Monday, July 9, 2012

Breaking Bad Habits (Part III) : 5 Tips for Breaking Bad Habits

Is Breaking Bad Habits even Possible?

  If you have followed along on Part I  and Part II of the Breaking Bad Habits post series, you probably aren't real encouraged so far.

Let's do a quick review:

- Once a bad habit is written in your brain, it is stored there forever.  You will never completely eliminate that bad habit from your thinking.

- The biggest triggers for relapsing back into bad habits are too much stress and boredom.  Unfortunately, we all feel over-stressed and bored sometimes.

- Your willpower is not going to help you too much in breaking bad habits.  The more you try not to act out on a bad habit, the more likely you will.  Trying not to do it keeps the habit at the forefront of your brain, which makes acting out on it more likely when stress and boredom come.

5 Tips that might help you break bad habits

1.  Make the Decision

     It sounds too simple, but if you aren't absolutely sure that you want to make this change in your life, then you won't do it.  You must have a compelling reason.  It may be your health, it may be for your kids.  Only you can decide what is going to give you the fuel to keep going when the road gets tough.  The secret is to use that willpower we discussed earlier to focus on what your life will look like once you make this change.  Therefore, instead of focusing on trying not to fall into your bad habit, focus on how your life will be improved once you overcome the habit.

2.  Throw perfection out the window

   This is the one that has tripped me up over and over again every time I want to eliminate a bad habit.  For some reason, after I decide to make a change in my life, I envision the process of change to be perfect.  I picture myself making the transition from a bad habit to a good one and don't plan for the inevitable slip-up.  Then, when I do mess up, I beat myself up for it, which makes me feel miserable, which leads me a large relapse in my negative behavior.

   Even if you have a compelling reason to make the change in your life, if you expect to be perfect and never mess up, you are setting yourself up for failure.  PLAN ON MESSING UP from time to time while getting rid of bad habits.  Messing up is part of the learning process.  When you mess up, don't beat yourself up for it.  Now you know that it is going to happen and is part of the process.  Dust yourself off, learn from your mistake, and get back on your journey.

3.  One day at a time

   When eliminating bad habits, it is very important to focus on the big picture.  You must have a vision for what you are shooting for and keep the compelling reason for your change in the forefront of your mind.

   Breaking the bad habit isn't going to occur, however, by continuously focusing on the future goal.  Any positive change occurs as the result of making the right decisions over and over again, day after day.  The change happens one day at a time.

  In my experience, it works well to peak at the future goal and know what you are shooting for, but quickly come back to the present moment and decide what you are going to do this day to move you a little closer to that positive change.

  THE PRESENT MOMENT is where the rubber meets the road and where progress is made.

4.  Manage your Stress

   I know this is a tough one.  We live in a stress-filled society.  It's all we know.  If we are not stressed out, most of us find something to stress about because that is our normal state.  There are things that we can do, however to manage the stress in our lives.  I hope to discuss this topic further in a later post.

5.  Replace bad habits with good ones.

   When we stop acting out on a bad habit, it leaves a void in our lives.  There is no way around it.  If you spend 2 hours a day doing your bad habit, you now have 2 hours that you will need to fill up with something else.

   In my experience, a bad habit cannot be broken without replacing it with a good one.  If you want to maintain freedom from a bad habit for a long period of time, you will need to begin another habit to do instead.

Without replacing the bad habit with a good one, BOREDOM will creep into that time slot, and it will lead you right back to your bad habit.

What about You?

Does perfection creep in when you are trying to eliminate bad habits and lead you to failure?  Can you add any other tips that you have found for breaking bad habits?

Parts of this post was based on a seminar sponsored by the Institute of Brain Potential called How the Brain Forms New Habits: Why Willpower is Not Enough: More information can be found at:

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