Habits are considered actions or tendencies that over time occurs unconsciously. From taking the same route to work, seating in the same area of the cafeteria or favorite coffee shop and everyday routines such as making coffee, taking a shower or brushing your teeth are habitual.
Although good habits work great for everyday routine activities, what about your bad habit you’d like to change? From a poor diet, irregular exercise, chewing your nails, or vices such as alcohol abuse and smoking. We all experience different degrees of bad habits, but with the right tools, you can change them.
Breaking Your Bad Habit
The key to breaking a habit comes down to changing the behavior that you engage in. For a clear understanding of your habits, read my post on How A Daily Routine Can Change Your Life.
But to give you a quick recap, habits follow 3 steps: Trigger, Behaviour & Reward. The trigger cues your behavior, the behavior occurs automatically, which provides an intrinsic reward.
Avoiding your triggers for the rest of your life is near impossible and trying to change the reward you seek will become overwhelming. Therefore concentrating on replacing your current behavior with these 4 steps will help you break your habit.
I used to come home from work every day and grab a beer. At first, it was an occasional occurrence after a stressful or long day, but over time it became a habit. I would even catch myself opening the fridge, beer in hand and not even realize the action I was taking.
At that point, I decided I was going to try breaking my habit.
Step 1: What Habit Do You Want To Change?
The key to changing a habit is not to take on too much. First, decide on the habit you wish you break and only choose one at a time. The next step will require self-awareness to catch yourself in the act, of engaging in your bad behavior.
I decided I wanted to change my beer drinking habit after work.
Step 2: Identify Your Triggers
First, you’ll have to identify what makes you engage in the behavior you’re seeking to change. Spend a week recording all of the triggers that make you engage in that behavior, and use the 5 Trigger categories to help you.
Coming home from work became my Trigger for drinking a beer.
Step 3: Experiment With Different Behaviours
Experiment with different behaviors to determine the intrinsic reward you seek and what other behavior might satisfy your habit.
For the next week, I experimented with different behaviors to replace drinking a beer. The first day I tried drinking a Coke, and that didn’t provide the effect I was looking for. The next day, I ate a banana, which again failed. Although on the third day I walked around a park before coming home. When I sat down on the couch, I felt relaxed and didn’t feel the need to drink a beer.
Step 4: Building Your New Behaviour
Once I had discovered the reward a beer was providing me was the feeling of relaxation after a days work, I understood I could replace that behavior with anything that would put my mind at peace.
Over the next few weeks, every time I came home from work, I’d go for a short walk, try meditating or just lie down for a few minutes and let go of the day’s work. I learned that these activities provided me with the same reward I had pursued from drinking a beer.
Breaking old habits will be hard. Self-awareness will be necessary to catch yourself acting on bad behaviors and identifying your triggers. But once you experiment with different behaviors, and determine your intrinsic reward – you’ll have a better chance at replacing your bad behavior with a good one.
Don’t expect perfection, when breaking old habits. The process is more important than the end result, follow the rule never miss twice, and over time you’ll notice your bad habits fall out.