Many years ago I worked for an international food corporation doing product publicity. Our department shared a floor with the Consumer Response department and we would sometimes have meetings with them.
One day, a team member shared that she had received a call from a customer who stated he had purchased our company’s milk, and it smelled bad but he drank it anyway and then got sick.
I remember being so floored that someone would go ahead and drink milk that smelled bad and then to top it off, be surprised that it made him sick. I remember the story to this day because I think about it every time I find myself doing something repeatedly that creates a bad outcome.
Let’s face it, we all do this.
We’re no different than this guy every time we binge watch Netflix even though we feel totally lethargic afterwards or force ourselves to go to an event knowing full well we need to stay home and rest. There is a cultural conditioning to rationalize repeatedly doing things that make us feel unwell (especially for women), so one of the things I do to counteract it is to have a Stop Doing List.
It’s the opposite of the usual To Do List. For your SD List you write down the things you’ve decided to just eliminate completely. For example, I love the look of Louboutin-esque pointy toed shoes, but whenever I wear them they cause me pain. I had to bite the bullet and accept that a rounder toe is my only option and make my peace with that.
Also, I love a good scalp massage but something about it makes my hair fall out like crazy. So now whenever I am offered a scalp massage I just ask if they can do shoulders or face or feet instead because even though it’s lovely, it just doesn’t work for me. These are beauty examples but naturally your list can incorporate anything that isn’t working in your life.
Having done this for a while now I can report that you really only need to write something down while you’re undertaking the effort of changing the habit. Later on you just naturally avoid certain things. But until then having the reminder in print really helps.
Keeping your own Stop Doing List is a systematic way to greatly reduce the number of negative outcomes you experience, and make space for positive experiences instead.
Barbara Wayman, APR