Things to Stop Doing

9/2017:  Article – 3 Things To Stop Doing by Rosanne T. Morse, MS/MFT

Drawn from the full article:  3 Things You Can Stop Doing Today by Natalie Kerr Lawrence, Ph.D.

We live with a lot of mostly unwritten rules for generally accepted behavior: Wash your hands after using the restroom. Don’t double-dip your chips. Don’t stare at other diners. The kind of things people in polite society get taught as children, that become ingrained and automatic.  Most of the time that is just fine.  Don’t get on an elevator with a strange man.   Some ingrained behaviors might be having a big impact on how we present to the outside world, how we think of ourselves, and think of others.     ……………

Americans like to think we are highly individualistic but within our American culture we have definite ideas of proper behaviors that we cling to, sometimes with our noses in the air.  We are social animals with a fundamental need to connect with others and we want to be like and accepted, so we establish these norms and judge everyone by them.  Anyone who doesn’t conform risks negative social consequences of ridicule and maybe automatic rejection.   Conformity isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s good that we wash our hands, diners tip their servers 15 to 20 percent of the bill, or that we rush to help those in trouble or needy.  Other times, not so much… three quick examples:

  1. STOP automatically asking, “How are you?”………
    Mostly we use the phrase as a simple greeting. “Hi, how are you?”  The usual response is one word: goodhowareyou? This usually happens even when people are moving in opposite directions, with no possibility of having an actual conversation. This isn’t a good habit for us. Just say Hi and move on.  When you do ask “How are you?” make eye contact and listen to their answer.  Break this habit and ask only when you care and have time to hear the answer. If you are asked this question, answer honestly and mean it.   “Hi” or “Hey, I don’t have time right now it but I’ll talk to you later. “Or, just maybe, they really are asking you, so “do you have time? I’d like to talk?”

    1. STOP glorifying busyness………… 

    Busyness seems to be a measure of success or a badge of endurance of some kind.  People brag about how little sleep they get, or overworking, forgetting to eat, or skipping vacations.  This is just some weird hangover from Puritan suffering is good philosophy.  Get over it. Brag about what is going good in your life. I had a great night’s sleep, I’m feeling wonderful.  Work is going great.  My kids are the greatest. We set this example by our behavior and even over schedule our children so they have little time to just be and wonder and explore.


    Is Harold Kushner right in his book, When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough, that we keep busy to “fill the gnawing emptiness in our soul” or do we fill our calendars because it’s the norm. Everyone else seems to be doing it, so we think it’s the “normal” thing to do. We don’t stop to question whether this obsession with busyness is good for us, but maybe we should.

    1. STOP driving distracted……….. 

    Multi-tasking while you are driving makes you part of the danger, is self-indulgent, and a bad practice.  Stop it. Think about the last time you drove a car. What else were you trying to do?  It takes a lot of skill and attention to navigate a 2000 lb.+ steel vehicle along the highways and byways of our world.  There are thousands of others doing the same thing so being distracted is a danger to ourselves and others.  Period.   Give yourself some peace, just drive.  Observe the traffic and the road conditions.   If traffic is light, enjoy the scenery.   Soothe your urges by knowing you should not be doing anything else, at all.  Just drive.  With all our demands, gadgets, hi-tech, interactive this and that, we seem to feel obligated to attend to those things instead of driving.

    These are just three examples of social norms that many people follow blindly, without thinking. There are countless others. Tune into all your automatic behaviors and re-evaluate whether they add or subtract from your health and happiness.  Then, as the lawyers say, govern yourself accordingly.

    About the Author: Natalie Kerr Lawrence, Ph.D., is a social psychologist and a professor at James Madison University.  Online: