After we watch the ball drop and clink our glasses, we mentally draft up an ambitious list of New Year’s resolutions. But making them a reality is much easier said than done, largely due to the vices that stand in our way. Whether you’re a chronic procrastinator, addicted to fast food, or are constantly succumbing to self-doubt, the best place to start may just be eliminating that vice from your arsenal of habits in order to make room for more productive ones to take root. As a part of our #ViceHacks campaign, we are talking to individuals who have done just that, in hopes that taking a deep dive into how they eliminated an unhealthy behavioral pattern may help you eliminate your own.
EVERUP: What vice/bad habit did you work to eliminate from your routine?
JESSICA: I have stopped the habit of trying to fix everything for everyone, all the time.
How did you develop this vice in the first place? Was it something that you battled for a long time, or something that crept over the past year or so?
I believe this comes from how I was raised. My mother (who is absolutely amazing by the way) is a selfless fixer. She will always do her best to resolve any situation. She will be the first person to raise her hand in a pinch, comfort someone with positive thoughts, or dive deep into a pseudo psychoanalysis to try and understand someone’s motivations in order to help her family or friends resolve the issue or conflict. I have seen my 5’2” mother decide to tear down an old barn just because it needed to be done and there was no one to do it. She is no bullshit and she is beyond the most generous person with her time and energy on this planet.
My career as a Client Services person within branding and advertising companies, has been built upon my ability to internalize clients’ issues (along with loss of sleep and increased anxiety) and find the right solution under any circumstance. Over the last 10+ years I have refined my skills in the art of empathy, listening, solution ideating, and sometimes even scheming to provide back a resolution that will make my clients happy. This in turn makes my boss happy…and my career and paycheck happy. This though, comes at a price. Because ‘fixing’ does not stop once your work day ends. It spills into every moment of your day.
What prompted you to make a conscious effort to eliminate it? How was it negatively affecting your personal and/or professional goals?
About 5-6 years ago, I found that I was suffering from anxiety. My career was going well, I had a great boyfriend (now husband), and a solid group of close friends. This anxiety would creep up unprompted and would send me into a fit of sleep loss and crying jags for days at a time. I had to make a change that would address where my anxiety was coming from. I needed to learn that I couldn’t make everyone happy all the time and that was ok. Learning this was liberating. It freed me. And, luckily, it managed to make me more confident in my daily tasks and helped my career infinitely
How did you begin to detox yourself from this vice?
I started at home. When my boyfriend (now husband) would talk to me about issues, instead of trying to offer solutions based upon my experiences; I would task myself to be mindful that he just needed to vent. He didn’t need me to offer a solution. I needed to be in the moment and not thinking ahead to possible outcomes.
At work, I learned how to move on rather than swirl on my choices/options. I started to offer the best solution for the client and our company and that was it. I had to be confident in my decision and stick to my guns. Then, put it out of my mind. I did what I could do in the moment, then I would move on.
What issues or setbacks did you encounter along the way?
It’s easy to slip back into old habits. Recently, I was listening to a friend talk about some choices to be made in her life, I had to remind myself to just let her talk, to not interject my experiences or lessons (even if I felt that it might help). I have to constantly remind myself to be present.
What tools, tricks or other methods did you employ to wean yourself off of said vice? Which were the most helpful and would you recommend them to others who are attempting to banish the same bad habit?
My husband gave me the book by David Allen called Getting Things Done. In that, Allen offers the rule for overcoming procrastination: If it takes less than two minutes, then do it now. If it’s more complex, then put it aside for later and address it when you are ready. When you complete the task, then remove that task from your mind. I took that practice and translated it to thoughts. If I had an issue to resolve and it could be done quickly, I would do it immediately. Then, I would actively choose forget about it. What’s done is done. That act relieved much of my daily anxiety.
What differences have you seen in your personal or professional life since giving up this vice? Have you seen progress or gains towards any of your goals that you can attribute directly to the elimination of the vice?
Having gained confidence in my choices has given me the courage to try new things in order to grow professionally. In 2015 I joined a start up because I knew it would propel my career forward. And it did. With a start up you have to think strategically and swiftly. And, when the business was taking a turn that I didn’t agree with, I was able to step down from my position confidently and have since moved on to the next career opportunity.
Why do you think you were finally able to kick the bad habit/tendency? Did you learn anything from the process that gave you some insight on how to stop other unproductive tendencies or habits?
Becoming very aware of self care is what made me finally get off the ‘fixing’ kick. Learning to put your mind and body first is a hard lesson, especially in a perpetually competitive place like New York City. I learned that being mindful and seeking help when YOU need it, is so critically important to the process.