Stop Doing What Doesn’t Work

“Doctor, doctor, you’ve got to help me. Every time I bang my head against the wall, it hurts.”

“Well, stop banging your head against the wall!”

Why do some people make life unnecessarily complex? It doesn’t require a PhD to get the most enjoyment from life; all that’s needed is a little common sense. If it hurts when you bang your head against the wall, stop banging it! If what you’re doing causes physical or mental suffering, stop doing it.

We come equipped with a built-in sensor called pain. Whenever we’re experiencing it, it’s telling us we’re doing something wrong. Yet, rather than heed the warning, we often continue doing what’s wrong and then complain about the pain. Does that make any sense? Of course not. What does make sense, however, is to do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. Simple, isn’t it? It’s just a matter of doing what makes us feel good and avoiding what makes us feel bad.

If it’s so simple, why do so many of us end up regretting what we do and regretting what we neglect to do? Here’s a quick review of a handful of reasons why we keep banging our heads against the wall, despite the pain.

1. Habits. Habits are automatic responses. We repeat them without thinking. Good habits are powerful friends. Bad habits can lead to ruination. So, resolve today to start replacing bad habits with good ones.

2. Emotions. Emotions are like habits; they can act as an ally or an enemy. Emotions are what motivate us to act. And our actions will either lead to pleasant results or nasty consequences. So, it’s important to become AWARE of our feelings and where they will lead us. In other words, we need to stop and think before we act.

3. Beliefs. We are governed by our beliefs. If you believe you cannot do something, you cannot. If you believe you can, you can. Beliefs are in our subconscious. Most of them were implanted during our childhood and youth. You may consciously want to succeed, for example, but if you believe you are undeserving of success, your subconscious will see to it that you get what you deserve (failure).

The good news is we can do something about it. That is, we can reprogram our subconscious and change our beliefs. For an excellent manual on how to do so, see The Genie Within: Your Subconscious Mind -How It Works and How To Use It.

Yes, this clear, carefully thought out, and easy to follow book will teach you how to use the power of your subconscious to work for you rather than against you. Make your subconscious serve you as your personal genie rather than a prison guard..

A second way of eliminating negative beliefs is by RELEASING them, just letting them go. Sharon Marshall Cameron teaches you how in her book “Designing Your Hearts Desire,” available here. Sharon’s method is called the Cameron Method.

Another well-known method of letting go of our troubles is the Sedona Method. You can learn it with this book The Sedona Method: Your Key to Lasting Happiness, Success, Peace and Emotional Well-Being

4. Fear. Many allow themselves to become trapped by fear. It may be fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of success, fear of giving up pleasure for hard work, or other fears. The antidote to fear is to do the very thing we fear by living courageously. We need to constantly be stepping out of a comfort zone. Fear is a wonderful emotion, for it is the price we pay to experience exhilaration and joy, which are the rewards for doing what we fear.

5. Victimhood. This is a pernicious state in which some delude themselves into believing they are powerless to change. To comfort themselves, they blame life or others for their problems. The way out is to accept personal responsibility. The pain they’re in is a signal that THEY are doing something wrong; they need to stop blaming and start looking for solutions.

Doing What Works.

Let’s move on by considering ten things that work all the time for all people. When followed, these ten principles will help everyone to succeed. Later, you can add to the list by including specific actions that work for you, but may not work for others.

1. Take Action. Life is about movement. We either march forward, backward, or in place. The secret of getting ahead is getting started. Yet, this is the most difficult part of any task. You may not feel like doing what needs to be done, but if you go ahead and do it anyway, resistance will fade and later be replaced by enthusiasm.

Occasionally you may feel stuck and unable to move. If so, don’t accept inertia or allow it to overcome you. Rather, stimulate yourself to take action by asking a series of questions. Here are some examples: What do I want, to be powerful or powerless? Will doing what needs to be done make me powerful? Will avoiding what needs to be done make me weak? What do I CHOOSE to be, powerful or weak?

Also, you can ask yourself, “If I could eliminate my lethargy, what project would I start and what would be the first steps I would take?” After getting your answer, ignore your feelings of sluggishness and carry out the steps. Doing what needs to be done creates the energy to do it! First act, then energy, motivation, and enthusiasm will follow.

2. Take Care of Yourself. Paradoxically, we often neglect our two greatest possessions, which are TIME and HEALTH. All the riches in the world mean little if you are feeble and sick. Good health is the source of vitality and makes it possible to lead a fulfilling life. How can people in poor health cushion themselves from the storms of life? Without good health we become like rag dolls cast about in a hurricane.

