The best way to stop a destructive habit or behavior is to simply stop doing it. Yes, that may be easier said than done, but it is a good place to start.
Whatever you are doing that is causing you pain and suffering, hurting others, keeping you stuck, affecting your job performance, ruining your relationships, or damaging your body. . . STOP IT!
Ask yourself: Who is in control of me? Who controls my mind, my thoughts, and the words that come out of my mouth? Who is responsible for my actions?
While others may have influence over our behavior, the ultimate responsibility for the thoughts we choose to embrace and the words we choose speak lies within our personal power and agency. How we choose to see every situation and the resulting action we take, is ours to account for alone.
When you recognize you are thinking, speaking, or acting in ways that are destructive, then take immediate action. Maybe it’s enough to simply stop doing it or perhaps it will require establishing new habits.
But, the most important step to eliminating destructive behavior is to STOP IT! Another step is to look for the root of the problem. What caused the behavior in the first place? It may have begun with another’s behavior or it might be something you have always done, but when you examine the behavior with curiosity rather than judgment, you will begin to see better ways of behaving and then you can create a new plan. When empowered with compassionate awareness and strength of mind, you can begin to behave in better ways.
Let’s look at a few examples to help you get started:
Let’s say you find yourself gossiping at work about a co-worker. Perhaps you didn’t even start it, but you joined in. Later, you feel bad when you see that person or, worse, what you said gets back to your co-worker, damaging your work relationship. Gossip is destructive, so you determine to STOP IT. When someone around you begins to gossip, you can choose to quietly walk away or, even better, you could tell them you always feel bad when you talk about others, so you would rather not participate. While it might irritate them at first, you may actually end up gaining the respect of your co-workers and might even influence them to think twice before they gossip.
You find yourself repeating the same, sad stories about your past to others, maybe even the same people. It has elicited sympathy in the past, so you keep repeating your grievances. While listeners may look at you pitifully and offer words of comfort, eventually they run out of ideas and patience, and begin to avoid conversations with you altogether. Or worse, they join in, continually berating your ex (or mother-in-law or spouse) and confirming that you are, indeed, a victim. This belief will never empower you. Ask yourself: Has telling these sad stories ever truly benefited me? In what ways? In the end, they are more likely to keep you stuck in victim mentality, so simply STOP IT. Stop telling the old, sad stories. Instead, determine what you believe is possible and move forward to create something better.
Perhaps, you habitually look for what others are doing wrong and feel you need to let them know in no uncertain terms. While your criticism may feel justified, it will not strengthen relationships or cause others to want to change, so STOP IT. Stop criticizing. Stop looking for the faults in others. Stop beating your own self up, because you likely do. Look for the good in people and determine to be an encourager. It feels much better!
There are many other examples. Scan the text in bold to see which, if any, apply to you:
- If you catch yourself lying to yourself or other people, stop it. Self respect only comes from living in integrity. Be honest, it truly is the best policy.
- If you eat terrible food when you’re stressed out, stop it. Find healthier ways to eat and use proven techniques to help relieve your stress. Gaining 50 pounds will likely only serve to increase your stress. Find healthy substitutes. Love your body and what it does for you. Seek loving support.
- If you procrastinate, stop it. Make sure you are clear about why you do anything and determine if it is truly necessary. Make a list, manage your time, and keep commitments to yourself and others.
- If you spend more than you can afford, stop it. Live within your means. Get out of debt. Look at ways of increasing your income. Budget. Plan. Save.
- If you’re trying to escape stress and anxiety through smoking, vaping, drugs or alcohol, stop it. It’s not good for your body or mind. You are giving away your personal power and, perhaps, even your ability to choose to a substance. Allowing your mind to be altered and possibly even losing control is subjecting yourself to further physical, mental, or spiritual harm. Believe in your ability to cope. Become resilient. Face stressful situations with courage and fortitude. Practice mindful meditation and other stress-relieving techniques. Reach out to others for help and support. You can do this!
- If you try to control and manipulate others, stop it. Ask yourself if fear is your motivator. What are you trying to avoid? The only person you can effectively manage is yourself. Trying to manipulate others will damage relationships and cause others to disengage. Instead, choose to lead, inspire, and encourage. Love others. But, respectfully allow them their freedom to choose and act for themselves.
- If you love to create drama, stop it. Learn to manage your emotions. Seek peace. Get to the root of the addiction to drama. What is the emotional payoff? Learn to be calm and respectful of others. Be cooperative and find positive ways to engage with others.
- If you are a control freak, stop it. Not only will you drive yourself crazy, but you’ll drive everyone else crazy, too! Find joy in creating your best life. Relax. Recognize what is important and what is not.
- If you are abusive in any form, stop it. Stop it now. Stop it forever. It will do nothing, but break hearts and destroy relationships. Turn from it immediately. Repent. Seek help from God and from mental health professionals. Find peace in making things right. Humbly accept the consequences of your trespasses against others. Forgive yourself. Forgive those who have trespassed against you. Apologize. Breaking the chains of abuse will free you and others of destructive patterns. Honor boundaries. It’s going to take time to earn trust, so be penitent and patient.
