Stop Before You Start

Avoiding Bad Habits that Die Hard with Warren Buffett (The Secondhand Inspiration Project)

Photo by Manan Chhabra on Unsplash

The Secondhand Inspiration Project begins with a motivational quote and ventures wherever the creative path meanders.

“Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.” — Warren Buffett

Like many overachievers, I’m a personal improvement junkie.

I study self-help articles and books like an addict, searching for a high that will never be enough. I try new methods and worksheets. I tinker with to-do list methodologies and personal mission statements. Meditation, mantras, diets, inbox zero, crazy workout routines — I’ve tried them all in the pursuit of trying to transform me into an even better me.

During this borderline insane quest for the next method that will optimize Me, Inc., I’ve noticed something — there’s an abundance of advice on things you should try, but not as much on what you should never do.

A huge part of self-improvement is becoming wise and mature enough to avoid making poor choices. Passing up shortcuts. Sidestepping self-sabotaging behavior. Walking away from things that feel wrong instead of warping your moral code to make them seem right.

Instead of crafting yet another inventory of lofty goals and unrealistic habits, I took a step back. I developed a list of fifteen habits I never want to start. It’s clearly influenced by the drama that I’ve experienced. Although snarky, it subtly provides a valid road map of personal compromises that I don’t want to make.

At the risk of oversharing (see #4), here’s my personal catalog of behaviors I want to avoid:

1. Being late.

2. Slouching while walking. Slouching while sitting. Slouching in general.

3. Fingernail biting.

4. Telling friends and coworkers every detail of my life. I don’t want to overshare, whether on social media or in real life.

5. Not washing my hands before eating. This has never been an issue for me, but I never want to start slacking on hygiene.

6. Thinking about toxic people.

7. Using filler words when I speak. Those “likes”, “ums”, and “uhs” can cause people to judge me, right or wrong.

8. Surfing the web or texting while driving.

9. Saying “yes” when I mean “no.” I shouldn’t agree to bullshit that doesn’t align with my goals.

10. Skipping meals to lose weight.

11. Not accepting help when it’s offered and trying to do everything solo.

12. Trying to finish books, movies, or projects that I don’t enjoy…just for the sake of saying I completed them.

13. Complaining too much at work (find a new job if it’s really that bad).

14. Interrupting people while they’re talking. Even if they are wrong. Wait until they stop or pause before responding.

15. Carrying a digital leash 24/7/365. Put that smartphone away whenever it’s feasible.

By creating a list of taboos, I learned a lot about myself. And though I’ll never completely abandon my quirky practice of diving headfirst into self-help fads, having a list of no-nos is a useful starting point for future personal development — I must avoid these behaviors as I attempt to assume my final form.

My list might be petty, irrelevant, or just plain worthless to somebody else with a different set of life experiences and goals. So, what would be on your list of habits to never start? And what do these things say about you?