Find Happiness in Life: 50 Things to Stop Doing Forever

“To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.” ~Henri Bergson

One of the benefits of being a life coach is learning from your clients.

Although I’ve been trained to understand the concepts and actions that undermine our happiness and personal growth, there’s nothing like watching someone reach that “ah ha” moment and begin to transform their lives.

Not only is it profoundly gratifying to be privy to these moments, it helps meΒ  examine the areas in my own life where I’m stuck in old routines and behaviors that aren’t serving me.

Often, we don’t even realize we have other options in our perspective, beliefs, and actions, until someone leads us to a new way of thinking.

Our routines and behaviors have become so ingrained, and even addictive, that it is often impossible to identify them as the cause of so much of our frustration and suffering.

I firmly believe that there are some “universal” shifts that everyone should make in order to live a life of integrity, balance, fulfillment, and joy. These shifts aren’t always easy to embrace, but the first step toward change and growth is always self-awareness.

Here are 50 things to stop doing forever in order to shift your life up to a more profound level of happiness.

You may not agree with all on my stop doing list, but I invite you to ponder these suggestions over time to see if awareness might lead you to a new approach to your life.

I have completely stopped . . .

1. Struggling. I don’t resist or fight against life or even “bad” events. I go with the flow and make the best choices I can in the moment.

2. Doing things because I “should.” I am not motivated by guilt but by my own adult decisions about what is best for me.

3. Delaying solving a problem. I face the situation squarely and handle it as quickly as possible so it doesn’t cause me anxiety.

4. Tolerating crap from other people. I no longer hang around with people who diminish me, drain my energy, or treat me poorly.

5. Creating or tolerating drama in my life. Even though it can bring attention and a weird sort of excitement, I know that drama creates negative energy.

6. Setting goals that I should achieve. I set goals that I want to achieve.

7. Trying to change people, especially my spouse or partner. I accept people exactly as they are or I get out. (This doesn’t mean you can’t ask for something you need from the relationship.)

8. Putting other people’s needs before my own. I recognize that unless my cup is mostly full, I can’t be available to lovingly give to others.

9. Creating mindless tasks. Life is too precious and beautiful to whittle it away on empty tasks just to feel like you are accomplishing something.

10. Putting work, money, projects, or television before those I love. Relationships are the most important thing in my life, and I act like it.

11. Spending money to fill a void. I seek to find the cause of my emptiness. I don’t try to buy my way out of it.

12. Beating a dead horse. If I see something isn’t working, I recognize it and move on.

13. Driving aggressively. I don’t need to express my power or my urgency through my car. I don’t tailgate, cut people off, or run yellow lights.

14. Gossiping. I recognize that gossip is my attempt at having power over others, and I release my need for that.

15. Trying to prove myself. I just am myself and live according to my own values and personal operating system.

16. Owning other people’s problems. I will support, listen, and love, but I no longer manage or invest myself in other people’s difficulties.

17. Manipulating people. I don’t have to go in the back door to get what I need. I ask directly.

18. Defining myself by my achievements or roles. I define myself by the actions and choices I make in every moment.

19. Dwelling on the past. I consciously live in the moment and focus my awareness on what is happening right now.

20. Reacting before thinking. I may not be able to control my feelings in every situation, but I can control my behavior.

21. Pretending I’m too old or it’s too late. I recognize this as an excuse for not trying.

22. Saying yes when I mean no. I am becoming a master at saying no even when I know it might upset someone.

23. Compromising my values. I know what my values are, and I completely orient my life around them.

24. Over-promising. I promise only 50% of what I can deliver, leaving myself space for change.

25. Allowing other people to waste my time. I take the necessary steps to educate or avoid them.

26. Accepting anxiety, depression or ill-health. I do everything in my power to restore my mental and physical health because I know good health is the foundation for a happy life.

27. Filling all of my time. I leave some time during the day completely open to just do nothing.

28. Focusing on the future. It’s great to set goals, but I enjoy the process as much as the outcome.

29. Believing I’m right. I recognize that their are many ways to perceive things and more than one way to handle situations.

