“You’ll never have enough money to buy all the stuff you don’t really need, and you’ll never have enough time to do all the things you really don’t want to do.” – Gay Hendricks
In the following famous clip from MadTV, Bob Newhart plays a psychologist whose response to each of his client’s problems is a simple, two-word phrase – “Stop It”.
The sketch is meant to be a humorous take on the myriad thoughts and behaviors that keep us feeling stuck. Still, I can’t help notice how appropriate the recommendation to “Stop it” is as we move towards our right lives. By intentionally eliminating things that don’t work for us, by stopping things we really don’t want to do, we free up time and energy for more of what we DO want, whatever that may be.
The advice is so simple, but simple doesn’t always mean easy. As a life coach (and as a human being), I know that it’s not always easy to stop doing things we don’t want to do. And yet, this is exactly what we need to do in order to step into the best versions of ourselves.
We can spend our entire lives doing things we don’t want to do, thinking thoughts that don’t serve us, and never getting around to doing the things that fully engage us – the ones that bring us alive. We do this because we’re afraid – afraid of disappointing others, afraid of going against societal norms, afraid of judgement or abandonment. The cacophony of voices in our heads urgently push and pull at us, trying to keep us safe but in doing so, preventing us from connecting with the soft, silent tugs of our hearts.
If we’re not careful, by listening to these voices we can wind up living a half-life, one that doesn’t truly belong to us. Like a pair of too-small shoes, it pinches and rubs at our tender places, and keeps us from fully hitting our stride and claiming the life we were born to lead.
So what are we to do?
For starters, we can consciously choose to stop doing things that we really don’t want to do. In doing so, we free up space for new things to come in, things that light us up and move us towards being the best possible versions of ourselves.
This may seem like an over-simplification, but it’s actually quite simple to stop doing something – you just don’t do it. The challenge is getting the mind on board. This is where working with a coach or therapist can help, or engaging in a thought-dissolving practice such as The Work of Byron Katie.
If you choose to “Stop It”, I recommend starting with something small, and gradually working your way up to more bigger, stickier things.
Maybe this looks like waking up one morning and deciding that you really don’t want to make your bed, so you leave it unmade.
Maybe it’s noticing that you really don’t feel like going to Happy Hour with your coworkers this week, so you skip it.
Or maybe it’s realizing that you really don’t want to finish the book you’ve been reading, so you set it aside.
As you begin to stop, recognize that, by exercising your “stopping” muscles with small things, you are building the strength to stop bigger and bigger things. Notice the space you’ve freed up for yourself and, if you feel so inclined, invite something new and delicious to come in. Or simply appreciate the gift you’ve given yourself, the gift of reclaimed time.
Invitation: Pick something small that you really don’t want to do, and just stop it. If any anxious thoughts come up, notice them without judgement, and ask yourself “How is this thought trying to keep me safe?” Then gently say to the anxious mind, “I hear you. I am in control. Now stop it.”