In this post, I’d like to talk about how to break bad habits, and specifically the ones that are getting you in the way to do productive stuff.
I kid you not, I’m a bit overwhelmed because it’s a big topic,I don’t know where to start and at the same time, it’s the one that I love the most.
Surely, there are a lot of books, blogs, articles over the internet to solve this issue on how to break bad habits, how habits work, strategies how to install them, and so on…
But somehow, many people still struggling with building good habits and breaking bad ones. It’s pretty insane.
Put it in an another way. The problem isn’t the lack of information, the problem is “Do you take any sort of action with the information to solve your own problems?” You see… that’s a bad habit called “information overload”.
Don’t get me wrong, I still also slip into this habit quiet sometimes, that’s what keeps me producing content like this blog posts, or videos that I make in my Youtube channel.
Without further ado let’s get started. But before we get to the meat of the matter, let’s talk first about why habits matter.
Habits Are The Building Block Of Your Life
Everything that you do is habit based. Most of our actions that we take are completely automated for the mere reason, is that they bring us comfort and some sort of pleasure, whether they are good or bad.
As James Clear put in his best selling book “Atomic Habits”: Habits are the compound effect of self-improvement.
Everything that we do in the smallest ways, after time, will build over itself, until it becomes a giant wall that it’s going to be hard to break in both side’s perspective: Good and bad. Here are some examples:
- If you read just one page a day, consistently over 90 days, it’s almost a book.
- If you just show up and write one page a day for 30 days, there you have 30 pages.
- If you do 5 push ups a day for the next 30 days, it comes out to 150 push ups.
It sounds so easy, isn’t? But why most people don’t do that?
Simply because it’s easy to dismiss small changes, we under look at them, and we get out of track at the slightest distraction, without talking about the wide spread messages around “going big” as the only road to success.
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“Bad Habits” Is Relative
Before I get into the meat of the matter, I want to clarify something important about habits.
For some behaviors, the label of “Good” or “Bad” is relative depending on the person’s situation. As James Clear said in book there’s no good or bad habits, there’s only effective habits.
Eating donuts for example, for someone who is fat, and overweight, simply it’s a bad thing to be indulged in.
In the other hand, if someone is into the gym stuff, and he or she want to bulk up, eating donuts it’s a right thing to do for this circumstance.
Any behavior is going against the new identity you want to build, or the goal your want achieve is bad, and in the contrary, if it’s helping you to climb up the mountain, and get to the top, double down in it.
And of course, there are some habits that we all agree are bad, and unhealthy like smoking, drinking alcohol, taking drugs.
How To Actually Break Bad Habits?
So, let’s get into some strategies to alleviate those habits that are blocking you from simply living a healthy, and fulfilling life.
And those strategies are a mixture between mindset, and piratical ideas.
Strategy #1: Associate Massive Pain To The Habit.
Let’s face it, change is tough, and uncertain. The uncomfortable truth is you need a really big motive to make a change happen, and that motive is named pain.
I know, for some people it might be a crazy statement, but actually that’s the truth. Pain serves for a purpose, and you can use it in your advantage.
But that requires a bit of awareness, that most people don’t have unfortunately.
Envision the consequences of indulging yourself in this bad habit.
If you are smoking, why not to go to the nearest hospital, and see the people that are bed-bounded, and suffering from a broken lung.
And think about the loved ones that are truly depending on you, like your family, your kids, and they will feel, if they lose you.
Looking to skyrocket your productivity? Check out this list:
- How to build a strong self discipline
- How to get stuff done when you don’t want to
- How to finish what you start
Strategy #2: Choose a Substitute For The Bad Habit
Suppressing, or eliminating a bad habit by only relying on willpower is a losing strategy.
Willpower is not sufficient to stop yourself, is a finite resource. Think of it this way…
Your willpower is like a hammer, and the bad habit is like a big mountain.
It’s impossible to tear down a mountain with a silly hammer, and the same thing goes when you want to face a giant mountain with your willpower. As they say in marketing it’s the slow path.
The quick way is to substitute this habit with another one that is healthy, and favorable, or neutral.
If you have the urge of smoking you can use a toothpick, or a chewing gum with your favorite flavor as canal to way out the stress or the boredom that led you to smoke in the first place.
Or if you’re addicted to Facebook for example, try to replace it with reading an article about something that you’re deeply interested in, that really light you up.
To make that work successfully, you need to plan all that before the urge arises. It’s kind of a mental script that you pull out whenever the thing happens.
Strategy #3: Practice Environment Design
Another trick that many people aren’t aware of, is to change your environment by optimizing the physical cues around you, or even to question the people that you are friend with.
Understand that, our brain functions by association. Everything that you do, and you feel, is linked on one another, and that dictates your behavior.
This is why when you go to a certain place, you could feel good or bad, depending on the emotions that we experienced in previous situations in this particular place, and the same goes with people.
First recognize the cue, and just put more steps between you and the cue, or if you can eliminate it that’s perfect.
For example, just for the mere act of putting you phone in the drawer when you’re working on your office, will reduce the use of it.
The same goes with practicing good habits. If you want to read, simply put the book on your desk or where you spend most of your time, rather than to hide it on the shelf.
Simple acts like these have a significant and exponential effect in our lives. But, unfortunately, we don’t value them, because they aren’t big.
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