Bad habits are common in everyone’s lives. Some people smoke, some people lie, some people fail to exercise, eat poorly, or procrastinate. And some of us do many of these things, or we go in spurts doing well for periods of time and then fall off the wagon again. Most people realize that what they are doing is essentially wrong and is affecting themselves in a negative way. However, little is usually done in curbing these problems.
Most people consider these bad habits as status quo and even associate themselves with the habits, for instance, “Yeah, I’m always late”, or they might joke about their poor eating habits, as if there is nothing they can do about it. While most of the people might try to convince you that it is too late to quit, I’m going to show you 6 tips to help you break these bad habits.
Let me start with one very simple and obvious fact, anyone can break any bad habit that they choose, however there is something that must be true for this to happen. You absolutely must want to change and know why! If you are content and not truly motivated to break the bad habit, your circumstance will never change, and you will be locked into this trap until you reach your breaking point and decide that you have had enough. There is no way to change a bad habit unless you have some serious leverage, meaning you MUST want to change and know why, otherwise, you will never change.
Ok, so here we go…
1. Go slow
Nobody changes their habits overnight, nor is it humanly possible. So, the fair advice here would be to take it slow. That doesn’t mean make excuses, it simply means, don’t expect miracles, beating yourself up because you didn’t change overnight is setting yourself up for failure. Depending on how entrenched this bad habit is, consider challenging yourself for just a day, then two, then three. If you relapse, start again, day 1, day 2, etc. and keep trying to extend how long you go before succumbing to the bad habit. Building over time to weeks and ultimately months, before long you will be cruising along, and it will just be a memory. Focus on the day and build from there.
2. Create a New Good Habit to Replace the Old Bad Habit
By far and away the best way to break a bad habit, is to replace it with a new good habit. See you must understand the psychology here, the habit had value at one point. You didn’t create the habit of smoking by obvious choice, you likely did it when you were young to either fit in, or look cool, or it filled some other need. So, what you must do is understand why you still do it today.
Even if you believe it’s because you are addicted to nicotine, there are programs to help you, such as a patch or gum, etc. However, there is likely a psychological reason why you still do it, so you must understand what that is and figure out another way to get that same “fix”, without the bad habit. So, if your habit is smoking, besides the nicotine “fix”, why do you still smoke knowing it is bad for you.
Are you still trying to be cool and fit in? If so, well, I have news for you, smoking isn’t cool anymore and as a matter of fact if they kick smokers any further out of the restaurants, they’ll have to smoke on an island somewhere. Working out is much cooler now and you could use that as your new good habit. The idea is that you need to find something that will replace the need for the old bad habit.
3. Fine yourself
This does seem like an immature approach for a grown up. But we know that swear jars work on kids, so why can’t a bigger, heavier fine work on breaking your bad habit? The key here is you must be good at holding yourself accountable. Now, considering you are trying to break a bad habit, that likely means you struggle with this, so you may want to find a support group, like your family to assist. Families are usually pretty good about calling us on our own BS.
Keep a small jar, pick the amount of the fine that stings, but not so much that that it makes it difficult to make ends meet, otherwise it defeats the purpose. It should impact your discretionary spending, this way it’s painful but not impeding your ability to pay bills, otherwise you’ll simply quit. A great suggestion by one of my students was to donate the money to a cause that you support, or another example, was a cause you would never support, talk about having a sting. The key here is that struggling to get back on your budget will remind you why it is so important to break your bad habit.
4. Make reminders
If you keep forgetting stick to your diet by eating 5 smaller meals per day, configure your Smartphone to remind you every three hours to eat. Another consideration might be to have a reminder tell you every 90 minutes that you can do this and why it is so important, giving you the confidence to stick to it and push through the urges. The reminders can be used for encouragement, or just to remind you to do that new good habit that you created to replace the old bad habit.
5. Change your surroundings
Certain surroundings trigger certain emotions and reactions. The same is the case with your bad habit. Make a mental note of what places you commit your crimes in and avoid them altogether. For instance, people who smoke in my experience, struggle to avoid smoking whenever they are at the bar, and this causes a relapse. So simple advice, avoid bars, this could likely help you reduce two or three bad habits at once.
The idea isn’t to remove everything you may like to do, but if you are serious about changing this bad habit, then a fantastic way to kill it is to avoid the surroundings that leads to those poor choices, at least until you have the strength to avoid the urges. If you are dieting, don’t eat out for at least a few months, or longer depending on how strong your will is.
6. Think differently
Lastly, bring a fresh perspective to your bad-habit-leaving campaign. For instance, tell yourself that smoking is not slowly destroying your lungs, shortening your life, and reducing your ability to perform at the best levels possible, it is also causing you to push away people who don’t want to associate with you while you are smoking. For instance, I know people who won’t smoke around their kids, so every 20 to 30 minutes, they go outside and have a cigarette, how much time is that taking away from them now, how much will it take when you likely die early, and most importantly, what kind of example are you setting for your children?
Don’t get me wrong here, leaving bad habits can be hard, but never impossible. Remember, you must want to change and have a very strong reason why. Armed with that information, you can change any bad habit for a good one, and you will find you will be achieving even more remarkable things in your life!
Good luck out there and let me know by commenting below how you will conquer leaving your bad habits behind.