When I first started my journey into personal development, it felt a little overwhelming, to say the least. 

Every time I discovered and dived into something new, it felt like there were a dozen more concepts, ideas or principles that emerged.

Quite simply, it felt like I had a mountain to climb if I was ever going to apply all this stuff.

When you start feeling that way about something that is supposed to be fun, light and transformational, you know you’re doing something wrong…

More specifically, I was approaching the journey with a fixed mindset (“I’ll never get there”) rather than a growth mindset (“I can get a little better each day”).

However, with enough practice and reflection, I began to realize that personal development is not an additive process, but a subtractive one. 

What the hell do I mean by that?

Quite simple: If you want to improve in any domain, it’s quite often more about the things you don’t do than it is about what you do do.

Want to get healthy? Cutting out sugar, soda, wheat, and processed foods will be way more beneficial for you than adding healthy fats while still eating that other junk.

Want to get strong? Focusing on the 3 big lifts (squat, deadlift, bench press) will provide more results than trying to squeeze in every exercise you’ve ever seen in a magazine into a 2-hour workout.

Want to be more focused and energized throughout the day? Quit watching TV and looking at your phone before bed, rather than trying to apply some new hack you read about without building good foundations.

As you can see in the examples above, it is my fundamental belief that improving our lives is a lot simpler than we make it out to be. It’s just a matter of cutting out the shit that’s not working and THEN experimenting with things that could add value.

One simple way to do this is by adopting what my mentor Craig Ballantyne calls an “avoid at all costs” list or a “not to do” list. 

Basically, you take a look at the behaviors, habits, and actions that you know have tripped you up in the past, as well as the things that simply cannot be a part of your day if you want to achieve the things you’ve set out to achieve. Then, you write these down on a list and do whatever you can to make sure they never see the light of day.

Some items on my list:

  • I never take my phone into the bedroom (we also don’t have a TV in the room)
  • I never eat right before bed
  • I never drink soda, alcohol or other sugar-laden drinks
  • I never eat sugar, gluten, dairy, or vegetable oils
  • I never check email or social media first thing in the morning

You get the idea 🙂

Pro tip: You might find it helpful, at least in the beginning, to put the list somewhere you can see it often, or read through it at the start of your day as a reminder.

With an Avoid At All Costs list, suddenly it doesn’t feel like this mountain to climb every time we want to make a positive change. Remember, in true 80/20 style, your results quite often come down to what you stop doing as opposed to what you start doing.

Have fun putting together your list and then avoid at all costs.


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