- If you are accepting abuse in any form, stop it. Say “No more!” Walk away. Get help and support. Find healing. Establish healthy boundaries. Learn to love yourself and to expect better of others. Forgive yourself for allowing abuse. Find a way to forgive your abuser. But, remember, forgiveness doesn’t mean trust. Trust has to be earned. Forgiveness simply allows you to let go of the poison of anger, bitterness, and shame.
- If you assume you know what other people are thinking, stop it. You can’t truly know what anyone else thinks or feels. You can’t read their mind or look into their heart. If you want to know, ask and listen. People don’t wake up in the morning wondering how they can ruin your day. They are often caught up in their own thoughts about their life and trying to get through it. Unless you have walked a mile in someone else’s shoes (and really not even then), you can’t possibly know what another is thinking and feeling. Focus on your own life and those things that are within your own sphere of influence.
- If you expect others to read your mind, stop it. No one wins. You are setting everyone up for failure. No one is a mind reader. Ask for what you want. State your expectations in relationships clearly. Be direct, but not demanding. Give others the benefit of the doubt. But, in the end, recognize that you are responsible for your own happiness.
- If you are spewing hate, stop it. It’s mean, it’s ugly, and it destroys. Hate, in any form, is destructive and it will always come back around to you. Stop attracting more negativity. The antidote to hate is love. Learn to love others. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Be open to all views and perspectives. Look for the good. Wish your enemies well. Bless them that curse you.
- If you constantly put yourself down, stop it. We teach people how to treat us. Treat yourself right. Be kind. Be your own best friend. You matter. See yourself as you would a child in need. Be caring, be loving, be supportive and others will follow your lead.
- If you consistently focus on the what might go wrong, stop it. Worrying is fruitless because it steals joy from the present moment. Worry is always about a future unknown. Don’t get caught in this negative downward spiral. You see what you seek. So look up! Seek the good. Look for goodness. Trust God. Whatever you are looking for, you will find it.
- If you find yourself taking other people’s actions personally, stop it. What other people say and do is their stuff. How you respond to what other people say and do is your stuff. Focus on your stuff. The rest is their stuff and there’s nothing you can do with that. Move confidently in the direction of your dreams. Let others be who they are.
- If you often feel envious of others and covet what they have, stop it. You will never attract more good to you if you envy other people having good. Bless others that have what you want. This sends a signal to the universe that it’s ok for you to have blessings, too.
- If you are constantly looking to find fault, stop it. It serves no purpose, but to offend. It’s also indicative of an insecure person, needing to build themselves up by tearing others down. Look for the good in others. Believe that everyone is doing their best. Be kind to yourself and others.
- If you are constantly criticizing and condemning others, stop it. Who are you to judge another? I haven’t met one perfect person yet. Do you want a heart at war or a heart at peace? Stop looking for the mote in other’s eyes when there’s a beam in yours. Be kind, be encouraging. Look for the good in others.
- If you resent other people’s happiness, stop it. Bless them and go make your own happiness.
- If you compare yourself with others, stop it. You weren’t meant to be anyone else. There is no one else out there like you. Be the best version of YOU.
- If you choose suffering over acceptance, stop it. Let go of the old hurts and offenses. Let go of unrealistic expectations. Acceptance will free you from worry and judgment. Accept that everything is working together for your good. Improve yourself each day and learn to find joy in the journey.
- If you are holding onto grudges, stop it. Let them go. Free yourself and others from the chains that bind us. Forgive. Forget. Move on.
- If you are waiting for the world to love you, stop it. Seek God and His Love. It is truly the only love that heals, restores, and makes whole. Receive His pure love and then love yourself. You’ll never lack for love again and you’ll be find joy in seeing others through the eyes of His Love.
The list is truly endless. But, you can see how the first action is to STOP doing whatever it is that is not serving you.
Stop sabotaging your life.
Stop judging, criticizing, and blaming.
Stop justifying poor behaviors.
There’s simply no GOOD thing that can come of it.
Seek for something better.
Today is a new day and you can choose new ways of being. Determine what it is that you want to do and stop doing things that make you feel bad.
You’ll be surprised to find how heavy a burden your habitual behaviors had become and how easily they can sabotage all the good you desire to accomplish. And, oftentimes, it happens unconsciously.
If you discover you have become your own worst enemy, take these two words to heart: Stop it! Love yourself. Believe that you are a worthy and deserving human being. You can do this! Now get to work, lovingly identifying every sabotaging behavior.
You can choose a new response to every experience in life going forward. You can write a new story.
Break the cycle of habitual negative behavior. Recognize it, stop it, take a moment to evaluate your options, then choose a better response that will bring you closer to the ideal person you want to become.