Bad habits are among the worst enemies of living life to the fullest. Why? Because habit is something we do over and over again. While we do other kinds of mistakes occasionally, bad habit is something we do consistently over time. If even one mistake can drag your life down, you can imagine what kind of damage bad habits can do.
To make matters worse, often we don’t realize that we have bad habits. We think that we just live our life as usual while we are actually making mistakes again and again. It’s like having leaks in our ship without realizing it. So breaking bad habits should be among your top priorities to get the most out of your life. If you do it right, and you are on your way to make significant improvements in your life.
The first step to breaking the bad habits is to identify them. Only after identifying them can you decide to do something about them. Here are two tips for identifying the bad habits you might have:
Compare your life with your value system
Do you live according to your value system? Or do you deviate from it here and there? Your value system acts like a compass that guides your life. When you do things that are not according to your life compass, you know that you have a problem. So look for things you consistently do that deviate from your value system. Those are your bad habits.
Compare your life with a role model
Sometimes it’s easier to compare your life with someone else’s life than to compare it with an abstract value system. So find people whose life you want to emulate and find the details of how they live their life. Is there anything they don’t do that you consistently do? For instance, perhaps they are never late. You, on the other hand, are perpetually late. That’s a bad habit you should stop.
The next step after identifying the bad habits is to break them. I’m glad I found some good tips for it in the book ‘Become a Better You’ by Joel Osteen. While the book is based on Christian principles, many lessons in it are universally applicable including its suggestions on breaking bad habits. Here are four tips to stop bad habits based on the book:
Quit feeding the bad habit
There are two “wolves” inside us that fight each other. One wolf represents good habits while the other represents bad habits. Which wolf will win the fight? The answer is the one you feed. So breaking bad habit is actually simple: just stop feeding it. Leave the bad habit starve and you are on your way to get it away from your life.
Replace it with a good habit
Quit feeding the bad habit is essential but it’s not enough. You must also replace it with a good habit. Otherwise there is an empty space in your life where the bad habit could go back to anytime. For instance, if you have the habit of thinking negative thoughts, you should replace it with the habit of thinking positive thoughts. Whenever negative thoughts come, use it as a trigger to start thinking positive thoughts. Or if you have the habit of eating unhealthy food, you can start developing the habit of eating healthy food. Just don’t leave the space empty.
Press past the initial pain and discomfort
When breaking a bad habit, the beginning of the process is the most difficult. Just like getting a space shuttle lifted off the Earth takes enormous amount of power, it also takes enormous amount of willpower to break a bad habit. And just like moving a space shuttle that has escaped the Earth’s gravitational pull takes little energy, it also takes only little amount of willpower to continue doing your new habit.
The initial phase is the most difficult, but it will become easier and easier over time. So whenever you think that it’s too difficult to stay on course, just remember that it won’t be so for long. You just have to keep moving forward.
Make “no exceptions” policy
Once you decide to break a bad habit, stick with your decision. Make no exceptions to come back to it for whatever reason. I know it’s not easy (at least for me), but this step is essential if you want the process to get easier over time. Making exceptions is like taking a space shuttle back to Earth; you need another enormous amount of power to lift it off again. So be careful not to make exceptions when you are dealing with bad habits.
These four tips are simple but powerful. Using the feeding analogy, the tips to break a bad habit boil down to this:
Quit feeding the bad habit. Feed a good one instead.
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