3 Things I Gave Up That Greatly Improved My Life

If you eliminate these things, what dreams may come?

content girl sitting at home dekazigzag / Shutterstock

By John P. Weiss

I like to walk my dogs in the early evening when the air is cooler and there are few people to run into.

It’s not that I’m anti-social. I simply enjoy solitude, exercise and deep thinking.

The dogs are a good lesson in living in the moment. Their superior olfactories and exquisite hearing tell them volumes about the environment. They always know where the rabbits are long before I do, and they can tell the difference between coyote scat and what the neighbor’s pug left on the grass.


After making our way through the park and around the waterfall, we cut through the neighborhood on our way home. The many living room windows we pass reveal large, flat-screen televisions glowing on the walls.

And almost without fail, most of those televisions are tuned to cable news programs.


No wonder we’re so divided in the United States.

This is why cable news programs are one of three things I gave up to improve my life. 

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Here are 3 things I gave up that greatly improved my life:

1. Cable news programs

I used to be a news junkie. Beyond my online newspaper subscriptions, I loved to flip through cable news shows and opinion programs.

But over the years the tone of these shows began to change.

Civil discussions gave way to partisan shouting. Networks lost their journalistic integrity and became unabashedly biased.

People pick news networks that align with their politics, failing to see they are in echo chambers of agreement. Even if you flip back and forth to watch competing networks, the hyperventilating anchors and shouting opinion show guests become intolerable.


At least they did for my wife and me.

At the end of 2019, we had enough and quit watching cable news shows. Sometimes, when friends talked about various news and opinion programs, I felt like I was missing out.

But soon I realized that all I was missing was endless partisan bickering.

Illustration: John P. Weiss


I kept a few online newspaper subscriptions, which were all I needed to stay current. Unlike the endless hype, commercials, and repetitive looping of cable news, my online newspapers take less than an hour to read each morning.

"A good reader or viewer is a person who is alert about her newspaper or news channel. A good reader or viewer will never waste her hard-earned money on watching or reading just anything. She is serious. She will have to think if the news she is consuming is journalism or sycophancy." — Ravish Kumar

Yes, sometimes there are breaking news events, which the networks cover with great fanfare and urgency. I used to get sucked into these developments and tune in to watch the endless coverage and speculation.

But after quitting cable news, I realized what a waste of time this was. Often "breaking news" merits little more than a few paragraphs in the next morning’s newspapers.


Cable news and opinion shows are designed to suck you in, much like social media. You put up with the banal, relentless commercials because you can’t wait to watch the next breaking segment.

What could you do with the time spent watching cable news programs? What books could be read, exercise routines completed, or creative passions enjoyed?

When I quit watching cable news and opinion shows, I suddenly had much more time for books, writing, artwork and photography.

My wife and I still enjoy quality movies and television series, but quitting cable news programs improved our lives significantly.

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2. Alcoholic beverages

When I was at university, beer was my alcoholic beverage of choice. It was affordable and always paired nicely with pizza.

About midway through my law enforcement career, I discovered the joys of fine wine. Nothing beats a glass of Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon with a steak dinner or a glass of chilled Sauvignon Blanc at a summer pool party.

Later in my law enforcement career, my wife and I moved from wine to craft cocktails. After work, it was fun to relax with a few Manhattans.

Sometimes my cop buddies would come over, and we’d play music and have a little party. It was a lot of fun, except for those times when we got carried away and nursed hangovers the next morning.


"After the first glass, you see things as you wish they were. After the second, you see things as they are not. Finally, you see things as they really are, and that is the most horrible thing in the world." — Oscar Wilde

My father wasn’t a drinker. Despite his German heritage, he disliked beer. He never touched wine. He’d allow himself a Bourbon and water when visiting friends for Christmas, but that was it.

Illustration: John P. Weiss


My mother came from an Irish heritage, where drinking is prevalent. While my mother’s parents, surprisingly, were teetotalers, Mom struggled her whole life with the bottle.

I have my mother’s blood, and the propensity to like alcoholic beverages a little too much.

