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15 Things Everyone Should Stop Doing For A Better Life

15 Things Everyone Should Stop Doing For A Better Life

“The sculptor produces the beautiful statue by chipping away such parts of the marble block as are not needed – it is a process of elimination.”
-Elbert Hubbard

My desire to have a better life has been with me for as long as I can remember.  What I believed a “better life” would be for me in my twenties was very different than what I believe a better life is for me now thirty years later. In my twenties, a ‘better life” was focused more on the material things (car, house, clothes), which I believed would make me happy. In reality, looking back at me at 26 years old, those material things probably would have made me happy.

Now a ‘better life” for me is more about living my dream with lots of passion, lots of laughter and love, which of course brings happiness to me. Not a material thing in sight! Even though our definition of what a better life is can change over the years, the steps we take to how we can attain that “better life” doesn’t really change. As Elbert Hubbard said, a sculptor creates the beautiful statue through a process of chipping away the parts of the marble that are not needed. This process of elimination is what we need to take on board as we try to eliminate those things  that we do which prevent us from attaining a “better life for ourselves”.

The list of 15 things to stop doing has no order of priority – only you can decide which of the 15 things are the most important for you to stop doing.  Also, if you do want to create change in your life, get clear on the definition of what a better life is for YOU. This will help you identify the key things that you need to STOP DOING so that you can have a better life.

1. Stop overcomplicating your life. 

Complexity creates confusion and hides solutions in a haze of fog. It is very hard to be creative and innovative when you are bogged down with complexity and detail. Complexity will also prevent you from being open to finding the solutions that are often right in front of you.

 “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated”
-Confucius

2. Stop adding BAD stress to your life.

Being too busy, working too hard on things you really don’t like doing, striving for perfection, taking on more responsibilities because you think it makes you feel valued and ending up having too many things to do takes away time for you to JUST BE YOU. Bad stress is harmful to your health and I don’t need to quote all the scientific research that supports how harmful bad stress can be. To be blunt, BAD STRESS over a continuous period of time will KILL YOU – so if you are prone to creating BAD STRESS in your life PLEASE STOP. Figure out WHY you are doing this to yourself and change.

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Stress is not what happens to us. 
It’s our response TO what happens. 
And RESPONSE is something we can choose
-Maureen Killoran

3. Stop regretting your actions from your past, what you haven’t achieved and what you have lost.

The past is over and what is more important is where you are now and where you want to be in the future. All your past experiences, mistakes and failures in your life have prepared you for living your life in the present and in the future. Acknowledge your past and what you have learnt, then let the past go and move forward to the future

“Make it a rule of life never to regret and never to look back. Regret is an appalling waste of energy; you can’t build on it; it’s only good for wallowing in”
Katherine Mansfield

4. Stop saying you have NO TIME.

Whether it’s to be with a friend, to visit your elderly aunt, to watch the sunset or sunrise, to have a holiday, to read a book, to sleep peacefully, or to go to a funeral, our time is so precious and you will never know when you run out of time. With no time, you can miss the most precious and beautiful moments in your life. With no time, you will put off all the important things you know you should do however choose not to do because you say you have no time.

“Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have time,’ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to.”
Lao Tzu

5. Stop choosing to be fearful about the future, about making mistakes, about following your dream, about change.

Fear is paralyzing and it will stop you from making any changes in your life. Your limiting self beliefs will control your thoughts and actions and will fuel your fear. You must deal with these limiting beliefs and know why it is that you are so FEARFUL. Acknowledge your fear and act anyway and I guarantee you will feel liberated and free!

” Fear is a powerful force that somehow does not allow many people to get what they want in Life”
-David Schwartz

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6. Stop procrastinating about all those things you say you want to do but never get around to doing.

Whether it’s taking up a cooking class, learning another language, going back to university, following your dream, writing a book, taking drama or painting classes, go do it. Take a trip to Europe, go to the gym, get fit and lose weight. Figure out what is important to you and what makes you happy and then go do it. I especially love what James Surowiecki says about procrastination!!

“Lack of confidence, sometimes alternating with unrealistic dreams of heroic success, often leads to procrastination, and many studies suggest that procrastinators are self-handicappers: rather than risk failure, they prefer to create conditions that make success impossible, a reflex that of course creates a vicious cycle.”
James Surowiecki

7. Stop looking to others for your happiness because your happiness can only come from within you.

When you look to others to make you happy, it is a sign that you are not being true to yourself. It is a dangerous thing to do because we can convince ourselves that being with the people we love does make us happy, however that is only part of the equation to you being happy. The message is pretty clear “only you can make yourself happy” and its important to figure what it is that you need to do to be fulfilled and happy.

