Break a Bad Habit

The right time?

To break a habit, you must first really want to break it and then chose the right time to do so. If you’ve got lots of other things going on, then it may not be the best time to take habit-breaking on. On the other hand, if the habit is contributing to your workload then breaking it ‘as soon as’ could be a good idea.

A habit, by definition, is programmed into you and will kick in as an automatic response, bypassing your thinking brain, especially when you are really busy with other things. To break it you must be able to put in the effort to hijack this automatic response and replace it with the new response and so choosing the right time for you is key.

Visualise the ‘new you’

To break a bad habit, it helps to have a clear picture (vision) of what effect this change will have on your life. So, think about why you want to break the habit. What negative habit do you want to get rid of? what is the positive habit you want to replace it with? how will this change improve your life? You can use this picture, of what you are aiming for and what success will bring you, to keep you focused on the task in hand.

No dead-ends

To break a bad habit, it helps to recognise that brains don’t like dead ends. So rather than just stopping the bad habit, you will need to decide what you want to replace it with. What is the replacement new behaviour to be? Once you know this then, when you spot the trigger for your bad habit you can act out this new behaviour instead. The more times you successfully replace the unwanted bad habit by your new behaviour, the weaker the old bad habit will become and the stronger the new good habit.

Practise and be kind to yourself

To help break a bad habit, practise spotting the triggers for the bad habit you want to break and practise responding to those triggers in the new positive way that you want to. This will build a new good habit and, in time remove the old bad habit.

Be kind to yourself during this time. Record and celebrate your successes and do not beat yourself up about the times that the old habit kicks in (remind yourself that this process takes time). To quicken the process, do not be afraid to look at the situations where the old bad habit kicks in and then plan how you will respond next time a similar situation occurs.

Share your journey   

To help break a bad habit, enlist the support of someone you trust to report back to and share your successes and your not-such-a-success experiences with regularly. Someone who will listen without judgement and encourage you to continue. This can be a friend, family member or colleague, or if you prefer, someone like me, a professional coach who is ‘outside’ of your situation and impartial. This out-in-the-open approach with regular reporting back to another person will help to keep you focused on replacing your unhelpful habit with a helpful one.