All of us have unsuccessfully tried to rid ourselves of a bad habit. People often ask me why it is so difficult to change a bad habit. There are probably as many answers and theories to answer that question as there are bad habits! What is true is that you can change.
If you want to ditch a bad habit, start by getting real! Any change for most people is unwelcomed and uncomfortable. Most people hold onto comfort as a primary value. To kick a bad habit, you must value change over comfort. You must choose higher values to rule over the familiar feelings that have ruled the roost! Be honest. This habit is in your life because you choose to have it there. Bad habits are like unwelcomed guests that you would like to kick out, but for the sake of your own comfort you let them stay around. It’s time for these freeloaders to leave, and it begins with a firm commitment to change.
Once you have committed to kicking a bad habit, it is helpful to explore the “reasons” you have allowed this unwelcomed guest to stay. Ask yourself what you get from having this habit in your life? What do you feel you are going to lose if it is no longer there? For change to occur, you need to clearly see that you will be happier, healthier, and better off without this habit, and that you will not be losing anything at all! This brings us to the next key to help you change.
Instead of just RESISTING bad habits, REPLACE them with something better! Let’s call it upgrading! You proactively replace the unwanted behavior with a new habit! Now you are not giving something up, you are gaining something better. The key is identifying something that you want more than what you currently have.
To help illustrate these principles, consider the following scenario. George has an unhealthy habit of drinking lots of caffeine sugar laden sodas each and every day and wants to get rid of this bad habit. Most importantly, George must recognize understand and believe that this practice is unhealthy and commit to the change. Only he can take the responsibility to change his actions. George must commit to his long-term wellbeing more than the immediate pleasure of sipping the soda.
Then George must recognize until now, he has believed that this bad habit does something good for him. He has believed that without the caffeine he will be “tired” and will “feel drained”. He has been convinced that he needs the “energy boost” he gets from the sugar. What George must do at this point is create new beliefs and choose a replacement. What replacement habits might bring George the energy and the feeling of well-being? He could choose to replace drinking the sugared sodas with drinking lots of water. He could also choose a simple physical activity like taking a walk when he feels drained. Or maybe when George feels a little low, he could choose to read something that makes him laugh and feel good. It’s all about shifting the focus from resisting the bad habit to doing something else that will fill those “needs” even better.
Are you ready for an upgrade? What it takes is a simple, clear commitment.