to listen to both sides of your conversation? Or worse, whatever crappy music you like.
[*] Speaking of which, gyms are silent areas. There might be music playing through the main speakers, but that doesn’t mean you can make whatever noise you want. It belongs to everyone, not you. So don’t listen to music (again without headlines), don’t talk loudly on your phone, etc.
[*] Stop blaming other people (especially when it would be natural to assume its their fault). Accept what responsibility you can in every situation. You’ll be better for it.
[*] In fact, most of these rules can be deduced by asking: “What would it be like if everyone else was doing this at the same time?” If the answer is unpleasant, you should stop doing it right now.
[*] Stop saying things just because you want people to know you know something.
[*] Don’t compare yourself to other people. Run your own race.
[*] Stop saying ‘I wish I could read more’ or ‘I need to read more.’ Just do it. Make time. It’s important. Don’t act like it’s in anyone else’s control but yours.
[*] Stop commenting on blogs (even this one), it’s almost certainly a waste of your time (who cares if someone is right or wrong) on the internet.
[*] Don’t send unsolicited texts. Just because someone gave you their number, doesn’t mean you can text it. It should be a conversation, or at least, a natural progression. Personally, I think texting should be for personal matters only–with business for email and phone only. Don’t accept or acknowledge unsolicited ones yourself.
[*] Stop eating carbs. Seriously, you will feel better, I promise.
[*] Don’t share something you haven’t actually read. Not just because the internet is terribly misleading and headlines exploit our worst impulses. Sending something to someone is not free–it costs them time to look at. You’re abusing their trust in you.
[*] Don’t recline your seats on airplanes. This is an externality. It makes you feel better at the expense of another person’s comfort.
[*] Also the first and last fifteen minutes of a flight are the only times you should talk. Stop bothering the person next to you and everyone else on the plane by chatting your face off. People sleep on planes–people who work harder and have traveled longer than you have. Experience the quiet of your own mind for an hour, and let them sleep.
[*] Oh yeah, and don’t buy wifi on airplanes either. This is productive time. Stop wasting it.
[*] Don’t be the jerk who holds up the whole line at the airport as they fool with their digital boarding pass. Clearly TSA’s machines (and the rotate on your smartphone) mitigate any convenience there might be here. It’s not worth it.
[*] The final one is this: Stop pretending that other people know better. They don’t. And you’ll be happier and less resentful if you just assume they have no control over these things. You do control your own behavior, so focus on that…whether it’s rewarded or acknowledged or not. As one philosopher put it, pretend that everyone else is hemmed in by predetermination but that you, and you alone, have been given free-will. Because when you give up the misguided notion that they are in control and focus solely on the fact that you in fact are in control, the whining petulance stops and the magnanimity can begin.
I’m sure there are many more of these. I’m sure you’ll relapse on a lot of the ones that are listed. I know I do all the time.
But the less you do them, the better you’ll be.
So just stop already.