“The greatest gift we give to someone who loves us is simply to be happy”
-Robert Brault

8. Stop comparing your life to others because they will have a better life than you and you will always feel miserable.

If you are doing this, then please stop and focus on doing things that build your self confidence and self belief in you.

“Comparison is the death of joy.”
Mark Twain

9. Stop waiting for the right time.

Don’t wait for the “right time” for you to take action, to make the change, to leave your job, to follow your dream, to do what ever it is that you need to do to be happy and have a better life. There never is a right time to be courageous, to initiate change and chase your dreams. If you choose to keep waiting for the right time, accept that your life will pass by and you will never attain that life you desire. Choose not to wait and you will have that life you so desire. Very simple!

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“I have always, essentially, been waiting. Waiting to become something else, waiting to be that person I always thought I was on the verge of becoming, waiting for that life I thought I would have……. And through all that waiting, here I am. My life is passing, day by day, and I am waiting for it to start. I am waiting for that time, that person, that event when my life will finally begin”
Shauna Niequist

10. Stop running from your problems and taking the path of least resistance.

This is so easy to do. I use to be the Queen of Running away and looking for the easiest way out of a problem. However, I learnt over the years that the problem will come after you and will be waiting for you at the finish line. Running away from a problem or choosing the easy option does not give you a sense of achievement or make you feel courageous. Life is not perfect and its full of challenges, hard times and bad times. The challenges and problems we have in our lives have to be dealt with, and sometimes we have to be courageous and make difficult decisions.

You get hit the hardest when trying to run or hide from a problem. Like the defence on a football field, putting all focus on evading only one defender is asking to be blindsided.”
Criss Jami

11. Stop spending time with the wrong people as this will sap you of your energy, create friction in your life and get you nowhere.

This is a tough one to manage because there are times in our lives particularly in our work lives where we do come in contact with people who are not good for us. To stop spending time with the wrong people you may need to be quite strategic in how you manage the interaction with them. The goal here is to minimize the impact they have on your life. However, if you choose to spend time with people who are sucking happiness from you, then you need to remove yourself from these relationships. The relationship you have with these people is toxic and will only bring unhappiness to your life.

The worst regret we can have in life is not for the wrong things we did,but for the thousands of right things we did for the wrong people”
-Unknown

12. Stop focusing on what you DONT want to happen – focus on what you DO want to happen.

When you are focusing on what you don’t want to happen, it is a sign that you don’t know what you want in life and you are not committed to making the changes you need to make in order for you to create a better life. There is no desire, no motivation and no vision of your future. If you don’t have these things then all you will do is focus on what can go wrong and how bad it will be for you. Flip the coin – get your life vision sorted, get motivated and commit to making the changes you need to make to have a great life. Once again, its simple, but it requires work and perseverance from you.

Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside awakens.”
-Carl Jung 

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13. Stop trying to be someone you are not because you will end up confused about who you are.

You will end up doing things that will be in conflict with your value system. For a period of time you will be able to convince yourself that you have done the right things and you will have all the excuses lined up in your head as to why your actions or behaviour was justified. After a while the feeling of discontentment and unhappiness will rise to the surface and you will have a choice – either ignore it and continue with the feeling of discontent OR stop being that person that you don’t like being. If you stop being that yucky person your life will get better.

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

14. Stop putting other people’s needs before yours – spend time getting to know you and look after yourself.

If you are doing this then you are not taking care of your needs and you are being a martyr –  which may not serve you well. Being a martyr to me is about personal sacrifice for the benefit of others and that role is really only for people who have been ordained Saints! Not everybody is a Saint and it doesn’t mean that if you are not a Saint, you are a bad person. Ask yourself “why is it that I sacrifice my needs over those of others?”.The answer may be that, you believe that by putting others needs before yours makes you feel loved?? I read this wonderful book called the FIVE LANGUAGES OF LOVE  and it helped me get perspective on what I need to show and feel love. Here is the website – 5 Love Languages –  go have a look and figure out what it is you need to do to express love and to be loved,

“It is under the greatest adversity that there exists the greatest potential for doing good, both for oneself and others.”
Dalai Lama XIV

15. Stop beating yourself up.

No matter what it is, stop beating yourself up about not being great, not being perfect, being too fat, not being good enough, not being intelligent enough – just stop beating yourself up.

“Don’t beat yourself up for not knowing the answers. You don’t always have to know who you are. You don’t have to have the big picture, or know where you’re heading. Sometimes, it’s enough just to know what you’re going to do next.”
Sophie KinsellaThe Undomestic Goddess

Featured photo credit: Anita Peppers via morguefile.com

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Kathryn Sandford

Career Resilence Coach who is passionate about embracing change.

