What Goes Into Breaking A Bad Habit
“The difference between an amateur and a professional is in their habits. An amateur has amateur habits. A professional has professional habits. We can never free ourselves from habit. But we can replace bad habits with good ones.”
Are you stuck in a bad habit and want to break free? Do you feel like no matter what you do nothing can help you overcome your bad habits? Do you constantly catch yourself doing things you know you shouldn’t but are powerless to to make a positive change in your life?
Everyone has a bad habit or two and feel like they’re in control of what they do but science knows differently what is really happening in our brains. Our daily habits play an important role in what we do, where we go and how we interact with others.
You know the drill, the better your habits the more successful you will be and vice versa but that is only a small part of what your habits are all about.
One of the hardest obstacles in breaking a bad habit is being motivated enough to take the necessary steps to break them.
Here are the 3 best known ways to break a bad habit:
- Going cold turkey altogether
- Setting a date in the future to quit your bad habit
- Replacing your bad habit with a better one
These methods may or may not work for you depending on your motivation and personality. The problem is, breaking a bad one and replacing it with a better habit takes more willpower than we have to give. We need others to help motivate us when we lose hope or the desire to go on. Without a motivating force, we end up procrastinating and put it off until a later date… and we all know that once you put something off, it’s almost impossible to start unless it’s life or death.
But here is a different and more profound way to break bad habits for good and start cultivating good ones that lead us to a more successful and joyful life.
Managing Bad Habits
“Your net worth to the world is usually determined by what remains after your bad habits are subtracted from your good ones.”
What is the process involved in managing your bad habits?
According to James Clear, author of “Transform Your Habits” states that most bad habits are caused by stress and boredom. These two factors play a huge role in our lives and are a way we cope with the realities of our daily existence.
How you deal with the stress and boredom goes a long way in how you ultimately manage your bad habits. Why do we react to stress and boredom by installing bad habits? Many of the issues we’re dealing with on the outside actually come from deep within our unconscious mind. Our daily habits are the pathway we walk along every day and we are leading ourselves down this path with our actions.
Want to change your pathway?
You must first realize the underlying causes of your bad habits before you can overcome them. Most people try to rely on their will power but fail miserably and give up too quickly. This is an exercise in futility. The idea is to replace a bad habit not totally eliminate it.
Your bad habits have some good benefits or you would not be where you are today but spending energy on things that don’t improve your life keeps you from becoming the person you were meant to be. Take that energy and put it to good use by replacing that bad habit with a habit that offers more benefits and addresses your needs in a positive manner. Cutting out your bad habits only reinforces certain needs and makes it harder to stick to a daily routine.
How To Break A Bad Habit
“Most people don’t have that willingness to break bad habits. They have a lot of excuses and they talk like victims.”
Breaking a bad habit may be the hardest thing you will ever try to do if you don’t plan out your change. Just saying you want to change and not executing the change is a worthless endeavor. Habits don’t change by themselves which is why you must start with these important lessons.
1- Choose a positive substitute for your bad habit – How you respond to the bad habit is all based on your choices. Since we know it’s too hard to eliminate a bad habit altogether, let’s substitute a positive habit for the bad habit and work on the positive habit.
2- Get rid of the triggers – What triggers your bad habits? The only way to know is to be aware of when your bad habit happen and write them down as they occur. How often do they occur? Where were you when they occurred? Who was with you when they occurred? What were you doing when they occurred? When you can answer these questions honestly and openly, only then can you start breaking old habits and replace them with better habits.
3- Surround yourself with like-minded individuals – It only goes to reason that if you hang out with the wrong people you will pick up bad habits that influence you negatively. The more you spend your time with people who share your same likes and dislikes, the easier it is to to turn those bad habits into good ones. The right people also give you a positive support system which is so important when trying to kick a bad habit.
4- Visualize your success – a key element to any successful habit breaking is to visualize your success before you even start. The positive visualization reinforces the things you’ve already overcome and starts you on the right foot giving you a picture of what you want to accomplish in the end. Science has found that the mind cannot distinguish between the real and the imagined. This is why visualization works so well. You conceive, then believe, then achieve. All the while focusing on the steps that lead to success by visualizing them first.
5- Change your environment – This step is more important than you think and one that most people find the hardest to implement. Your environment plays a big role in who you are and how you function but it also influences you more than you know. Find the right environment that inspires you and motivates you which cuts out the distractions. A new environment allows you to break out of your comfort zone and give you a sense of freedom while an old environment’s familiar surroundings can lull you into a false sense of security.
How To Turn Bad Habits Into Good
“People try to change too much at once and it becomes overwhelming, and they end up falling off the program. So gradually changing bad habits makes much more of a difference than trying to change them all at once.”
Ian K. Smith
Now that you have a good idea of what’s involved in breaking a bad habit, let’s move on to turning those bad habits in good ones and making long term plans for turning those new and positive habits into a successful new you.