My law enforcement career showed me firsthand the destruction and ruined lives caused by alcohol, so I worked hard to limit my consumption.

But then I retired and moved to Las Vegas.

My wife and I love the thousands of great restaurants, entertainment, favorable tax climate, and nearly year-round sunny weather in Las Vegas. But, Sin City is a strange place to live for someone who doesn’t gamble and wants to keep a lid on his drinking.


I have friends here who live two blocks away. There are countless amazing bars. We have backyard pools and it would be easy to fall into a lifestyle of partying with reckless abandon.

And initially, I did partake in some boozy get-togethers with friends. They were fun, but I knew I was on a slippery slope. After a few wild parties and hangovers, I decided to quit drinking.

Illustration: John P. Weiss


Fortunately, it wasn’t very hard to quit. I didn’t suffer from cravings as some people do. My friends were supportive, but no doubt missed my participation.

The upshot was that I lost weight, slept better, gained focus, exercised more, and became insanely productive with my creative pursuits. I stopped waiting to accomplish goals and simply dove in and got them done.

"When you quit drinking you stop waiting." — Caroline Knapp, Drinking: A Love Story

Drinking is a personal choice, and when done responsibly, it can be a wonderful escape and way to relax. But choosing not to drink brings amazing benefits, and for me, it has been life-changing in a positive way.


RELATED: 103 Ways My Life Improved In The Years Without Alcohol

3. Unhealthy comparisons 

When I was a young boy in the late 1970s my best friend got a new bicycle for his birthday. It was an amazing Schwinn bicycle with a stick shift affixed to the top tube of the bike.

Back then, I thought it was the coolest bike ever, and I was supremely jealous of my friend. Even though I had a very nice Schwinn BMX, my bicycle didn’t have the cool stick shift.

"Never underestimate the power of jealousy and the power of envy to destroy. Never underestimate that." — Oliver Stone

I remember being a little teary-eyed and riding my "boring" bicycle back home, where I avoided my friend for several days.


Illustration: John P. Weiss

Eventually, I came to realize that we don’t always get the things we want in life, and with my mother’s urging, I started hanging out with my friend again.

A year or so later, my friend’s father passed away after a short battle with cancer. During that difficult time, neither one of us was interested in our bicycles anymore. And I realized how lucky I was to still have my father.


There is debate as to who coined the phrase "Comparison is the thief of joy." Whether it was Teddy Roosevelt, Mark Twain, or someone else, I think there’s wisdom in the saying.

"When we start comparing ourselves and our possessions to others, we tend to focus on the things we don’t have rather than the things we do have." — John P. Weiss

With life experience and maturity, I learned to let go of unhealthy comparisons.


Unhealthy comparisons are couched in jealousy, whereas healthy comparisons find inspiration in the fine qualities and things that others possess. Healthy comparisons fuel self-improvement and personal accomplishment.

I have reached a point in life where I don’t care about the possessions of others. But I do take note of people’s character and creative talents.

When I read an author who moves me deeply, I compare her writing style and techniques with my own, to learn where I can improve.

When I meet someone who impresses me, I try to identify the qualities that stand out, so that I may work on those qualities in myself.

I gave up cable news programs, alcoholic beverages, and unhealthy comparisons. As a result, I am healthier and happier, and accomplish more in my personal and creative life.


How about you? What could you give up that would greatly improve your life?

Letting go of unhealthy habits can lead to new dreams. And new dreams can lead to a happier, healthier life.

"We all live in a house on fire, no fire department to call; no way out, just the upstairs window to look out of while the fire burns the house down with us trapped, locked in it." — Tennessee Williams, The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore

Most of the time, deep down, we know the things that are bad for us. The things that are holding us back. And the longer we refuse to make changes, the more we feel trapped.

Don’t live your life in a house on fire. Jump out of that upstairs window if you have to. You might get hurt, but then most worthwhile things in life seem to involve some pain.


Give up the things that are holding you back. Your dreams are waiting.

Illustration: John P. Weiss

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John P. Weiss is a writer, fine artist, cartoonist, and retired police chief with over 26 years of law enforcement experience.