Eat balanced meals and in moderation. Exercise regularly. And sleep 6~10 hours daily. As long as you awaken refreshed, you are getting enough sleep. Don’t neglect your sleep as your body needs it for rejuvenation. As Jim Rohn says, “Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” Because of the mind-body connection, our mental health is equally vital. To care for it, feed your mind positive thoughts and bathe it in cheerfulness while maintaining a pleasant disposition. Remember, too, as the Irish proverb says, “No time for your health today, will result in no health for your time tomorrow.”

3. Monitor Yourself. How do you know you are making progress if you don’t monitor your activities? Part of planning is taking the time to stop and evaluate how we are spending our time. Are we proceeding according to schedule? Have we prioritized our tasks and do we work on what’s important first? Are we learning from our mistakes and the mistakes of others? Swimming champion and Olympic gold medal winner (1984), Geoffrey Gaberino passes on this tip, “The real contest is always between what you’ve done and what you’re capable of doing. You measure yourself against yourself and nobody else.”

4. Do Your Best. Your strongest ally on the path to success is a good attitude. To make sure you have one, make Debbi Field‘s motto your own. Her motto is “Good enough never is.” Refuse to accept ‘good enough’ when excellence is possible. Make your creed or purpose in life to always do your best.

Do you want to win recognition, admiration, and respect? The shortest path to winning respect is to respect yourself. That’s exactly what you will do if you always try your best and make excellence your goal. Excellence means asking more of yourself than others do. Here is what Og Mandino had to say on the subject:

“One of the great undiscovered joys of life comes from doing everything one attempts to the best of one’s ability. There is a special sense of satisfaction, a pride in surveying such a work, a work which is rounded, full, exact, complete in its parts, which the superficial person who leaves his or her work in a slovenly, slipshod, half-finished condition, can never know. It is this conscientious completeness which turns any work into art. The smallest task, well done, becomes a miracle of achievement.”

Can you see how those who do only what they are paid for cheat themselves? After all, to get the most out of life, you’ve got to get the best out of yourself. It is very easy to elevate ourselves. All we have to do is make a decision and commitment to do our best. To guide us on this path, Confucius adds this advice, “When you see good qualities in a person, think of how to rise to that level. When you see bad qualities in a person, reflect inwards and examine your weak points.”

5. Flexibility. Life is synonymous with change. Although we make plans and set target dates, things change. The unexpected happens. To survive in a changing world we need to be flexible and learn how to adapt. No matter how hard we try, we cannot stand in the same spot in a stream, for a different stream is rushing by at each moment. So it is with life, for the streams of time and change are rushing by. Those who are rigid and stubborn will be swept away by the tide of change, but those who are flexible and willing to adapt will be carried to success. Everett Dirksen sums it up well: “I am a man of fixed and unbending principles, the first of which is to be flexible at all times.”

6. Balance. We all play many roles: parent, sibling, child, friend, spouse, employee or employer, citizen. To spend too much time in one role means we neglect another, so we need to always be mindful of balance. As we play our various roles, we simultaneously pursue a variety of goals: family, relationships, career, finances, spirituality, health, recreation, personal development. Here, too, balance and prioritization are called for to avoid neglecting important areas of our life.

Our lives are filled with the need for balance, and the first step in achieving it is to become aware of this fact. Here are examples of other areas in which we can fine tune our lives with greater balance: a) getting what we want versus getting what we need, b) work versus play, c) open-mindedness versus gullibility (don’t be so open-minded that your brains fall out), d) time spent with others and time spent alone (time alone with your thoughts is needed to review what’s working and what’s not), e) give and take in relationships (be sure to balance what people need from you with what you need for yourself), f) the fun of spending time with people you have lots in common with versus the learning opportunities that come from spending time with those who are completely unlike you, g) being humorous versus being serious, and h) acting logical and rational versus being spontaneous and willing to follow your intuition.

So you see, there are many areas of our life that need balance, and Brian Tracy explains why, “Just as your car runs more smoothly and requires less energy to go faster and farther when the wheels are in perfect alignment, you perform better when your thoughts, feelings, emotions, goals, and values are in balance.”

7. Getting Along with Others. What can be more important than getting along with others? For the quality of our life depends on the quality of our relationships. The keys to successful relationships include respect, admiration, support, laughter, gentleness, kindness, understanding, and forgiveness. One of the most valuable gifts we can give to others is acceptance. For when we accept them, we give them the freedom to be themselves.

