There are a lot of things I want to do in this world. I have big dreams, big goals. My son is getting a little older and I’m going to have more time to do other things before too long. In order to get ready—to be ready—I need to make a list.

No, not a To-Do List: A Stop Doing List.

I’ve heard of lists like this in the past and have used questions that prompt me to let go of things that no longer serve me rather than add more things to do.

One of my favorite questions is simply: What am I ready to let go of?

So, here’s my Stop Doing List (the big and the little):

  1. Stop going to bed too late to enjoy the morning.
  2. Stop buying greeting cards.
  3. Stop trying to figure out how to get other people to approve of me.
  4. Stop apologizing for things beyond my control.
  5. Stop putting my running/swimming/yoga last on my list.
  6. Stop complaining (and start taking action.)
  7. Stop second-guessing myself and focus on what I know to be true.
  8. Stop watching TV except on Friday nights.

When I first wrote this list, each sentences started with “I’m going to stop….” But as I reread the post, I remembered that my brain is very concrete. If I say, (or write,) “I’m going to,” my brain knows that’s in the future so it doesn’t focus on what comes after the “I’m going to…” It’s not real, because nothing in the future is real.

But the statement “Stop going to bed too late…” is a command. My brain will heed this command, making it easier for me to actually go to bed at a reasonable time for me.

In Intro to Economics (the one and only economics class I ever took) I learned a really useful term: Opportunity Cost. No matter what I choose to do, there will be something I can’t do because of the choice I made.

If I spend my Friday night on the couch watching a movie, I’ve cost myself an opportunity—the opportunity to do whatever else I might have done with those few hours.

I’ve decided I’m okay with sitting on the couch and watching a movie on a Friday night, but on Thursday evening I want to use my time to read, write, or prepare a talk—or go to a yoga class. I often do those things anyway, but I’m going to ritualize it so I don’t have to make the decision every evening: If it’s Thursday, I can’t watch TV–so what else can I do?

If I wrote one page of the book that’s in my head every time I was going to sit down and watch a 30-minute TV show, I’d have the book written in a year. Which is much sooner than if I just kept watching TV. Now that I’ve articulated that, the opportunity cost of watching TV is just too high.

I think my Stop Doing List will help me become the person I want to be, doing the things I want to do in the world.

What are you ready to Stop Doing?