How to Stop so you can Start
Before you find your personal best, let go of your mediocrity. Determine what isn’t working and stop it.
Stopping is harder than you think.
- Fear of failure makes you keep working at what isn’t working, even when it’s failing.
- Wanting something to work may blind you to the reality that it isn’t.
- Failure to adapt causes failure.
- Pleasing others motivates you to keep doing what pleases them but displeases you.
- Belief in persistence – the hope that doing the same thing will yield different results. What if you stop one step from success?
Life is barren when you’re
living someone else’s dream?
Don’t stop when:
- It’s a matter of principle.
- It’s essential to the mission.
- It’s a matter of values.
- It’s a core competency.
- You lose who you are.
Suggestions for stopping:
- Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean you should stop.
- Examine the ratio of energy to impact. Stop low impact activities.
- Focus on your greatest opportunity to contribute. Stopping isn’t about selfishness.
- Follow your energy. What persistently excites you?
- Let go of persistent drain-points.
- Discern the difference between method and mission; adapt methods quickly.
- Talk to people who stopped and started again.
- Say what you want. Others may not like it. Realize they want you to do what they want you to do.
- Spend more time with those who want your best.
- Identify a new path before leaving an old one.
Bonus: Stop small.
Look around and honestly say what you see.
Suggestions for starting:
- Start now.
- Start small.
- Get advice.
- Adapt often.
- Start again.
Bonus: Run toward your dream not away from your nightmare. The difference is love rather than fear.
How can people stop effectively?
What traumatic stops have enabled your successful starts?
Timely, I stopped a project (this week) that I had given a year to… Took two months to stop! A minute to realize this was not working.. 60 more days to convince myself right to stop! …There is a complexity in the battle that onlly becomes clearer AFTER stopping!
Thank you Ken.
I feel some of the tensions of stopping in your comment. “But I’ve invested so much!”
Isn’t it true, things seem clear after we stop…dang that sucks.
Ouch. You are talking to me today.
I’m an olympic gold medalist at working hard.
I’m positively the Queen of Perseverance.
But working hard and working smart aren’t always the same thing.
When you are an “I’ll-just-try-harder-person,” it is hard to give up and let go.
Thank you Dauna.
ME TOO!! And the number one reason stopping is hard in the list above…is my personal all-time favorite!!
I respect your candor.
Dan, I think we have as much trouble stopping as we do starting, and usually relted to the same core issue, fear. Fear of failure, fear of success, what others are thinking, disappointing ourselves, etc.
The best way to stop is to first always be self-aware: aware of what you’re doing, what impact you are having, and to determine if you are adding value.
The second is to have self-accountability, but to also have people in your life who can speak truth to you (especially when its unpleasant) and you will hear and heed their voice.
Your final piece of advice is the key, though. Be mature enough and confident enough to put your ego aside, and be willing to start again.
I know that Albert Einstein was talking about a grander scale, but if you find that you are going through the same motions over and over, failing to make progress, and you choose to continue it, that, is insanity.
Thank you Martina.
I appreciate your insights. I’ll one up you, 🙂 … I think we have MORE trouble stopping than we do starting.
As a dedicated persister…self-aware was never as important as just keeping at it. I was talking with someone who is working on a life transition. After listening to them I said, it sounds like you are trying to hang on to something you want to let go of….
Agreed Dan. Especially during major life transitions, people would rather hold on to something than do not want, than move to a less sure future.
This is the perfect read for me at this point in time. As a teacher, I am just about to do my year long plans for the new school year. With that, I need to make decisions about what I will coach or supervise. I tend to overdo it most years. Hmmmm. It’s so hard to choose. Thanks for a perfect post! Every point is something I really need to be mindful of.
Thank yo Life.
You have my best wishes for a great school year. Thank you for building the future by teaching.
Dan, You know, just this morning as I walked the dog, I started a conversation with myself on this topic. My students last year did not progress at a pace to be successful for the year and what am I going to do about it for this year. Then, I came home and read your post – Thank you! I now have the framework to lead myself in a successful direction for this year’s work, not to mention a plan I can take to my principal that will demonstrate how I will help my students this year succeed. Thanks again. I am finding many nuggets of gold in your leadership posts! Diane M
Thank you Diane.
Wow, This post seems to really get traction with the teaching community.
Here’s to a great school year!
Your welcome, Anthony.
I wish I could say that I had completely overcome the idea that stopping and failure were the same thing. This in spite of the fact, that I have stopped in the past and it was absolutely the right thing to do. Rewiring the mind is not easy!
And your bonus “Run toward your dream not away from your nightmare. The difference is love rather than fear.” Powerful, powerful words that are now posted on my wall. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you Laurie.