7 Things To Remember When You Feel Broken Inside 10 Things To Do To Change Your Life Forever If You Don’t Know What To Do Next In Your Life, Read These 5 Strategies For Those Who Still Don’t Know What They’re Doing With Their Lives, Read This This Is What I Did to Stop My Regrets From Keeping Me Awake at Night

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Last Updated on June 12, 2018

Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

A dysfunctional family is more than disagreement or constant arguments. Anything from plain neglect, to abuse and even verbal and physical violence is the everyday experience of those who are part of a dysfunctional family.

You know how this looks:

  • Parents constantly comparing children.
  • Siblings in conflict because of tolerated bullying.
  • Domestic violence.
  • Adultery…
  • And many others.

For all the members, this will mean emotional pain and even trauma; which, in case it doesn’t get resolved, will have a detrimental effect on the individual’s personality and development.

Needless to say, the younger members are the most vulnerable, but that doesn’t mean the parents are out of danger, as most commonly the parents play the roles of abuser-codependent, and in some cases, both parts inflicting pain on one another.

Most like to think these problems stem from deep-seated issues, and that therefore it’s pretty much impossible to deal with them.

This is only true for families not willing to do what it takes, for if only a single member is determined and knows how to do it, the whole family can do a lot of progress.

In this article, I’ll break down for you the basic steps of fixing a dysfunctional family. Although it may seem hopeless, it is possible to turn things around.

If you have ever felt in this position, or if you know somebody who is, this article is for you.

How to fix a dysfunctional family

In a few words the solution for a dysfunctional family lies in dropping the ego, focusing on the solution, switching blame for responsibility and doing the work as a unity, for the good of the whole family.

And this will accomplish things you once only saw as a dream.

Dropping the ego? Switching blame for responsibility? Doing the work? What does all this mean?

It’s simple. In a nutshell, it’s that which will allow you to turn a dysfunctional family into a functional one.

Let’s take a look at how exactly this can be done. And near the end we will also talk about what you can do in a dysfunctional family with cynical traits.

Dysfunctional families where not only problems are well-known, but also nobody seems to want a fix or openly decide to perpetuate the harmful behaviors. Such as the case of abuse and physical violence.

There is also a solution for these, it’s just not what you are expecting…

Dysfunctional… Or just average?

Most families are dysfunctional, though at varying degrees of dysfunctionality.

The milder cases, are just marked by “typical” comically-shrouded bullying or lack of interest in other members’ development or wellbeing.

You can know a family is dysfunctional if their interactions are anything different than cooperation, solidarity, care and support. But let’s get more specific…

A dysfunctional family is one in which members directly or indirectly suffer emotional and/or physical harm inflicted by other members of their family. Most commonly, perpetrated by the parents.

Even harmful actions as “passive” as neglect, which is inflicted by inaction rather than action, signifies a dysfunction within the family.

Dysfunctional families have conflicts such as:

  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Lack of interest and time spent together
  • Sexism
  • Utilitarianism
  • Lack of empathy
  • Unequal or unfair treatment
  • Disrespect towards boundaries
  • Control Issues
  • Jealousy
  • Verbal and physical abuse
  • Violence and even sexual misconduct or abuse

The link to productivity

You may think a dysfunctional family has very little or nothing to do with personal productivity, but you would be wrong in thinking this way…

If a person is not emotionally well, she will not be able to perform as desired, as the emotional harm that has been inflicted will hinder everyday performance in the way of inability to concentrate, lack of mental clarity and low levels of inspiration, motivation and discipline.

Having a functional family does exactly the opposite: It creates productive members with no emotional baggage.

How to turn it around

When you’re part of a dysfunctional family you know it. You can quickly identify in other members the behaviors and conflicts that create the dysfunction.

But just in case you’re having trouble telling functional from dysfunctional I will tell you the following:

One of the easiest ways you can recognize if you are in a dysfunctional family is to survey your won feelings.

We often overlook this, but have you stopped to ask yourself how you feel?

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As cheesy as it may sound it really sheds a lot of light on the subject.

What behaviors, actions and attitudes in your family you wish were better?

Do you think certain behaviors and actions from your family marked you in the past?

Sadly, we cannot go back to the past to correct it. But we can do a lot in the present…

Correction is possible

In order to fix a dysfunctional family, you must start by putting an end to the behaviors and actions that are affecting you.

Verbalize it.

All members of the dysfunctional family have one issue in common: They don’t put a stop to the harm.

Whenever you feel your boundaries being overstepped there is just one single word you have to remember: STOP.

