10 Tips to Break Bad Habits

ice cream isolated on white backgroundOld bad habits: I chewed my fingernails until they bled. I sucked my thumb until I was 11. I chewed my hair. I smoked two packs a day.

New bad habits: I need adult supervision at the pet store because I want to bring every fur baby home. I leave my shoes where I take them off. I am consistently 15 minutes late for personal appointments.

Chances are you have some bad habits of your own that you’d like to get rid of as well. While working on changing habits, you have to realize there is a hierarchy to making change. At one level it’s conscious and external and it takes a lot of work; at another level it’s unconscious and internal and it happens pretty effortlessly.

Levels of Change

  • Identity – I AM
  • Values – I Feel, It’s Important
  • Belief – I Think, I Know
  • Potential – I Can, You Can
  • Behavior – I Do, I Don’t
  • Environment – It Is, There Is

When you’re working at higher levels of Value and Identity, change takes place on an internal level and it is unconscious – and relatively effortless. That’s how I quit smoking in 1989. Where most people attempt to make change is at the level of Behavior and Environment, which requires consciousness and effort. Unfortunately, most people give up pretty quickly because of this.

If you’re ready to try working on some of your bad habits here are some tips for you.

  1. Identify and eliminate whatever reward or pay off the habit is giving you. You have a habit of eating ice cream every night before bed? Stop buying it! If it’s not the house you can’t eat it.
  2. Trade bad behavior for positive behavior. Nature abhors a vacuum. Take that time you might’ve been eating ice cream and do something productive. Read, meditate, take a long bath.
  3. Avoid temptation. If ice cream has been your problem, it makes no sense to wander into Baskin-Robbins. Habits are unconscious strategies that are run by triggers. Avoid the trigger, and you’ll avoid the strategy.
  4. Practice, practice, practice. Practice saying no to things. It’s the unconscious yes that drives that ice cream strategy. So if somebody offers you something sweet, say no. You can change your mind later. But this will get you in the habit of saying no when someone offers ice cream.
  5. Anchor your new reward. Create something as a reward for making better choices and eliminating this habit. So let’s say eliminating ice cream will allow you to drop 10 pounds, which will put you in the perfect size for that fabulous little black dress. Take a picture of that LBD and place it somewhere you’re going to see it every day – maybe even on the door of the freezer.
  6. Have a backup plan. Using an “if – then” situation, create a backup plan. Example: if I think about having ice cream before bed then I will sip 16 ounces of water while I focus on all the progress I’ve made so far.
  7. Exercise your willpower. We live in such an instant gratification society that we feel any deprivation is uncomfortable. Just keep saying to yourself “I can put this off for two more minutes.” In two more minutes, say the same thing. You need to be conscious about it and you will feel uncomfortable in the beginning. Eventually your willpower will be one of your strongest muscles.
  8. Give yourself a break. It can take anywhere from three weeks to three months to break a habit. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Don’t believe the statistics you read. Just keep applying these tools.
  9. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Having a bite, or a cup, or a pint of ice cream once out of 22 days is a 22 day win, not an all-out failure. If you fall off the wagon, get back on. Chances are the next run will be longer than the last one.
  10. Celebrate you. Be conscious of every day you succeed, and share those successes with others. Let them celebrate you, let you celebrate you. Revel in the awesomeness that is you without your old bad habit.

You can do it! You got this!

If you’re interested in getting help with breaking those bad habits give us a call at 888-916-4569 or 562-618-0175 – we’d love to help.

Copyright Kimberly Rinaldi 2014