Destroying Bad Habits
Over the course of our lives, we develop many habits. Some of these habits will take us further than we ever thought possible. Others will chip away at our core, little by little. The tricky thing about habits is that sometimes they sneak up on us. We slide into them until it’s too late. Then we’re stuck. Habits can be remarkably easy to form, and nearly impossible to break.
A few months ago, I developed a horrible habit. I ignored my alarm clock. Not just hitting snooze a couple of times and then begrudgingly getting out of bed. I’m talking about waking up (eventually) and not remembering hearing or turning off my alarm. It was dangerous for two reasons. First, because I was missing out on the morning, which for me is the most productive time for me personally. Second, because I ran the risk of being late for my first appointments. I knew I couldn’t wander out of this bad habit. I had to destroy it.
Bad habits hold you back. If your bad habit is overeating, you’ll gain weight. Gain enough weight and you’ll lose energy. Your health will decline. As your health declines, you’ll develop life-threatening illnesses. You’ll no longer be able to do some of the things that you love. All of it started with simply eating too much. That’s the power of a habit.
You’ll be better off when you destroy these bad habits. Don’t take them all on at the same time, you’ll surely fail. Focusing on the worst habit until it’s dead and then moving on to the next is your best bet. You may have been stuck in bad habits for years, but now is the time to plot a better path forward. Here’s how.
- Identify what leads you to the habit. Our behaviors and decisions are like a chain. Each link in the chain leads us to the outcome. If we break a link, we break the chain. Smaller actions and events are the links, and the chain is the decision. For example, you overeat because you’re sad because you saw an old friend is doing well on Facebook, which you were on because you were bored, which you were on because you decided to idly surf the internet instead of reading a book. If this occurs on a regular basis, then you can avoid overeating by avoiding idle surfing. You have to break a link before you get to the end of the chain. You know your triggers, and if you don’t, careful reflection can help you identify them.
- Find why you’re doing the habit. How did this habit start? At what point in your life did you start? What emotions drive you to them? This can be a painful step because you really have to face yourself in the mirror and call it like it is. This is where you face the cold hard truth. Maybe you’re looking to fill a void in all of the wrong places. Maybe this is where you find out that your wife isn’t meeting an emotional need of yours. Maybe this this where you find that you’re asking your wife to fill a void that isn’t her responsibility. Understanding your motivations will help you take steps in the right direction.
- Make a plan. Now that you know your triggers and motivations, it’s time to plan to avoid them. Put up barriers. Do something crazy. Bad habits must be destroyed! It’s going to be significantly harder to defeat them than it was to form them. So, for each trigger, find three ways to get around them. Then, when you’re in the trigger’s vicinity, choose an action plan and move around it.
- Expect failure. You’re not perfect. You didn’t form this habit in a day. So don’t expect to defeat it in a day. You’ll fail plenty of times. The trick is to not despair. Don’t give up. Go back to the drawing board, come up with a new plan, and attack again. Keep this strategy up long enough, and you’ll find success.
Changing your life is never easy. But changing your life is worth it.