30. Ignoring my intuition. I trust my instincts and listen to my own wisdom.

31. Accepting limitations. I assume I can accomplish or achieve something until it is absolutely proven I cannot.

32. Isolating myself. I know that it takes effort to expand my network of friends, and I see the value in that.

33. Fighting what comes naturally. I no longer try to force my life to be a square peg in a round hole. I go with the flow and strengthen my strengths.

34. Accepting boredom. I either find the beauty in the moment or I take action to create energy and enthusiasm.

35. Feeling guilty. I right any wrongs, I ask for forgiveness, I restore my integrity. Then I let it go.

36. Juggling. I don’t fill my plate so full that my life is out of balance.

37. Stuffing my feelings. I express myself fully, ask for what I need, and seek help to resolve pain feelings I can’t handle alone.

38. Behaving childishly. I don’t have to whine or have a tantrum to get what I need.

39. Having a chip on my shoulder. I have a lighthearted approach to life and don’t get my feelings hurt easily.

40. Controlling people or situations. I accept “what is” rather than what I think should be.

41. Waiting for other people to decide. I have the self-confidence to initiate.

42. Living beyond my means. I know that debt is an enormous energy drain and reclaiming that energy is far more important than material things.

43. Eating for emotional comfort. I recognize this when it happens and deal with the issue directly.

44. Taking other people for granted. I regularly express my love and appreciation to those close to me.

45. Fighting. I simply don’t fight with anyone any more. I calmly walk away from arguments until I can resolve conflict peacefully.

46. Over-thinking. I spend a reasonable amount of time contemplating a problem or decision. Then I get out of my head and take action.

47. Living below my standards. I am clear on my standards, and I live up to them.

48. Stagnating. I continue to actively grow and learn.

49. Seeking to fill my ego before my soul. I can distinguish between the two and place my priority squarely on soul-fulfilling actions and choices.

50. Assuming I’m not creative. Life itself is a creative act, and every day I can create myself just the way I want to be.

What have you learned about things to stop doing forever in order to expand your personal growth and happiness? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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93 thoughts on “Find Happiness in Life: 50 Things to Stop Doing Forever”

  1. Such a great post Barrie. This might be easier said than done though. I just wrote some of them on a board in my office so I do not forget πŸ™‚

    Have a good day,

    • You are right Anita — they are easier said than done. I could write a separate post on all 50 of these discussing how to implement them. But awareness is a first step. I think it’s great you posted some of them. That will keep the ideas fresh in your mind. Good for you!

  2. These are all excellent, Barrie. Each and every one. I have a good handle on some but have to keep them in mind, or some haven’t ever been an issue, but there are a few others I’m still working on. #24….I had a variation of that in sales training some years ago and have really had to work on it! Promise little, deliver much or at least have room for it πŸ™‚ Thanks for the reminders.

    • Hi Leah,
      I’m guilty of that one too. I think it’s part of the people-pleasing syndrome. We want people to know that we can really deliver, even if it means doing back flips. It is much more sane to manage expectations and then deliver more if you can. Love the title of your post, by the way!

  3. Beautiful post! I don’t think I’ve commented here before, but this is a great post that deserves some attention. Thanks for writing it. It boils down to this: Stop doing silly things, and always do great and amazing things…

    • Hi Gip,
      I am so glad that you have commented — welcome! Thank you so much for your kind words. Yes, we all love to do silly things. We still have that little kid inside of us that emerges every now and then!

  4. Very helpful list Barrie, I think the first thing I need to consider was that about tolerating crap from others! And I love this “To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly. -Henri Bergson

    • Hi Christy,
      So today is as good as any to begin, right?! I love that quote too. It fit perfectly for this post.

  5. I never ‘kill time’ anymore. Time is our only commodity and once killed, it cannot be resurrected.

    I will of course still plan time for ‘me’, to relax and recuperate but no more senseless tv watching or online game playing etc.

