How To Give Up On Things That Don’t Support Your Goals
Imagine a house.
Primarily used by you, but every once in a while, 20 other people walk through it and sometimes leave their things there.
This house has a variety of stuff, some useful, others more like an obstacle that prevents you using your house in the most practical way.
Now imagine if it was night, and the lights were turned off. And, I told you to find a particular item, in another room.
How challenging would that be?
It’s the same thing with everything in life. You need to have clarity on your goals, and what you need to do/learn to achieve them. While knowing at the same time, that everything around you will interfere with your goals.
I wrote in detail more about that in my previous article “The Most Important Skill You Should Master.”
When you know direction in life, it’s like the lights turned on. And you can start moving towards the object.
However, its much easier to remove things in your way, that are just not useful. This will help you build a solid foundation, so in the future its much easier to find anything you need.
First, list down anything that you believe it does not support your goals, or it pushes them away (social media, television, eating junk food, etc.)
Once you have the list, line them up according to two factors:
- How much time do you spend on them?
- How big of a difference can it make in your life if you remove it?
Once they are in a a sequence, choose your top three.
Okay, got them. Now what?
Now, let’s see how can you eliminate them.
The key approach to eliminating any behaviour/habit is to do it gradually.
Your priority should be to slowly start reducing each one of them, starting with the one that takes the most of your time.
Gradually reduce it, until it is eliminated, then you do the same thing with other harmful activities.
Utilize these two techniques to make it easier for yourself.
Procrastinate On Procrastination
In the book 1984 (Nineteen Eighty-four) by George Orwell, there is a part where the members of the Outer Party are torturing Winston (the main protagonist), trying to break his spirit, and as they are beating him, there was one particular sentence he kept repeating to himself:
“I will confess, but not yet. I must hold out till the pain becomes unbearable. Three more kicks, two more kicks, and then I will tell them what they want.”
This got me thinking.
Usually, when we want to establish a good habit, we tend to procrastinate. We postpone the positive behavior.
However, what if we use that for the negative behavior?
Whenever you feel the urge to do it, tell yourself that you can have it tomorrow.
Think in a span of 24 hours; your job is to postpone it until tomorrow. That is it. No biggy.
Tomorrow, do the same thing. Also, before you know it, your urge to engage in this harmful behavior is lost.
Plus, you can make a game out of this, by using Seinfeld Method.
Famous comedian Jerry Seinfeld said that he has a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page, and it is on a prominent wall. Moreover, a red marker.
He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day.
“After a few days, you will have a chain. Just keep on it, and the chain will grow longer every day. You will like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is not to break the chain. Don’t break the chain!”
In this case, instead of tracking establishing a positive habit, you are doing the opposite. Tracking the discipline to stay away.
How many days in a row can you go without engaging in a harmful activity?
That sounds an awful lot like a challenge to me…
Of course, sometimes you will find yourself in the store, roaming around, and stumbling on your favourite ice-cream.
Your eyes meet, tension arises, and you start to give yourself perfect excuse:
“Today was a stressful day; I deserve this. What about yesterday, you postponed it for today, now you can have it. It is just one ice-cream, you can go back to your habit tomorrow.”
If you get tempted, ask yourself these two questions:
- Does this activity support any of my goals?
- Does this activity push away any of my goals?
In the majority of cases, once you answer these questions, your logic will kick in, and you will build up the will to resists.
If all above doesn’t work, and you still feel the urge to engage in the activity, do as my friend Aleksandar always tells me:
“Dude, instead of feeling guilty before, while and after eating an ice-cream, buy whatever you feel like having right now, enjoy it and then tomorrow get back to your goals.”
I have to say, both my enjoyment in these moments rose, and my habits became much more stable once I added these guilt-free cheat days.
This article is the second in series of four. Here’s the first one.