Former Monk Reveals 7 Things To Stop Doing To Enjoy Life

Let go of energy vampires, regret and negative self-talk.

Woman enjoying her life, smiling Elisabeth Jurenka | Unsplash

I’m 72, in good health, happily married, with a thriving part-time consulting business and a book coming out in June. I’m enjoying life more than ever. I feel very fortunate. The road to get here has been filled with challenges — two divorces, the death of my parents, getting my addictive, perfectionistic, risk-taking personality under control, and surviving the ups and downs of working in corporate America without blowing a gasket. Along the way, I did some things that helped me stay on course or, in some cases, get back on track. I invite you to consider them, particularly if you’re in midlife. And if you’ve already hit retirement age, it’s never too late to break bad habits and start new ones.


Here are 7 tiny things to stop doing to enjoy life:

1. Stop spending time with energy vampires

The people you spend time with greatly influence your mental, emotional, and spiritual states. We absorb energy, whether it’s positive or negative. If you feel drained, uninspired, or depressed after spending time with certain people, it’s time to draw some boundaries.

You may have to have one of those difficult conversations that might sound like this: “Look, you’re a dear friend, and I enjoy our friendship. And, (not but) I have a request. I prefer that we keep our conversation on subjects that aren’t controversial or negative. I’m trying my best to keep my spirits up and only interested in generative discussions. What do you say?" Perhaps they commit and keep their promise, great. If not, it’s time to say goodbye politely. Sometimes, you’ve got to turn your back and walk away from people, places, and things for growth or self-preservation.




RELATED: 4 Ways To Deal With An ‘Energy Vampire’ Who’s Sucking The Life Out Of You

2. Stop resisting what you can’t change

Most personal suffering comes from resisting what’s currently happening to you. You have a choice when things happen out of your control, like your car breaking down, losing your job, flight cancelations, or a client choosing another supplier. You either get angry or frustrated (resist) or accept the situation and move into problem-solving mode with a clear head.

Resistance creates stress and is often based on fear of the worst imagined future, which is generally never as bad as we anticipate. Instead of resisting, take a deep breath. Pause. Gather your thoughts and remind yourself that you can’t change the past. All you can do is accept reality just as it is and move forward. Less stress and resistance equals a happier, healthier life.


3. Stop compromising your health

You’ve probably heard the George Orwell quote (also expanded upon by Coco Chanel), “At 50, everyone has the face he deserves.” My interpretation is that by this time in life, we manifest externally what we have fed ourselves internally.

When we’re younger, building our careers, or raising a family, it’s easy to forget that our health will dictate how much we can enjoy our later years. I’m glad I’ve maintained a relatively healthy lifestyle over the past thirty years. My father had triple bypass surgery when he was in his early sixties. He was a type A personality who did not exercise and had a heavy meat and saturated fat diet. While his life was extended, his post-operative health was not great, and as a result, he was often irritable and unhappy. It all could have been avoided if he cleaned up his act in his forties and fifties. Life is too short to put off something as important as caring for your health. The sooner you start, the better.

RELATED: 7 Little Ways The Healthiest People Take Care Of Themselves Each Day

4. Stop putting off what brings you joy

I worked hard throughout my life, and yet I always made room for things I loved to do: play competitive tennis, learn how to sing and play guitar, write music, and join a band. These activities kept me sane and balanced my full work and family life. The common excuse is, “I don’t have the time to do X.” I found the time. For example, I practiced playing guitar and singing instead of watching hours of TV. Now, I look back with a big smile, thinking about the bands I played in and the three albums I recorded. I’m so glad I put in the time, money, and effort.


Denying ourselves joy is a recipe for bitterness and resentment. Too often, people lose track of what brings them happiness in the hustle and bustle of daily life. You tap into positive energy when you do things that bring you joy. Small bits of pleasure each day are essential, too: having a piece of your favorite dark chocolate, a warm bath and a good book, a wholesome meal, or a cold beer on a hot day. The time to bring daily joy into your life is now.

5. Stop living with bitterness or regret

Bitterness and regret will eat you up and spit you out. They’re like clouds hiding the sun. If you have regrets, make peace with them. Let them go. They’re in the past, which never gets better. For years after my first marriage breakup, regrets crept into my mind like silent home invaders. Gradually, I learned to stop criticizing myself. I’d remind myself I did the best I could at the time. Now, I don’t allow the negative voices the slightest foothold. I usher them out the door and replace them with forgiveness and gratitude for all the good things I had. As a result, I now live without regret.

RELATED: 5 Defeating Personality Traits Of Bitter, Unhappy People (So You Can Avoid Becoming One Of Them)


6. Stop believing your negative self-talk

The chatter in our heads is not who we are. Sometimes, the voices are quiet but still send subliminal messages: “You’re not good enough to do X.” “You can’t charge that much for your service. You’re an impostor, and you know it.” “You don’t deserve the life of your dreams.” Over time, negative self-talk gives birth to limiting beliefs.

Change your beliefs, change your life. I’ve been practicing meditation for over forty years. It provides significant relief from the chatter because it allows my mind to focus on something calm and peaceful within. By doing this, I can observe my thoughts and see them as clouds in the sky passing through me. Writing down your beliefs is a compelling way to begin untangling from them. There they are in black and white: made-up stories that have nothing to do with who you are or your true potential. Once you identify them, you can reframe them into empowering beliefs. When you do that, your life will change for the better. I wrote an article about my experience here.

7. Stop avoiding your inner work

Life is a journey to peace, wholeness, and freedom. You can’t get there unless you unpack your inner junk: your triggers, hangups, and childhood wounds. This stuff often manifests by being short-tempered, overly critical of yourself and others, not fully present, jealous, anxious, afraid, and having addictions.


I spent my time in therapy, which was one of the best investments I’ve ever made. That’s one way. There are other ways: online courses, retreats, studying and reflection, counseling, men’s groups, women’s groups, shadow work, and mindfulness training. You don’t want to carry a heavy load into your twilight years. There are enough challenges to deal with as we age. The best time to lighten your load is before you start collecting your pension.

RELATED: 5 Tiny Habits Of People Who Enjoy Life More Than 98% Of People

Don Johnson is a former monk turned business leader. His first book, Living a Conscious Life: How to Find Peace, Wholeness, and Freedom, will be published in June 2024.