    • Isn’t that a funny expression — killing time? When you think about it literally, why would you ever want to do that? It’s like throwing away money or throwing the baby out with the bath water! We should cherish time as THE most valuable commodity! Thank you for your comments Sandy.

    • I haven’t had a TV since 1997. Best decision I ever made!!

      Oops…you said “should”… “we should cherish time” LOL! I’ve tried to eliminate the word should from my vocabulary.
      It is helpful when I cherish time as my most valuable commodity. It is less helpful when I do not.

    • Hi Caren,
      I think we all need to work on most of them at some point in our lives. Even when we are aware of them, it’s hard to control that “ego” part of us that wants to take over. But practice improves all things, right?

  6. I found your blog in a round-about-way, via a link from Facebook; I’m glad I did!

    Each of these 50 things is powerful enough “food for thought” that I’ll be munching for a very long time.

    Thank you.

  7. Great post, Barrie, thank you. Very helpful and so true.
    Some of it may be quite easy as long as you just keep it in mind. And some of it seems to be hard work . As for #16 – how do you support without managing? Or how do you stop managing without being rude? Would be so glad for an example!

    • Hi Juli,
      I’m so glad you like it. Here’s what I think in answer to your question: you listen when someone needs to talk without trying to “solve” it for them. You offer advice when asked. You encourage positive action. You gently remind someone that complaining without taking action to try to change the situation is counter-productive. You try to steer the conversation in a different direction when someone is trying to “suck you in” to their vortex of negativity. When you invest yourself too deeply in another adult’s problem, it becomes your problem. You can never really solve it for them anyway. Ultimately, we all have to be responsible for ourselves.

  8. Thank you so much, Barrie! This list is pretty much complete for me! I’ve printed it out and have put it up on our fridge for the whole to see and reflect on daily, as well as a copy in my agenda so that I’m constantly reminded of what is required of me to achieve my goal of living my life authentically and as peacefully as possible. You’re one beautiful person, Barrie, for sharing all of this with all of us! Big hugs to you XO

    • I am so delighted that this is useful for you Lynn. Thank you for your lovely comments — you are a beautiful person too! πŸ™‚

  9. Barrie,
    This is a really comprehensive list. I think you reach a point in life when you finally know who you are and come into your own – that’s when everything on this list is the truth about you. I believe this happened to me in my early 40s. Somewhere around that time I started to “get it.” My time here wasn’t infinite – time to make my mark and prioritize my time. My favorite tip is: Listen to your Intuition!
    (I do love all of them though – lol)

    • Hi Angela,
      I wonder why it takes us so long to “get it”?? I wish we came with better operating instructions! Yes, intuition is so critical to making the best choices and decisions in life. We could circumvent a lot of angst if we listened to it more.

  10. Hey Barrie what an excellent list kudos to you for compiling it! quite a few resonated but if I have to pick one number 41: waiting for other people to decide, yip you’ve got my vote, that’s one not to do.

    • Hi Stephen,
      Yes, we could wait forever to act when we wait for others to decide! Forge your own path and march ahead.

  11. Hi Barrie. Once again you have come up with a list of things that anyone desiring to maintain sanity in this hectic world should consider seriously. I agree with the whole list and personally practice nearly all the suggestions and strive to use the rest the best I can. I particularly like the one about ones cup being mostly full so that you can have something to share with others. I believe that you can never give others what you don’t have yourself.

    • Hi Murigi,
      Yes, that is so true. I found when my children were small that I was completely drained with no energy because I never made time for myself. I finally learned I could be a much better mother when my tank was full. Sometimes that feels selfish, but really it’s a necessity for a balanced, healthy life.

