Why stopping is just as important as starting.

“You can have everything. Just not all at once."

The famous quote from Oprah summarises the concept of this blog post. We all have stuff we need to stop doing in order to give ourselves the capacity to start doing the good stuff.

We spend so much of our time planning what we are going to do next, setting goals, committing to things, that we often forget that we need to stop doing the things that no longer serve us.

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We often believe that we have an unlimited capacity, a limitless and infinite ability to do it all, and, whilst we are pretty amazing creatures, that’s simply not true. Think of life like a supermarket. You have a basket to put in some really amazing stuff, but when you look down you find your basket is full of boring, terrible items you never intended to buy. To make room for the good stuff you truly want, you have to empty the basket so it can be refilled. That’s what I mean by stopping.

There are three steps to stopping and I’m going to take you through them…

Step One - Observation

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First of all we have to know what we are doing in our lives before we can change it, we need to become self-aware, we need to observe.

Lots of the things we want to stop doing have been with us a long time, some are pretty recent, some are really big behaviours, other things are smaller and have crept up on us over time. They could be practical things like stopping smoking, or more emotional & psychological things like stopping saying yes.

Take some time to think through the stuff you don’t like, the decisions that leave you feeling stressed, the situations that compromise your values, the activities that eat away at your precious time. Those are the things that may no longer be of service to you.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. What do I do that I (or someone else) tells me I ‘must’ or ‘should’ do. These are hot words and you can bet that this is baggage rather than your true heartfelt desires.

  2. If I stopped doing these things what’s the worst that might happen?

  3. If I stopped doing these things what else could I start instead? How would that make me feel?

Step Two - Bravery

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Change requires bravery. Sometimes the first small step may feel the hardest. Sometimes even the stuff we don’t like doing can be a weird sort of comfort blanket to us. Better the devil you know…

Have think about these:

  1. How can I make a first small step to changing this? Just one tiny thing will create a momentum and snowball into something greater.

  2. Who can offer you support? Reach out, connect and show your vulnerability, people will rally around you. If you need to find support investigate groups, online support or professional help.

For more on setting resolutions and goals that work read my last blog.

Step Three - Stop by Creating

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OK, so I know this sounds like a strange one… But you do stop by making changes and creating what you want. It's kind of like starting, but with the intention of letting go.

I dislike using negative terms and ‘I want to stop’ isn’t as powerful as ‘I want to start’. If I say to you “don’t think about a purple penguin” that’s all you can think about isn’t it?

So, I’m suggesting we stop things, but we use more positive words and intentions. Instead of saying what we don’t want, we say what we do want. You can be even more gentle too. You can think of it as letting go if stopping feels too harsh. Instead of stopping something, you are letting it leave you. The choice is entirely yours, as always.

Think about how you could turn your words around. How does ‘I want to stop being a push over’ turn into I want to be strong and confident in my choices’, or how does ‘I want to stop being fat’ change into ‘I want to be healthy and confident in my body’?

Play around with the words you use, if it helps write the ‘I want to stop’ bit out first. Then work on ways to change the intention or context, You will discover all sorts of hidden desires and needs by doing this.

You might realise that hidden under ‘I want to stop being in debt’ is really ‘I want to slow down and change my lifestyle appreciating the things I already have. Heck, I even want to develop a new set of friends that don’t judge me on what I wear or drive’.

Wherever you are at with letting things go, celebrate your desire to change and applaud yourself for all those actions you take - even the teeny weeny ones. Recognise that making a small change is a big deal.

Maybe, just maybe, we all need to stop waiting?


Kelly Herrick is a coach & collaborator who helps people access more freedom & joy. She is also the strategic lead in an international design agency, a painter and mum of two boys.

Please get in touch and let me know your thoughts. You can find me on Facebook or Instagram at @iamkellyherrick. Or through the website kellyherrick.com.