Back when I was a kid (yeah, I know, during the dinosaur age), I used to love Mad magazine. It always featured a cartoon with a person speaking, and then, in a thought bubble over their head, what they were really thinking. Do you ever find yourself saying one thing, and thinking (or doing) the exact opposite? I think that’s what bad habits are all about—inconsistency with your goals. We all have good and bad habits, but the bad ones are what’s holding us back. It’s time to break those bad habits—for good.
What’s Your Motivation?
Why do we cling to bad habits when we know they aren’t good for us? Because they don’t require discipline! Or, they give us some amount of pleasure. Sometimes, getting motivated enough to break a bad habit comes from an outside ultimatum: our partner tells us to quit smoking or they’ll leave us or our dog’s vet says our dog will die if we don’t stop feeding him table scraps and start walking him every day. We don’t have to wait, however, until there’s an ultimatum—we can change today. Positive change might not always be easy, but it is both powerful and rewarding.
Make a Naughty List
Start by making a list of your bad habits, then pick the most important one to begin. Just one at a time! This brings us back to what’s really going on in your head. It may surprise you to learn that 100% of your bad habits start with your thoughts. Author and lecturer Dr. Joe Dispenza addresses this to no end. He has done years of studies on habits and compares our brains to computers; we get programmed to do certain things at certain times and we respond to stimuli based on past experiences. Bad habits are like malware that corrupt our goals, but we have the ability to “restore and repair” or better yet, to level up. Reflect on what you’re hanging onto, and ask yourself how it’s serving your commitment to a better life, better habits and more happiness.
Back to the Future
Try this: imagine the “future you” in 10 years. Ask her or him if they’re proud of how you (“present you”) is currently dealing with something, and whether it’s worth hanging onto. What advice would “future you” give to “present you?” This is a great way of holding yourself accountable AND getting out of the emotions of the moment while looking at things more objectively. You can also get together with loved ones and have them help you create a personal mission statement and vision. It’s surprising how helpful this can be in decision making, clearing out destructive thoughts and realigning yourself with your goals.
While some literature suggests it takes 21 days to break a bad habit, others say it can take anywhere from 18 to 254. That’s a big range! The key, though, is to set realistic expectations for what you’re wanting to accomplish, then strive for consistency. If you’re trying to lose 30 pounds, that weight did not suddenly appear overnight and it won’t go away overnight, either. Be kind to yourself and start today…baby steps!
Louis “The Laser Guy’s” Three Additional Tips to Break Bad Habits:
1. Identify your triggers and write them down. Have an alternate healthy habit already in place when you are trigged. For example, if you’re craving a cigarette and it’s making you anxious, do five minutes of cardio exercise instead.
2. Visualize your goals with sticky notes on your mirror, a vision board, a motivational app, photos on your fridge or when you were at your goal weight, etc. Surround yourself with reminders of why you’re ditching the bad habit.
3. Accept that there will be occasional slip-ups. Use them to motivate you that much harder and keep going until you have reached your goal.