  12. Hi Barry, your timing with this list is perfect. Just last night i was trying to explain these things to a 17 year old with little headway and this morning its in writting.
    Thankyou, perhaps seeing it writen down will help them absorb the benifits important to them. Steve

    • Good luck with that Steve! I have a 17-year-old as well, and my advice is viewed as the blatherings of a talking relic! Maybe some of it sinks in. I’d love to hear what your teen has to say about the list. πŸ™‚

  13. Hi Barrie,
    That’s a big list! An old saying…..”Life is too short…” certainly applies. Do the stuff that you want to do, make the choices that are best for you and don’t create excuses. Thank you for explaining.
    be good to yourself

  14. Another dynamite article Barrie,

    Had I read this fifty years ago, I would have come away thinking, what a bunch of idealistic, self-serving tripe. We get too soon old…

    Now, at age 70 I read this and think, what a magnificent road map to becoming a well-grounded, happy, and successful person. No, most of us won’t master all 50 items in the article, but what a great ride the effort will provide. I truly hope that the youngsters out there will take this article to heart and not waste time simply pondering it’s significance!

    All the best,


    • Hi Jon,
      I guess age 20 is more about having fun than self-reflection. Most of us don’t start to appreciate these ideas until we begin searching for them — which often doesn’t happen until we’re well past 30! (Of course if our economy continues to tank, there might be a whole lot of soul-searching for the next generation!!)


  16. “4. Tolerating crap from other people. I no longer hang around with people who diminish me, drain my energy, or treat me poorly.”

    This is the one I struggle with daily. My daughter is the one who brings me down on a daily basis and she lives with me due to illness (hers, not mine). What a great list, though πŸ™‚

    • That is so hard Lynn — to live with someone who pulls you down. I hope you find a way to set some boundaries for yourself. Thank you for sharing.

    • Haa! That’s great Ken. You can put it in the water, but you can’t make them drink. πŸ™‚ People have to come to these realizations on their own, right? But a little reminder for all of us never hurts.

    • You’re absolutely right, of course, but a man can dream, can’t he? πŸ™‚

      There is just so much wisdom in this post. And I see so many people who would benefit so much from imbibing such wisdom and making it their own. I hope many more stop by over time and drink heavily from those things you have stopped doing.

      As for me, my biggest hang-up is #2. But then again, there seems to me to still be things I should do (play with my boy even when I feel like blogging, for instance), that act well to keep me living close to my values and responsibilities as a dad even when I’m at my weakest.

  17. I love reading your post. What I have learned to stop doing—to accept what is said as a fact. I open myself to people’s various views and opinions–take that and go within to determine if that is in alignment with my spirit. I find that sometimes we do not question what is said or what is done and are lead down a path that is not authentic with ourselves.

    • Hi Cris,
      That makes so much sense. Sometimes when people are so confident in their opinions, it’s easy to assume they know “the truth.” But that’s not always the case — our own intuition is the best guide.

  18. Fantastic List. I’ll be spreading the love on this one for sure πŸ™‚

    As far as number 50, I can usually get a good laugh out of my clients when they say they are not creative. I wait for one of those moments when they realize they had this big story to explain someone else’s behavior with no evidence whatsoever.

    When we realize how many stories we make up about people and situations all day long, it’s solid evidence that we are all incredibly creative!

    • Hi Paul,
      Thanks for spreading the love! I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. I agree — every moment of our lives is a creative act if we choose to create instead of react.

  19. Hello Barrie, Thanks for the tips you shared here, i really enjoyed reading and also thanks for taking your time to discuss it.

  20. I wouldn’t normally read through such a long list, but I’m glad I made an exception with this post Barrie!

    It’s a lot to take in, I really enjoyed it. I shall bookmark it for future reference!

    • Hi Benjamin,
      I’m so glad you did. It is a long list, but all of these just had to be included! Thank you for taking the time. πŸ™‚

  21. Great list – I made notes of several items for myself. Some times I feel like I go looking for more to add to my “to do” list … that’s the annoying perfectionist in me. But I do try to ask myself regularly if what I’m doing will get me to where I want to go/do/be and have no problem hitting that delete key when I need to.

    • I think we all have that problem Marquita. Americans seem particularly prone to over-scheduling and over-tasking. I was in Spain last year, and they shut everything down for several hours during the day. What a concept!