What a great distinction… stopping isn’t necessarily failure. NICE.
Absolutely. I’ve been playing with this for years and have the same spin as you. And this applies organizationally probably as much as individually…
I refer to this as, “Stepping Back from The Wagon.”
In my view, people are pushing and pulling a wooden wagon rolling on Square Wheels. It works, but not smoothly or efficiently, but it works and the goals and expectations are all based on that operating paradigm.
The irony is that the cargo of the wagon is round rubber tires. There are plenty of ideas that could be tried, if only people would take the time to step back and look at possibilities. BUT, as you say, the old way works and it is really hard to actually STOP what one is doing to look for new ideas.
It is even harder to try some of them, even though we might know them for being better or best practices. There is the issue of how to implement, the possibiliites of failure, the moments when nothing appears to be happening and one is not actually making progress. The list goes on and on, and when one starts asking about how that organization might be operating from those hands on people at the back of the wagon, other things bubble up.
The view needs to be one of “sideways perspective” to do any sort of innovation or improvement implementation. But the View from The Front of the wagon is not the same as the View From The Back.
If one is working on the overall work of a workgroup, one must also generate some alignment to a new direction, or at least share a common goal and mission.
Yes, it is REALLY hard to get people to stop what they are doing and implement change of any type. People can also only choose from know alternatives, and we often do not even clearly see what those might be.
Sure is fun out there, making progress through continuous continuous improvement, a concept I got from the Department of Redundancy Department.
I play with these tools at http://www.squarewheels.com,
for the FUN of It!
Thank you Dr. Scott.
Always great to see you drop in. “Playing with these ideas for years…” I’ve been NOT stopping for years…it’s a new skill for me. I’ve only been playing at stopping for three years. I don’t want to be a quitter…I want to be a strategic stopper.
You make me think of the value of outsiders when it comes to seeing how things really are… If we could just listen. 🙂
“Strategic stopper” ..interestiing. 🙂
Fear of failure really can keep someone from stopping when they should. I’ve found myself holding onto things for too long. When I do finally let go, I tell myself that I should have let go a long time before. It causes extra stress and unneeded frustration. Thanks for this, Dan!
Thank you Joshua.
How many times have we thought…”I should have done that sooner.” Perhaps it’s “I should have STOPPED that sooner!”
Very good article, I must say. My little secret that helps me to stop doing something is to not get attached more than is necessary. The idea is not to confuse things – the project isn’t you, it’s just a part of you. Many invest very mush and when the question of either stop or go on even though it’s bad, they find it difficult to stop.
So, I try to detache myself from the project, to see if it benefits to me and others, to understand what the problem is and than adopt a solution. I am a solution freak.
Good luck to everyone! Kind regards, Dan!
Thank you Diana.
Boy your comment nails it. We, I should say “I,” tend to define myself by what I do…it takes some work…self-awareness…to let go of doing
Dan-this is a great post! Your ratio of energy to impact advice is excellent. That’s a great way for a leader to prioritize when they have too much to do but feel like they need to keep everything on their plate. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you Christian.
I always enjoy it when you stop in. I wonder if one of leaderships worst mistakes is dealing with urgencies while neglecting priorities.
I’ve had this little voice in my head nagging me to stop my current writing project. Even though I haven’t been actively working on it because I think subconsciously my mind recognizes the story just isn’t working for me right now, another part of me can’t stand the idea of letting it go. Without being able to say I’m working on this story, I don’t have anything to say I am working on, and that’s been scary until recently when I thought of another story idea based on my experiences visiting New York a few weeks ago. I’ve been thinking about working that idea into a story to take a break from the other one, and see where it takes me. The trouble is actually getting my conscious mind to say, “Okay, you’re not working on THIS anymore; you’re working on THAT.”
This is very nice and informative keep it up
Thank you for the great information. enjoyed a lot by reading your comment & Reply
So true!! I like to call it that moment when you realize your fighting the wave instead of riding it. That is when I know I need to stop and re-evaluate.
In our lives now, we all have more options than time. I know I have a set amount of time in a day. I’m pretty sure we all do. I find myself keeping keeping in mind, that in order to start something new, I have to stop doing something else. I need to do this especially if I believe the new thing will have more impact in my life than the old.
Thanks for the reminder.
To make room for new growth, it’s sometimes necessary to prune back the old. Stopping the activities that either don’t serve us, or no longer serve us, is that growth-enabling pruning made human.
PS: I thought you might enjoy this piece in Cathy Bergman’s leadership blog Dan. There’s a synergy in your thoughts this week!
I’ve sent Cathy a link to your blog as well.
Excellent post. Thanks for sharing such a great information.