Are you struggling to break your bad habits?
In this article, I am going to teach you how to break bad habits in 8 simple steps so that you can take control and elevate your life.
Are you ready?
Here we go!
1. Ask yourself why you want to eliminate this habit
Knowing your purpose to do something makes it significantly easier because you have an aim in mind.
An aim not only tells you what direction you should go to break your bad habit, but it also provides the motivation needed to keep you going.
Breaking a habit is not easy. According to a 2012 study by a group of psychology experts, a habit takes around 10 weeks to form.
That means that it could similarly take around 10 weeks to break a habit too.
That is a long time!
That is why you need to get your “Why” clear. Why am I building this habit? What am I trying to achieve here?
This way, you will be continuously motivated to break your bad habits.
Additionally, you can also write out all the cons of the bad habit that you have. With the disadvantages clearly written down, you can see how the bad habit is harming your life.
This convinces yourself that the habit is bad and must be eliminated now, spurring you on further.
2. Make a calendar
Making a calendar is another way to motivate yourself. Every day you managed to avoid your bad habit, cross the date out on your calendar. The cross marks the days that you have taken control of your life.
With every day crossed out, you are one step closer to breaking your bad habit. It is an achievement that you should celebrate and be driven by.
Furthermore, a calendar also helps you track your progress. Each habit takes roughly 10 weeks to break. With each day being crossed out, you can count down the number of days or weeks till your bad habit is likely eradicated.
For myself, I like to break down the 10 weeks into days. If I did not manage to control myself to avoid my bad habit, I will not count that day in. This prevents any cheating if you think that you can give in to your bad habit once every week and still countdown the whole week.
You are breaking a bad habit and improving your life. Hence, this should be taken seriously and no cheating or ambiguity should be allowed.
3. Start small
An old saying goes,” Rome wasn’t built in a day”. Immediately starting by avoiding the habit once and for all is unlikely to work given how inbuilt and automatic it has become.
This is because there is a sudden change and you are still not prepared to face that change. It is only through a gradual change can you adjust accordingly and embrace the change.
Thus, it is good to start small. Start by reducing the frequency and even the time you spend to do the habit.
For instance, if you want to get rid of the habit of watching Youtube videos for 1 hour, you can start by…
- Reducing the time you spent to 45 mins. When 45 mins is up, no matter whether your video has finished or not, you need to tell yourself to stop.
- Next, reducing the frequency of you watching Youtube videos for 1 hour. If you watch videos for 1 hour 5 times a day, reduce it to 4 times a day.
4. Be conscious when you repeat the habit
“Our awareness is the key. It is our awareness more than our work effort that gets the right result right now.”
– Mark Victor Hansen
Being aware when you repeat your bad habit is often underestimated in its importance to help break your bad habit.
Given how automatic and inbuilt a habit is, it is often easy to repeat a bad habit without realising. That is one of the reasons why habits are so powerful.
Without knowing when you repeat a habit, you will be unable to control yourself.
Moreover, you cannot track the frequency and time spent on the bad habit, rendering steps 3 and 4 useless.
Thus, being conscious when you repeat the bad habit is crucial to moving a step closer to breaking it. You can think before you act, track your progress and be reminded of the consequences of repeating your bad habit.
5. Introduce punishments to make yourself accountable
Despite the motivation you get from some of the steps in this article, there will always be times when procrastination still gets in the way.
How then, should you deal with these situations?
Punishments can act as a deterrence against repeating your bad habits.
Punishments can be anything from washing the dishes to not getting to eat your favourite ice cream. As long as you feel regret and pain for not practising your habit, the punishment is effective.
With a punishment, you are immediately reminded of the consequences of not giving in to your bad habit.
In future, whenever you feel like taking a day off, think back to the punishments. The pain and regret will help you make the correct decision – to avoid your bad habits.
6. Do it with a group of friends
Friends are AWESOME! They are a good source of motivation in your journey to break your bad habit.
2 reasons why.
Firstly, there is peer pressure from your friends. When your group of friends have all committed to breaking a bad habit of theirs and you are the only who didn’t, you will be left out. The feeling of being left out not only puts pressure on you to join them but also makes you feel uncomfortable.
Furthermore, if your friends are eager to go on this journey with you and you decline, it isn’t a good feeling to bear either.
Thus, leveraging peer pressure to break your bad habit is a good way to spur you on.
Secondly, when your friends are progressing faster than you, you will be motivated to work harder. This is so that you can catch up with them and do not fall behind.
This is especially useful for those who are competitive. Being competitive comes with its own pros and this is one of them! Friends can be your source of motivation to drive you to work harder and break your bad habit.
If you do not want to be left behind, work harder to break your bad habit!
7. Gradually eliminate the habit altogether
In step 3, I recommended you to start small by reducing the frequency and time spent on the habit.
This way, there is a gradual change that you can slowly adapt to.
However, after a while, there will be a point when you have reduced the frequency and time spent on your habit to a minimum.
For example, back to the habit of watching Youtube videos, when you have successfully reduced the frequency to one and time spent to a short time like 5 mins.
From this point on, you can then start to eliminate your habit by not doing it at all. Try to do away with the habit every day until you feel comfortable.
Again, the change is still small since you have already gotten used to rarely doing the habit every day.
8. Reward yourself every time you avoid doing the habit
Ultimately, rewarding yourself is still the most reliable and powerful motivation you can use.
Rewarding yourself after every action is like taking a cool energy drink. Instantaneously, you feel refreshed and recharged. Energy courses through you and you feel in high spirits.
Furthermore, not only do you get a sense of satisfaction, but you also become excited for the next reward.
Gradually, you will keep looking forward to the next reward, and the next one and the next one, almost like a toddler waiting for his/her next sweet.
With something to feel exhilarated about, your motivation soars to push you through the journey to break your bad habit.
Of course, all this depends on whether the reward is right for you.
What do I mean?
There are two criteria for a reward to be effective.
- The reward needs to be something you love doing. It can be eating your favourite snacks, cuddling your dog or going out for a walk. As long as you look forward to it, this can be a likely reward for you.
- The second criteria is that the reward must be something that won’t turn into a bad habit. If your reward to break a bad habit becomes a bad habit on its own, wouldn’t that defeat the purpose of a habit?
For example, imagine the scenario where you use gaming as a reward for you to break your bad habit of watching Youtube videos too much. However, you end up gaming too much and so frequently that it becomes a bad habit of its own. In essence, you are breaking a bad habit and creating a new one,
Overall, the second criteria for a reward is for it to be something that you can control. This way, you can leverage the excitement a reward brings while ensuring you can stop when it is time to stop.
In a nutshell…
These are the 8 simple ways I use to overcome and break my bad habits.
A bad habit must be completely removed, that is, it must not be automatic and inbuilt in you anymore. If it is not completely removed, a bad habit will always come back and your life will be no different than before.
So, make sure you do these 8 steps properly and carefully.
Start listing all your bad habits and eradicating them one by one.
When you are done, come back and tell me how your experience went. If you fail, try harder! I believe that you can do it! If you succeed, tell me how has the breaking of this bad habit changed your life? I can’t wait to hear about your experiences!
Last but not least, it is always better to break bad habits and replace them with good ones.
In my previous article, I explained how I build habits that last. You can click here to read the article.