Are you having a difficult time trying to break a bad habit for good? Do you find yourself trying to break a bad habit but constantly revert back to your old ways?
Bad habits are inevitable. We all develop bad habits, but it’s to the extent of these habits that determines our overall quality of life. The more bad habits we develop, the more challenging life is going to seem. The more bad habits we overcome, the more good habits we develop and the easier life is going to seem.
It only makes sense that you want to eliminate all of your bad habits, but how do you actually break a bad habit?
Before you can answer that question, you first need to know what causes bad habits and how you can stop these from happening in the future.
What Causes A Bad Habit?
There are a few different things that cause us to develop bad habits in the first place.
1. The first thing that causes a bad habit is entitlement. We develop somewhat of an ego and think we are untouchable to all of the harmful things in the world around us.
Anybody who drinks a beer isn’t taking into consideration the dangers associated to it. Anybody who puts $10 in a slot machine isn’t thinking of the addiction it might cause. We have this mentality of saying “Oh, nothing bad is going to happen to me, so it doesn’t really matter.” That is, of course, until something does happen…
*And full disclaimer, I am not calling anyone out. I do these things as well.
2. The second thing that causes a bad habit is boredom. I didn’t start chewing my nails because I found it fun and enjoyable. I started chewing my nails because it gave me something to do while I was bored. Then it developed into something I did when I was stressed, but that’s a whole different story.
3. The final thing that causes a bad habit is environment. We are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with. If you find yourself dealing with a bad habit, check your environment and you will often see similarities in those around you.
If you want to stop yourself from developing bad habits entirely, try to avoid these things. You won’t be able to do so entirely, but just try to be as cognizant as possible about your actions.
How To Break A Bad Habit
So, what do you do if you develop a bad habit? How do you break a bad habit and remove it from your life? The answer: replace the reward with a greater consequence. Let me give you an example to help you understand.
I am a person who loves money. I admit it, I am incredibly money-driven. Is money the “be-all, end-all?” No, but I have this game in my head where I love saving as much as I can and seeing just how much I can save. Therefore, seeing any money go would be a huge consequence.
During this pandemic, I have done a decent job of staying healthy, but haven’t always remembered to wear a mask. In seeing the numbers of Coronavirus rise in the US, I realize that my actions might not directly be harming me, but they could be harming my community and the ones I love and care about the most.
To prevent the spread of this illness, I am making it a new habit to wear a mask every time I am out in public. If I don’t have a mask on every time I get out of my car, I am going to donate $10 to a relief fund for Coronavirus victims. I haven’t decided on who yet, so if you know of anyone, let me know.
Now, $10 might not seem like a lot, but trust me, even to see $10 go is going to help me ensure that I am wearing a mask at all times.
What Can You Do?
Let’s say you are somebody who has a goal of losing weight and wants to start exercising daily. It’s a great goal to have, but if you are having a hard time staying focused, make the consequence greater than the reward of staying home and relaxing. If you have a partner, give them $20 every day you don’t exercise. If money is tight, try something like not being able to watch TV for a day.
Another example could be with your spending habits. Maybe you are someone who spends too much money on overpriced $5 coffee. If you are having a hard time quitting, make the risk greater than the reward. Commit to donating $15 on top of the $5 coffee you buy. All of a sudden the $5 coffee turns into a $20 coffee. If that doesn’t work for you, then commit to eating every meal at home for the rest of the week.
Bad habits often stop once we replace them with consequences that are more severe than the reward of the habit itself, so if you are having a difficult time, give this a try.
How To Hold Yourself Accountable
There are several ways you can hold yourself accountable. The first is integrity and honesty. While it’s often incredibly challenging to break bad habits if this is the only way you hold yourself accountable, it can work for some people.
Another way is to find an accountability partner. Find another person close to you who is trying to overcome bad habits of their own, and make it a point to hold each other accountable to staying on track. If somebody caves, again, make the consequence greater than the reward of the bad habit.
The final way is to automate everything. By now, you have probably heard of the app Acorns. If not, Acorns is an app that helps you control your spending and invest in your future with round-up purchases and recurrent withdraws. So if you are having a hard time controlling your spending, set it to double all of your purchases or $5 extra every time you swipe your card. This way, you aren’t giving your money away, but you are investing in your future.
There are also other habit-building apps that can help you to keep on track, but my best recommendation would be to get somebody you know well, tell them what your goals are, and have them as an accountability partner. People hate disappointing others, so I find this to be the most effective method.
Before You Go
Everybody struggles with different things. Don’t beat yourself up for the mistakes you make along the way. If you fail, just pick yourself right back up and get back on track with your goals.
If you are wanting to read about how you can change your habits and drastically improve your life, I recommend reading Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear. It will honestly change your life and improve your behaviors.