In any relationship friction is bound to arise. Friction is not to be abhorred, but welcomed, for how else can we develop our humanity by practicing tolerance, patience, and understanding? Rather than criticizing, we can be forgiving; rather than giving a piece of our mind, we can give leeway, and rather than disparaging, we can be encouraging.

8. Taking Responsibility. To take responsibility is to take power over your life; it is to act as your own advocate, and it’s to take the helm of your destiny. When we shirk our responsibility by blaming events or others, we inadvertently give up our power to change.

We are not responsible for our emotions, which flare up spontaneously, but we are responsible for what we do about them. For example, if we find ourselves frequently getting angry, rather than giving in to it, we can choose to study anger management, thereby vastly improving our life.

Similarly, we are not responsible for the negative programming we picked up as a child, but once we reach adulthood, we are responsible for repairing the damage. Also, being responsible means being big enough to admit one’s mistakes; simply put, if you mess up, ‘fess up.

9. Persistence. Persistence and determination guarantee success because they represent the will to continue until the goal is reached. Persistence, which moves us forward, mustn’t be confused with stubbornness or rigidness, which holds us back. For persistence is about what we WILL do and stubbornness about what we WON’T do.

The difference between success and failure has less to do with know-how than it does with know-when-to-quit, which is never. For as Confucius taught, “It does not matter how slowly you go, so long as you do not stop.”

Although those who fail attribute the success of others to ‘good luck,’ they don’t realize that ‘good fortune’ is nothing more than the determination to overcome misfortune.

Part of life deals with overcoming obstacles, and we do so with the tools of persistence and determination. Imagine what the world would have lost had Abraham Lincoln, Helen Keller, and Thomas Edison given up when faced with their ‘insurmountable’ problems. Imagine what you will lose if you choose to give up when faced with life’s challenges.

Here’s what American billionaire and co-founder of Amway, Richard M. DeVos, has to say about the value of persistence, “If I had to select one quality, one personal characteristic that I regard as being most highly correlated with success, whatever the field, I would pick the trait of persistence. Determination. The will to endure to the end, to get knocked down seventy times and get up off the floor saying, ‘Here comes number seventy-one!’”

10. Enthusiasm. Heroes, champions, and achievers are enthusiastic. They are passionate and excited by life and what they believe in. Set yourself on fire and get excited by what you do because enthusiasm is what makes ordinary people extraordinary. Enthusiasm makes it possible to do the most difficult of tasks because it provides the energy to act by lightening your burdens as well as the burdens of everyone you meet.

Enthusiasm is like a magnet that draws others to you. It is the secret of charisma. People want to be around those who are excited about life. Don’t you think that people who never get carried away should be? But don’t wait to become excited. There’s nothing exciting about waiting; it is in the doing that we become excited. Ernest Newman explains:

“The great composer does not set to work because he is inspired, but becomes inspired because he is working. Beethoven, Wagner, Bach and Mozart settled down day after day to the job in hand with as much regularity as an accountant settles down each day to his figures. They didn’t waste time waiting for inspiration. “

Summing up, doesn’t it make sense to do more of what works and less of what doesn’t? Someone once wrote:

“Why were the saints, saints? Because they were cheerful when it was difficult to be cheerful, patient when it was difficult to be patient; and because they pushed on when they wanted to stand still, and kept silent when they wanted to talk, and were agreeable when they wanted to be disagreeable. That was all. It was quite simple and always will be.”

What works may not be what makes life easy, but it sure is what makes life exciting! Let’s do more of it!



Life Strategies: Doing What Works, Doing What Matters by Phillip C. McGraw

Get Out of Your Own Way: Overcoming Self-Defeating Behavior By Mark Goulston and Philip Goldberg

Stop Doing That Sh*t: End Self-Sabotage and Demand Your Life Back By Gary John Bishop

The Science of Getting Started: How to Beat Procrastination, Summon Productivity, and Stop Self-Sabotage by Patrick King

How to Be Miserable: 40 Strategies You Already Use by Paterson PhD, Randy J.

The Healthy Mind Toolkit: Simple Strategies to Get Out of Your Own Way and Enjoy Your Life by Boyes PhD, Alice


Sadhguru on The Drama of Life: Do it the way it works

Your Wise Self: 10 Tips for Doing What Works

Do What Works