The Habits You Stop Are More Important Than the Habits You Start

People pick up oodles of habits just to taste success. We wake up before God, start planning, adopt new routines—we even spend tens of thousands of dollars on seminars and personal coaching. But how much of it actually makes a difference?

In my experiments with lifestyle design, I’ve found that what I omit is tenfold more important than what I commit to. Because a person can say they’ll do x, y and z. But if their time and focus is wasted on bad habits, they’ll be hamstrung—and only feel worse for not sticking to what they know is best. I’ve been there.

Falling Back Into the Wrong Habits

Several months ago I was rolling in it. After a few whale clients, I was having fun making money and doing what I loved. I’d worked like a mule to enjoy the fruits of success, and I’d disciplined myself to stick with the right habits. But there was a small hitch about my latest gigs…

I had to check email every morning.

In order to reach any success, I had to cut out all reactive habits (like email and social media) so that my daily routines boosted my confidence and productivity. I’d made a career by refusing to check email. But, for the month of large projects, I was fine with breaking my routine. I still did work I was proud of; I still ended the day feeling accomplished and successful. But the bad part happened after that month ended.

Even though I had absolutely no need to check my email first thing, I kept doing it. And since I didn’t have an all-day project to jump in to, I’d check it again before I’d done any work…and again…and again. And after email checks got boring, I’d jazz it up with a little Facebook, and some Twitter. Doing the wrong thing just gets easier and easier.

Of course I rationalized it, feeling that I needed to respond to comments on my articles and posts. Then I’d progress naturally into texts. And finally, I’d resort to unabashed Internet surfing, thinking it was okay since the day was practically done anyway. And then the day was over. Poof. And then the week was over. Flash. And then half of the month was gone without my having done anything that could even come within a fathom of the term “accomplishment.”

I was crushed. A month before my confidence was at an all time high. Now? I’m no bigger than an amoeba on a wart on a frog on a log.

How I Got Out of My Rut In 10 Minutes

I started waking up in cold sweats at three am. I felt my grip on success slipping; and because my days were zipping by so fast, I started to panic. I just couldn’t get any traction. That all changed on a Sunday night.

Again, I found myself up in sweat-drenched anxiety during the witching hour. I tried reading to get back to bed, and meditation, and visualization. This problem wasn’t going away. I’d had the inchoate feeling that I needed a drastic change, but I wasn’t willing to part with the comfort of my new routine. Not until now.

So I grabbed my journal and I wrote down the thoughts I’d been feeling and ignoring: I am disappointed in myself. I’ve let myself down. I’ve stopped doing good things for myself–just the plain truth.

Then I reflected on the most important question: why?

And before I knew it, the answer was staring me back in the face. I’d abandoned all of my winning routines. And I’d slowly given a foothold—and then a stranglehold—to all the habits that defeated me.

The Habits I Gave Up to Be Successful

My two weeks of misery were over in an instant. At 3:30 in the morning, I made the split-decision to quit Facebook for a month; to check email only once a day after four hours of real work; and to limit my texting to one round in the evening.

These had all been my primary sources of comfort in the past week. But, paradoxically, they’d brought on the greatest anxiety and discomfort I’d felt in several years. So I sacrificed them without hesitation.

Working back into my normal creative routine wasn’t exactly easy. I had to deflect a thousand niggling thoughts like, “Ah, come on…one little email check couldn’t be the end of the world, could it?” But I persevered. And by the end of the day, I’d written my first real article in over two weeks and accomplished a dozen back-burner necessities that I’d abandoned in my hiatus. I went to bed that night feeling an overwhelming sense of pride. And that was a feeling I wanted to replicate.

Within the next week, I’d managed to secure $5,000+ in new business—which was double what I’d made in any week before. Good habits have made me successful. But I wouldn’t have room for the good if I hadn’t eliminated the bad.


So what’s holding you back from the results you want? It’s not a lack of good habits, I can tell you that. It’s the little things that you’ve probably made excuses for over the past weeks and months—like Facebook, or binge drinking on the weekends. You know you best. But when you do figure out that one or those several little things, plan against them. Write them down. Then make a decision to cut them out of your life over the next month. You will be amazed at your success.

And if you need help along the way, check out my coaching package. 

Written by Daniel Dowling
Hi! I'm Dan, founder of Millennial Success. When I'm not getting six-packed--that's "hit in the face" in beach volleyball--or reading Jane Austen's novels for the fifth time, I'm helping people make every day a breakthrough as a writer and coach.