This is the door to a better, more functional family, because after this, comes the fix.

But first you have to identify and make others know where exactly lies the problem.

So go ahead and fearlessly start with “Stop”, followed by your expression of dissatisfaction.

Putting it to work in real life

In real life it would be something like this:

“OK, stop! Every time you belittle me I feel you don’t care. I need attention and respect, and it is your responsibility as my family to provide them to me”

Or:

“Stop. When you compare me with my cousin it hurts, I feel like I don’t matter and that’s not ok. I ask you to stop doing it.

Or:

“Please stop. When you start yelling all respect is lost and it turns into a battle of who can do it louder. Don’t raise your voice and let’s work this out the way humans do”.

As you can see, here you start by putting a stop to the toxic behavior when it arises. And afterwards you verbalize why it’s wrong and what needs of you need to be fulfilled.

This is what you have to remember:

1-Stop.

2-Why it’s wrong?

3-What you need.

And this will also work well in case you need to do it for another family member.

It’s a family thing

A dysfunctional family cannot be fixed by one member alone.

Yes, a single member can initiate progress and be the leader of the change. But in order to completely become functional all members must contribute to the solution.

In other words, you will need cooperation…

So don’t be afraid of asking for it!

Approach your family member and ask to be listened.

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We sometimes feel our needs are “not that important” or we simply believe they won’t listen. But thinking like this would be like being defeated at an unfought battle.

You will be amazed by how much people listen when you voice your needs, especially if it implies showing yourself open, vulnerable and in need.

It’s not a free-for-all battle

In order to get your family to cooperate, first you must fix your individual relationships with every member of the family. Remember: Relationships are always between two people, and two people only.

No matter how complex, the quality of a multi-member relationship (like a family) will always depend on the quality of the individual relationships.

Once you have straightened the relationship with every member of the dysfunctional family you will be able to better communicate with other members and help in the betterment of their individual relationship.

And this is where we will talk about the fix itself. The one I mentioned in the introduction…

The method

1. Drop the ego

Wherever there is conflict there is ego.

You cannot fix a relationship where there is ego, because the ego will want to win. Always. Yours and the other person.

Ego craves control and satisfaction, and in many cases, to establish dominance.

What does this have to do with a dysfunctional family? Everything. Ego will interfere with every plan you have to fix it.

It will make people suborn and defensive. And it will also make them drop responsibility. This is why, the first step is to drop the ego.

After you make sure you are not going to allow your ego to interfere you must work to make the other person do the same. How? By speaking from the heart…

Tell the other person how important all this is to you.

Tell the other person that it’s not a matter of arguing, but just working things out together.

Point out how it is not possible for you to do it alone.

And ask for sincere attention without any desire of opposition, because what you are doing is by no means in the hopes of harming the other person, but just to better the relationship and stop the damage being dealt to you.

You will have to point out the mistakes you need corrected, that’s for sure. And that leads me to the next point…

2. Not blame, but responsibility

When talking about others’ mistakes we often use an accusatory tone. And that’s natural, it’s what things should be like if ego was not present.

But since we are all creatures of ego, this immediately brings the shields up. And then unsheathes the swords…

When we blame others they automatically enter a defensive state, and this only leads to a failed negotiation.

What you need to do is to shift from blame to responsibility. And even that will have to be done carefully!

Instead of telling them off or demanding change or complaining, calmly point what the problem with their behavior is.

As much as this feels contradictory, also make them feel understood. You know how difficult it is to accept a mistake, so just make them feel it’s no big fuzz… which does not mean it’s ok, but it takes tension off.

You will do something like this:

“Hello dad. Can I talk with you for a minute? I really need to tell you something.

I have been feeling pretty sad lately and I know this is something you do care about.

You see, whenever I talk about my accomplishments you mention something else that makes my achievement pale in comparison.

I know you don’t do this intentionally and I know you might have not realized this until now, but I want to let you know this really brings me down.

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It would mean a lot to me if you could stop doing it, and it would help better our relationship, because this has already forced me to distance myself from you. And I don’t want that, I want a good, healthy relationship with you”

What happened here?

We started off with making it something important, something that needs both time and attention. Then we openly show ourselves vulnerable, just as we are.

We also mention why he should listen, and shove our feelings there again, because they are important.

We describe the issue with no attachment and with no hostile intention. It’s just a description.

And then we take the blame off. Just before we assign responsibility without actually saying it.

You are not blaming him directly, but you are pointing out the inevitable fact that his actions are causing a dysfunctionality. He is now responsible for changing.

This is what “switching blame for responsibility” means. What comes next? Doing the work!

