Create a To-Stop List.

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The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials. – Lin Yutang

The traditional “To-Do list” is a list of activities and tasks one needs to complete. It is a tool I use religiously as I journal what I intend to do daily as a blueprint for getting things done. I have found the to-do list to be very useful for achieving goals. I recently came across the “To-Stop” list concept while reading management consultant Marshall Goldsmith’s book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. The to-stop list is a list of activities that can be professional, behavioural, or personal and need to be stopped or delegated to others. As the Chinese writer and philosopher Lin Yutang once quipped, “Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.”

When creating a to-stop list, one of the key questions is, “Does this activity or relationship bring me joy?” If it does not bring you joy or it has stopped being fun engaging with the tool, activity or task, then it is a prime candidate for the to-stop list. The list can include anything from bad habits, toxic relationships, unhealthy choices, behavioural quirks or default activities. Some things I am considering for my to-stop list include my tendency to want to add too much value, speaking more than I listen, oversharing and being too vulnerable with people who have not earned my trust. Some other things I want to stop doing include stop complaining, gossiping, watching YouTube when I am supposed to be studying in the evening, and arguing. The list is exhaustive, but the first step to changing is acknowledgment.

Implementing the to-stop list is not an easy task, just like implementing the to-do list. We usually know what to do, even state it in our to-do list. If getting things done is just about writing a to-do list, we would all be successful in implementing our goals. It requires a lot of self-discipline, focus, persistence, trial and error, repeated failure, and learning. What is usually easy to do is generally easy not to do. It is easy, but that does not mean it is simple. For example, one of the easiest but toughest decisions I have made in the past five years was to stop using social media. In 2018 I deactivated/deleted all my social media accounts except Linkedin. I left LinkedIn because of LinkedIn learning and did not want to seem too extreme (lol). I stopped using platforms because they did not generate a positive answer to the joy question.

“Does this activity or relationship still bring me joy?”

To-Stop List

Correcting a behaviour, you’ll discover, does not require polished skills, elaborate training, arduous practice, or supernatural creativity.  All that’s required is the faint imagination to stop doing what you’ve done in the past—in effect, to do nothing at all. That’s the funny thing about stopping some behavior. It gets no attention, but it can be as crucial as everything else we do combined. For some reason, we are less likely to poison our thinking this way in normal everyday life. When it comes to stopping behaviour or avoiding bad decisions outside the workplace, we always congratulate ourselves.

Likewise with stopping a bad habit in our personal life. If we successfully stop smoking, we regard it as a big achievement—and  congratulate ourselves all the time for it. Others do too (as well they should when you consider that the average smoker tries  to quit nine times).

 But we lose this common sense in the can-do environment of an organization—where there is no system for honoring the avoidance  of a bad decision or the cessation of bad behavior. Our performance reviews are solely based on what we’ve done, what numbers  we’ve delivered, what increases we have posted against last year’s results. Even the seemingly minor personal goals are couched  in terms of actions we’ve initiated, not behavior we have stopped. We get credit for being punctual, not for stopping our  lateness.

We can change this. All that’s required is a slight tweak in our mindset, in how we look at our behavior. Get out your notepad. Instead of your usual “To Do” list, start your “To Stop” list.

Instead of your usual “To Do” list, start your “To Stop” list.


The key to changing bad behaviour is to spot it first, stop doing the activity, and swap it for good behaviour. In his book Think Like a Monk: Train Your Mind for Peace and Purpose Every Day, British author, podcaster, and former monk Jay Shetty shares a framework for changing negative behaviour. He called it: Spot, Stop, Swap: Awareness, Addressing, and Amending

“To purify our thoughts, monks talk about the process of awareness, addressing, and amending. I like to remember this as spot, stop, swap. First, we become aware of a feeling or issue—we spot it. Then we pause to address what the feeling is and where it comes from—we stop to consider it. And last, we amend our behavior—we swap in a new way of processing the moment. ”

Becoming aware of negativity means learning to spot the toxic impulses around you. To help us confront our own negativity, our monk teachers told us to try not to complain, compare, or criticize for a week, and keep a tally of how many times we failed. The goal was to see the daily tally decrease. The more aware we became of these tendencies, the more we might free ourselves from them.

Keep a tally of the negative remarks you make over the course of a week. See if you can make your daily number go down. The goal is zero.

When you better understand the roots of your negativity, the next step is to address it. Silence your negativity to make room for thoughts and actions that add to your life instead of taking away from it. Start with your breath. When we’re stressed, we hold our breath or clench our jaws. We slump in defeat or tense our shoulders. Throughout the day, observe your physical presence. Is your jaw tight? Is your brow furrowed? These are signs that we need to remember to breathe, to loosen up physically and emotionally.

“Remember, saying whatever we want, whenever we want, however we want, is not freedom. Real freedom is not feeling the need to say these things.”

After spotting and stopping the negativity in your heart, mind, and speech, you can begin to amend it. Most of us monks were unable to completely avoid complaining, comparing, and criticizing—and you can’t expect you’ll be completely cured of that habit either—but researchers have found that happy people tend to complain… wait for it… mindfully. While thoughtlessly venting complaints makes your day worse, it’s been shown that writing in a journal about upsetting events, giving attention to your thoughts and emotions, can foster growth and healing, not only mentally, but also physically.

Daily Calm with Tamara Levitt – Optimal Anxiety

Optimal Anxiety is the moderate discomfort we need to perform at our highest. With too little anxiety, we grow complacent; with too much, we can’t even step outside the front door, but with the right amount, we can risk, grow and thrive.  Even small changes expand our boundaries; keep in mind that while pushing yourself may feel uncomfortable, it also means that you are growing.

The best things in life are often waiting for you at the exit ramp of your comfort zone.  – Karen Salmansohn

Daily Jay with Jay Shetty – Sustainable Support

As the Buddhist Nun Pema Chödrön once said

Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”

Compassion is about holding a supportive space for someone and being present with them without getting attached to their issues. And if you discover that you are overly involved, it is about creating a little separation.  When someone is struggling, be aware of how you engage; feeling for someone is natural and good, but don’t try to heal them. Go ahead and lend assistance but try to keep a healthy distance.

Daily Trip with Jeff Warren – The Inner Child Project


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All the best in your quest to get better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion

Lifelong Learner | Entrepreneur | Digital Strategist at Reputiva LLC | Marathoner | Bibliophile |

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