Stop Before You Start


I recently posted about the benefits of gratitude practice for building well-being and enhancing performance, and some ways to get that going. Loyal reader Judy made this observation:


I am wondering what your gratitude practice is like.


I ask because you often offer that lovely dose of "not always Miss Sunshine" that allows you to both recognize helpful tools and be aware that they may not be for everyone.


Sometimes I feel like there are a large number of small things that people could do every day to make their life better and if you did all the 15-minute workouts, gratitude exercises, quick beauty routine, and mindfulness moments it would take more than an entire day to do them.


I am thinking about how we pick and choose so that we "walk the talk" and also don't spend our days doing these routines but rather live our best self lives.


Thank you to Judy. What a great point!


I realize that my last few posts follow the stock-standard self-help recipe: describe the problem, state the answer - in this latest case, get grateful! - and prescribe some solutions. Yet, like Judy so aptly notes, doing everything I suggest in all my musings could actually make things worse.


Worse in the sense of adding on yet another obligation that I can beat myself up for not achieving, or in adding another routine to my day, stretching me even thinner than I was before, thereby decreasing rather than increasing my resilience.


Either of those outcomes would suck and be the opposite of what was intended. Yet how many of us well-meaning go-gooders get caught up on the ever-increasing treadmill of activity? Gritting our way to completion of yet another routine or program, only to be casting our eyes out ahead to The Next Good-For-You Thing?


Two things I have learned that seem relevant to this conversation: Stop and Do Only What You Need.


The Stop. I talk about this in my book (product mention here: my first book, When Grit Is Not Enough, is due out on 15 November!) - - how hard it is to STOP doing things. But stop we should when what we are doing is actually, when we look at it, hurting us. I have managed to stop some of my biggest time kills by opting out of Facebook and eliminating notifications on my phone. I have yet to slay the Internet which is the source of many a black-hole excursion when I really should be working on, well, my newsletters, for one. :). But Internet, I’m coming for you!


Stopping the things that undermine you or kill your mojo is critical. Paradoxically, I have to stop working for so long at one stretch, that is, if I want to soothe my ever-cranky back, which means starting to take more frequent breaks. So this is more of a “stop to start” tip.




What should you be doing less of, and even stopping altogether? What, if you gave it up, would make your life better? Make performance easier? Your days even marginally happier? Give you more energy? Give yourself more time (to do the actually good stuff, like that gratitude practice, or even meditating?) Maybe it’s something simple and straightforward (though not easy to stop doing) like salty junk food or too much sugar. But maybe it’s more insidious like the Twitter doom scrolling or, if you are like me, the answering of yet another product’s feedback form.


In so doing, in finding and executing the stop, you’re creating space.


Space for doing nothing…or for that something you really want to or should be doing. But in the spirit of today’s message, be VERY careful and discerning about what you add back in—if anything—or you risk just creating another activity treadmill.


Doing [only] what you need to do. And no more. Getting back to Judy’s question about my personal gratitude practice, my version is extremely informal and short. I don’t keep a journal or write letters. When I’m outside, usually walking the dog, I look around and see what there is to see in nature, and then do a random (and did I say short?) accounting of what I am grateful for at that moment. And that’s it.



But I feel like that’s all I need to do, which is different from all I could do. In the “do only what you need” strategy, first, you identify what it is you need. Looking at Judy’s incomplete list of those must-have 15-minute routines, for example, I am well and truly over needing any particular beauty routine. Scrape off the sweat and grime, put on some tights, and that’s my morning routine. I feel lucky in that I find gratitude comes pretty easily to me, so it’s not something I have to work on…much.


Second, as you add in what’s important, don’t look at it as something “extra” to do. Consider how you can, perhaps, fold it into or next to something you are already doing. Note my gratitude/dog-walk hack. That’s what James Clear, author of Atomic Habits calls habit stacking.


What do YOU need more of? Don’t do everything, only add in what is necessary for your mental health and well-being.


If you struggle with knowing what to stop, or how to get off your overly gritty treadmill, I can help!


Don't forget to ping me with any questions about making performance more frictionless. I'd love to have a crack!!


Cheers,




P.S. I am sharing some pre-publication snippets of my forthcoming book When Grit Is Not Enough onLinkedIn. November 15 is publication day!! If you are interested in pre-ordering, or receiving a sample chapter, drop me an email!




P.P.S. In case you missed my main message :), I believe that high performance shouldn't hurt people. I provide individual and group coaching on achieving the performance goals you want without hurting yourself or your people in the process. In ways that are healthier, happier, and more sustainable. If you want more information or have questions, you can reach me at kirsten@kirstenpetersonconsulting.com.



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