January 1 is often a time when people set goals and make plans for the next 12 months. However, it’s just as important to your health and happiness–as well as the accomplishment of your resolutions and goals–to think about what you’re not going to do anymore.
“We all have a million habits. Half of them are probably not great habits, but it’s important to understand which habits are blocking you from your important goals,” says consultant Robert “Bob” O’Connor, author of Gumptionade: The Booster for Your Self-Improvement Plan.
As you’re making your list of what you want to do in the New Year, don’t forget to also think about what you don’t want to do anymore. Here are seven habits to consider ditching when the door closes on 2017.
Striving For The Wrong Things
Many professional goals are designed to achieve traditional measures of success–a higher-ranking job, more money, or other trappings that tell people we’ve “made it.” O’Connor thinks that’s the wrong focus. Instead of focusing on how to be more successful, instead look at how you can be better at what you do.
“Success has often to do a lot to do with luck, and it certainly has to do with other people’s opinions, both of which are outside of your control. If you focus on excellence, you are focused on something that is within your control,” he says. So, work on your craft. Get better at what you do. Look for areas where you can improve and create a game plan to address them.
Saying “Yes” To Everything
Many successful people suffer from FOMO—fear of missing out. Say “yes” to opportunities, they reason. You never know where they’ll lead.
But, eventually, many get to a point where there are so many opportunities, saying “yes” to each of them actually results in diminishing returns, says Danielle Harlan, founder and CEO of The Center for Advancing Leadership and Human Potential and author of The New Alpha: Join the Rising Movement of Influencers and Changemakers Who Are Redefining Leadership. Instead of accepting every opportunity, take some time to think about those that will truly advance you toward your goals, she advises. And kindly say “no” to the rest–but keep the door open.
“I’m usually honest with people, and say, ‘In the spirit of practicing what I preach, I’m prioritizing opportunities that need A, B, and C criteria,'” she says. “People have been really respectful of that. Also, sometimes, they will come back to you with an opportunity that’s more appropriate.”
Ignoring Your Body
During busy times or when you’re very focused on your goals, self-care essentials like sleep, down time, nutritious food, and exercise are often on the chopping block, Harlan says. Doing so may be something you come to regret, she says. By undermining the very habits that make us more creative and productive, we are making it harder to get the work done well. Plan nutritious meals so you have the ingredients on hand, schedule exercise for a time of day when you know you’ll actually do it, and get enough sleep to keep your mind and body in top shape.
Being A Machine
Similarly, ignoring the need for breaks so that you can power through is actually undermining your ability to do your best work, says leadership consultant Tal Ben-Shahar, author of Choose the Life You Want: The Mindful Way to Happiness. Ben-Shahar, who taught Harvard University’s popular Positive Psychology and The Psychology of Leadership courses, says employees should make a point of taking regular recovery breaks during the day, and then have time to recover when they’re at home.
“Being ‘on’ all the time is not helpful for the individual employee, nor for the organization. More is not necessarily better. We need to recharge our psychological batteries. Creativity and productivity actually go down when there are no times for recovery,” he says. His formula: 15 minutes of downtime every hour or two, at least one day off per week, and a real vacation every six to 12 months. It’s also important to move. “Getting up every 20-30 minutes to take at least a dozen or so steps can contribute to better health, better thinking, and a better mood.
Confusing Emotional Intelligence With “Being Nice”
Consistently tolerating bad behavior from others isn’t being emotionally intelligent–it’s being a doormat. “Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and manage your own emotions and also to accurately read the emotions of others and respond appropriately. Oftentimes though, we assume this means that we just need to contain ourselves around toxic people and do what we need to do in order to keep them calm and happy,” Harlan says. Emotionally intelligent people assert their boundaries while keeping their cool.
Letting The Bumps Derail You
If you’re trying to accomplish anything worthwhile, you’re probably going to hit an obstacle or two along the way. Too many people give up when faced with those challenges. Instead, look at the challenges as part of the experience you’re meant to have and look for what you can learn from them to get better, says Lynette Renda, creator of the Motivate Me! with Lynette Renda podcast.
“There are so many highs and lows and I think that that’s all meant for us. We’re meant to learn from it and to feel it and not to take it so seriously—not to be afraid of it and just to keep moving forward with what truly means something to us,” she says.
Finding Excuses To Not Pursue Your Dreams
Renda was a school teacher when the idea for creating a podcast came to her. Then, she decided to travel to all 50 states to interview people about their passions. She holds up her own experiences and the risks she took to redesign her life as an example of what’s possible when you let go of fear and find ways to make your dreams happen.
Think about what you really want to do and find a way to move toward it. It may not be easy, but she says the stories you tell yourself about why it’s not possible are often not true. “You don’t have to stay pigeonholed in something,” she says. “We act out of two things—fear or love. You have to decide which one is going to drive you.”