This time of year, we tend to focus on what we want to start doing – eating healthy, going to the gym more, that kind of stuff. All great pursuits, but what about considering the things you should to stop doing? Here are top picks for behaviors to stop in 2017.
Comparing Yourself to Others
“If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.” That’s from Desiderata
, a 1927 pose poem by writer Max Ehrmann. Get a copy and hang it over your bathroom mirror. Ehrmann had this brilliant insight, but also many more worth living by.
Just because somebody didn’t quickly reply to your text message doesn’t mean they don’t care about you! And maybe the checkout lady isn’t smiling because her dog died or her back hurts – not because she’s trying to slight you. Get it? The least happy people look for ways that people are insulting or demeaning them. Don’t. Do. This.
Indulging in Catastrophic Thinking
If you have a headache, you have a brain tumor. If you call home and nobody answers, your spouse has left you. Don’t laugh. Catastrophic thinking -- indulging in or ruminating about worst-case scenarios -- is a major source of stress. So much so that the University of Pennsylvania and the U.S. Army have developed programs to help soldiers avoid this very type of thinking (read about it here
). So how can you stop it? First, recognize the habit. Then control your fear enough to force yourself to mentally list all the benign or even great things that could also be happening instead of the catastrophe. So maybe you have a headache because you need a glass of water or you have a sinus infection? And maybe nobody answered the phone because your spouse is grocery shopping or giving your dog a bath? Mentally force yourself to focus on the better options, because frankly, catastrophes happen, but not all that often.
Inflating Your Expectations
Some people fall into a nasty habit of assuming, but never being clear about their expectations. Case in point: A friend worked for a small business owner for several years. The owner adored her. When he closed down his shop and she had to move on, she found out he contributed very little money to her 401(k). She was livid, disappointed and heart broken. But only because she’d dreamed up the idea that her boss was somehow “taking care of her” even if he never said this and even if she never received account statements proving this. On a small scale, many of us do this daily. We expect our spouses to cook dinner because we’re running late. And then we’re disappointed when it doesn’t happen. Expect nothing this year. Try asking instead. That way, if it doesn’t happen, you earned your disappointment.
Not Letting Go
Life is about loss. There’s nothing to be done about it. Do you have grief over a lost relationship? A job opportunity you blew? A friend, family member or pet who died? Just like you, every human has some number of these losses. In 2017, don’t hide from your losses (that is, don’t waste time obsessing over the past or what was/wasn’t, did/didn’t). Feel your grief and embrace that there’s no “getting over” loss. Instead, just let go. Letting go
means simply that you’re able to move forward in your life with the full acceptance that you lost something valuable, but also that you won’t allow the loss to define or harm you. If you can’t do this – and there are plenty of people who can’t (that’s why we have stalker laws) – get professional help pronto.