3. Doing the work

What would any of this mean if, in the end, nothing changes? Exactly, nothing!

This is why you must follow up with every change that needs to be done.

Do so in a manner that is not hostile. Bring it up in a casual manner, and emphasizing how you both reached an agreement and how that is important to the family.

If the person doesn’t follow up don’t hesitate to bring it up again, and tell them you feel disappointed that your honest try at it was not listened.

It may even be a subject in itself, and therefore the need for another conversation.

“When you go back to old habits it shows that you didn’t really care about what I said. But back in real life you just reinforce how much contempt you show towards me and my feelings.

I talk with you because I care. Because although it would be easier for me to just distance myself from you I rather do my part in nurturing this relationship.

But there is just so much I can do, if you refuse to do your part I can do nothing else.”

You need very clear and positive communication in order to make this work.

Love is all you need

You must remember that in order for a dysfunctional family to become functional, all the work needs to stem from love.

That is the single one requirement for all this to work: Love.

And what happens if it simply is not there?

What happens if, nobody is willing to do what it takes?

What happens if a member of the family refuses to change and is happy with the harm he or she is dealing?

There is only one thing you can do:

To break away.

Let’s be honest, people, especially adults, are very difficult to change.

There is a Jewish proverb that I love, which sums it up like this:

“We spend the rest of our lives trying to unlearn what we learned before we were 7”

If you find it very hard to change the very traits that make your family dysfunctional or if it’s simply impossible, you still have a card up your sleeve…

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Although nobody likes to beak away from family members, we must remember we have a responsibility with ourselves as individuals, before any relationship with anyone.

You have the responsibility of making yourself happy and free. Because you matter as an individual, regardless of any relationships you have, be it family, friendship or romantic.

Putting distance

So in case you are dealing with a family member who is simply unwilling to change take both physical and emotional distance.

What do I mean?

Learn, first, to take their damage in a detached manner.

Don’t let it hurt you further. Instead take a deep breath and distance yourself emotionally.

Don’t be attached to feelings such as “Why doesn’t she love me?” or “What did I do to deserve this?” or “If he wasn’t like that my life would be perfect”.

Simply refuse to keep participating in the emotional downward spiral and accept, even if it’s painful” that there is nothing you can do. Accept that even without that relationship you are whole, you are worthy of love and respect.

They are their responsibility and you are yours. So decide what is best for you.

Realize it only comes down to two possibilities:

I keep the relationship and therefore accept the abuse. Or…

I choose my peace of mind.

And don’t let your mind fool you. We often think that since we all are imperfect, we must take the good and the bad behaviors of people. And we are especially forgiving towards our family…

Well, guess what? We are also responsible adults who are aware and must own to their acts. Never excuse abuse or violence or transgression towards you or anybody else.

Choose your happiness and if possible, also distance yourself physically, as it will increase your peace of mind tenfold.

How to prevent it

There are two key concepts you must bear in mind in order to prevent the dysfunctionality of a family:

  • To be completely aware of one’s own mistakes and not allow them to impact others and…
  • To make sure our SO’s are also on the same channel before creating a family (i.e. having children)

Dysfunctional families are the product of irresponsible paternity, for the decades-long unresolved emotional conflict ends up surfacing in the family inevitably, and it will for sure harm those who least deserve it: Innocent children.

You may notice we went from talking about family, to talking about individual relationships, to talking about you. We went from “them” to “us” to “me”.

Why? Because in the end you have the power to fix a dysfunctional family. To correct the mistakes you have in yours and to prevent dysfunctionalities if you don’t have a family but plan to create one.

Priorities and clear thought

You may be part of a dysfunctional family, but that does not mean you are powerless or that you have to suffer the consequences.

You learned today how it’s all a matter of priorities and thinking clearly.

You learned that, if love exists, everything is possible. You learned that even when there is no love and no fix for your dysfunctional family, there are still things you can do. It’s a matter of choosing your peace, because you deserve it.

Everything will be better if you apply this knowledge. If you talk to that problematic family member. If you help them see the harm they are doing. If you make sure they do change and treat you the way you need to be treated…

If you choose yourself over that toxic family member. If you refuse to justify the harm that others can do to yourself. If you realize the most important relationship you have is with yourself.

And lastly, that you also have to be aware of your actions and be open to criticism. Because we might be unknowingly harming others. And that would be us creating a dysfunctionality. Don’t allow it to happen.

Dysfunctional families are not impossible to fix. It just takes love, cooperation and responsibility.

But if you tried and those elements are not present, just choose yourself instead.

Featured photo credit: Photo by Juliane Liebermann on Unsplash via unsplash.com

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