It’s Thursday morning. You open your laptop and see that glaring email you’ve been avoiding from the colleague requesting a status update on an overdue project. Instead of replying, you get up for a third cup of coffee.
Falling into the same old habits is human nature; but habits have a way of catching up with us — especially “bad” or even self-destructive habits.
Whether you procrastinate on work projects or swap your salad at lunch for greasy fast food all too often, you may discover your bad habits often lead to other bad habits.
- If you have a habit of drinking too much, you may also eat unhealthy food after drinking, which is another bad habit.
- Drinking acts as a keystone habit, serving as the foundation on which other bad habits are built.
The good news: If you’re starting to see the impact of your bad habits on your life, it’s not too late to change them by using the right tactics and rewiring your brain’s response to your environment.
Although many people resort to willpower to fight their bad habits, using an intentional process to eradicate bad habits will set you up for success.
Here are seven steps you can take on the path to breaking unhealthy habits.
1. Identify Your Triggers
First things first: You’ll need to identify the triggers for your bad habits. What are those experiences and environments that cause you to engage in negative behavior?
Maybe you can’t stand being bored, so you end up using a quick and easy behavior to alleviate that boredom, such as scrolling through social media for hours. That keystone bad habit leads to other bad habits — such as comparing yourself to people you see on social media. The key to stopping the keystone behavior isn’t just deleting your social media apps.
Instead, it’s preventing your trigger: being bored.
2. Be Specific About Your Habits
After identifying your triggers, be specific about how you want to change your habits. Before you can reach any goal, you have to be very specific about what that goal is. Specifically describe the bad habit you want to eradicate in as much detail as possible, and then describe the good habit with which you will replace it.
Using the example above, if you want to eradicate your bad habit of scrolling through Instagram for hours, you might want to identify how long is too long for scrolling, your exact triggers, and a good habit to replace the bad one.
Instead of scrolling through Instagram when you’re bored, for example, replace that social media use with a walk.
3. Replace Your Bad Habits
Once you decide to pick a specific activity to replace your bad habit, you’ll want to choose a new habit that’s going to provide a similar reward or benefit — otherwise, the replacement won’t work, and you’ll be left feeling dissatisfied and tempted to return to the bad habit.
If your bad habit is reaching for a sugary candy bar when you’re hungry at your desk, replace the candy bar with a sweet — but healthy — item, such as Medjool dates or an apple. You’ll get the sweet flavor without filling your body with refined sugars.
4. Measure Your Progress
Once you’ve gotten specific about your habits, you also need to be clear about how you’ll measure your progress as you eradicate them. How else will you know when you’ve reached your goal, after all?
When it comes to a goal such as losing weight, measurement is easy. You just look at the scale. But when aiming to eradicate a bad habit, measuring your progress can be a little more difficult. Decide how you want to measure your progress and, again, be specific. Quantifiable measurements are always best, if possible.
5. Increase the Pressure
Decide what kind of pressure you need for your best performance. Do you need self-inflicted pressure by way of checklists, daily scorecards, and tracking apps? Or do you need outside accountability, such as competition with others, accountability buddies, or a life coach? Choose whether you need external or internal pressure, and then add that source of pressure to your habit-changing efforts.
You can also increase pressure by implementing a reward and punishment system whenever you meet or fail to meet your goals. If you fail to meet your goal, you might give yourself a self-inflicted penalty, such as not getting to go out with friends. If you meet your goal, you might give yourself a reward, such as a trip to the spa or your favorite meal.
6. Plan, Plan, Plan
Before you even embark on eradicating your bad habit, create a pre-situation plan for success. Envision yourself being successful. How will you respond? How will you achieve that success?
Likewise, put together a plan for if you fail. How will you respond? How will you ensure you get back up on the horse?
7. Write it Down
Lastly, make sure you write your plans down. In fact, write down all the information above. Don’t just keep the specifics in your head. You’ll want a detailed record to come back to in the events of both successes and failures. That way, you’ll know what path to take no matter what happens, and you also won’t end up abandoning your efforts at the first sign of potential failure or temptation.
The Bottom Line
Although many people resort to willpower to fight their bad habits, using an intentional process to eradicate bad habits will set you up for success. We know the steps above can be easier said than done — so if you need a little help from an external source, a life coach may be a good fit for you.
Arootah Life Coaches help professionals from all walks of life realize their goals by systematically eradicating bad habits and building good ones. Schedule a free 30-minute introductory coaching session today.
Will you try these seven steps to kick your bad habits? Let us know in the comments!