  22. Great post Barrie….I have one recommendation for you, and that is in regard to your goalsetting habits (item #6). I would replace the mindset of setting goals you “Want to” achieve with goals you “Will” achieve. I am a huge proponent of having an “I Will” attitude (and just blogged about this If you replace the words, “I can, I want to, or I should,” with,”I Will,” you are creating a productive and confident mindset. You will be unstoppable in your life’s purpose and vision. Your goals will always be achieved with committment to an “I Will” attitude!

    Thanks for the inspiration….Scott

    • You are so right Scott. Words are extremely powerful, and choosing the right words can make the difference in whether or not you achieve your dreams. Thank you for sharing that.

    • Elisa posted this list to her Facebook and I loved it, too! Also happy to have been introduced to your blog. Looking forward to reading more!

  23. Hi Barrie,

    I just discovered your blog and have been devouring it! I had to comment on #33: “I no longer try to force my life to be a square peg in a round hole.” This resonated so strongly with me – I feel as if I’ve spent my entire adult life doing just that! Well, no more…..wheels have been set in motion and I can’t wait for this ride. It’s about time…..


    • Hi Alissa,
      Welcome! I am so glad you like the blog. I know what you mean about the square peg thing. Once you begin to “fit properly” there’s no going back! πŸ™‚
      Please comment again soon.

  24. Hi Barrie, love them all. Had to laugh at 13, expressing my urgency through my car, fantastic! I’ve put the post in my browser’s reading list, to come back to every now and then.

  25. Any tips for how not to have a chip on your shoulder? I’m a pretty serious person, but I’ve been trying to change my thinking and be a little more lighthearted. I guess it kind of goes hand in hand with not having control of your feelings but control of your behaviour – my feelings may get hurt a little too easily, but I can choose how to respond. Thanks for the wonderful post!

    • Hey Kate, I’ve learned to not let my feelings get hurt so easily because I remind myself that life is so short. I think about what if I lost everything – house, job, money, girlfriend – “everything”. I’d just travel around the country with my best friend and all would be oke

  26. So many good points – It is really exciting, and I look forward to internalized quite a few. I think I’ll print them out and put them on the on front of my desk. Then I can pick one out at time, and really think through. Very nice, love your stuff. I’ve got to stop thinking of past years as years wasted.

  27. I have been driven most of my life to try and fulfill a sense of perfection. Perfectly clean house, perfectly beautiful yard…even perfectly completed professional projects even if at my own expense. No matter that therapy has helped me realize that this inner demon is most likely the result of dealing with an alcoholic mother and years of trying to avoid her rath by always being a ‘good girl’ – the urge is strong and I’ve had to really work to allow myself the freedom to let it be. Let the yard go one weekend. Let neighbors come help with dinner instead of doing everything perfectly FOR them (let me tell you, some of them were as ingrained in my servitude as I was!). I still like a clean house but here I sit, having coffee and reading blogs and my bed is not made and just might not be all day. That is success!!

    I believe age and wisdom has taught me most of the other life lessons you mention but because I did not pay enough attention to #8 when raising my kids as a single mom, I’m dealing with #4 and #7. My grown children are confused and angry but there is a time, even with your children, when enough is enough. I’m there and they are angry as hornets! πŸ™‚

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  29. It has taken me 60 years to get clear on my values and standards and to support them daily in my life. I have learned that to apply any of the points in this article I have to have strong internal boundaries. Be clear about your internal boundaries. By doing that and applying them, you raise your self esteem. Also you have the right to ask, even if you don’t get the result you want. That too raises self esteem. To be your own best friend you must have internal boundaries. You can’t just will yourself to have self love until you know what that actually means….it means setting your internal boundaries and upholding them. I used to read self love books but couldn’t translate that in to action until I felt good enough about myself. Only when I learned about boundaries that you actually have to β€œdo” did I truly understand self love and how to do it. Sometimes it’s a struggle but I absolutely know now what to do, I have instructions to follow in my life that demonstrate my own self worth. Go for it.


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