Awareness of what you do on a daily basis separates the successful from the unsuccessful. Its the difference between being happy and finding lasting happiness.
You need to be conscious of what you do. Do not live in the unconscious world where we are ruled by our habits. This is called hyper-awareness and it means you consciously watch what you are doing and the obstacles you face.
How do we accomplish this type of hyper-awareness when it comes to breaking bad habits?
1- State what you will do and go out and do it – Good habits are built upon stating what you will do as oppose to what you won’t do. When you focus on what you won’t do, it is a negative multiplier that punishes us instead of rewarding us. That change of mindset is the difference between taking the first step and being distracted by temptation. When we can’t have something or are not allowed to do something, temptation grabs us by the throat and begs us to get involved. Stating what you will do gives the mind a clear and present pathway to walk down and the action phase starts on a positive foot.
2- Know your obstacles – Walking blindly into traffic is a recipe for death but when you know the obstacles in your path, you can easily avoid them and continue on your way. Too often, we don’t plan for obstacles coming our way and we don’t know how to deal with the when they occur. This is a big part of being aware. Be prepared by knowing the types of challenges that may or may not occur. This gives you confidence to believe success is within your grasp.
3- Create and identify your target goals – Goals are great but if you don’t target and identify what you actually want to accomplish, it will be like travelling without a map. You’ll always be guessing what the next step is on your road to better habits.
The Secret To Transforming Your Bad Habits
“Sometimes when you’ve had a long series of disappointing things happen, you can get into the very bad habit of just expecting more of what you’ve already had.”
There are so many ways we fall into unhealthy behaviors. The struggle is what keeps us from achieving the best self we can be. We must learn how to transform your bad habits into something positive and life-affirming.
It’s not just the transformation we are looking for. That’s great but the process in getting there is worth it’s weight in gold. When you master the process, the transformation comes next and you’ve overcome the bad habit while putting the good habits in motion.
You are the sum of all your habits. No matter what you do today, it came from small decisions you’ve made over the course of your life but you can learn from those decisions and become a better person.
James Clear, talks about the 3 “R’s” of habit change in his book “Transform Your Habits”.
- Reminder (the trigger)
- Routine (the behaviour)
- Reward (the benefit)
The concept of the 3 “R’s” actually came from behavioral psychology research from noted Stanford scientist, BJ Fogg and New York Times bestselling author and journalist, Charles Duhigg’s book, “The Power Of Habit”. The interesting fact they make is your mind is coded by your past actions.
It starts with the ring (the reminder) which triggers the the routine (the behavior). When you answer the ring, you reward yourself with the benefit. The final result is the reward which is built up over time and every time you answer the call, your brain is rewarded.
This ends up being a never ending cycle of ringing, answering, and rewarding until it becomes an unconscious habit.
Want to use the 3 “R’s” to start a new and positive habit?
Here’s the trick…
1- Set up visible reminders – These reminders act as triggers for the actions you want to complete. This way, you don’t have to be motivated or remember a set of rules. The visual reminder is your cue to take action at that moment in time.
2- Start small and work your way up – You can’t climb a mountain in one leap unless you’re superman. Instead, like life, it’s made up of small steps that propel us to the top. Even if there are roadblocks or failures along the way, it’s not how good or bad you are but whether you are building up a consistent action that gets results.
3- Celebrate your successes – Your victories, no matter how big or small are worth celebrating. It’s what life is all about. Everyone needs positive reinforcement from time to time so reward yourself. It’s a big part of the habit-forming process.
To break your bad habits for good, we go on to the next level of change.
1- Self identity – What do you feel inside about yourself? It’s not enough to want to change your bad habit but to change who we are to become what we have been born to be.
Sound hard? Not really. It’s a matter of two small steps. James Clear states we need to…
- Decide the type of person we want to be
- Prove it to ourselves with small wins
How can we make this a reality in our own life?
It starts with small steps and then working your way up to bigger and bolder things once you have the wisdom and confidence to go on. Stop worrying about the end result and work on achieving small victories in the here and now.
2- Make tiny changes to your daily routines – Find things in your daily routines that you can change for the better. These tiny changes should allow the brain to quickly learn and implement these changes without stopping to think whether they are good for us or not.
3- Set up schedules not deadlines – The problem with breaking bad habits is we focus too much on deadlines. “I need to change by his date” is an all too common mantra that needs to be discarded. Research has found that it takes 21 days to install a new habit. That doesn’t mean if you don’t make it by 21 days you’re a loser. Schedule out your actions so they take as long as needed, the idea is to be consistent in your actions and always going forward.
If you miss a deadline, then you set yourself up for failure and failure is not part of the process. Consistency and positive action are what gets results. Clear and precise decisions give you boundaries to work with. You can’t makes excuses if they don’t fit into your plan.
By following this process that I’ve laid out for you, breaking a bad habit will not be a lesson in futility. Challenges are part of life and this is another challenge for you to overcome and build confidence as well and inner strength.