Everyone has them. Bad habits. Most of us want to break that bad habit. But there is one thing that is holding you back from doing so. Let’s figure out how to overcome that obstacle.
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For years I woke up, drank my coffee with extra cream and then went straight to the fridge for a soda.
It didn’t matter if it was 6:30AM. Soda.
And even back then, I knew I was making a poor choice. I knew that drinking a soda first thing in the morning was not a good habit. I knew I should be drinking water instead.
But somehow, that sneaky soda always ended up on the bathroom counter while I was doing my hair and makeup. Every single day.
But, because it was a diet soda, I told myself that it was okay. That I needed the extra caffeine. That I was an adult and could do what I wanted.
And this wasn’t my only bad habit. While I hate to admit it, from the age of 15 to 22, I smoked roughly a pack of cigarettes a day.
Even when I was dead broke, I managed to scrounge up enough change to buy a pack of cigarettes. At one point, I sold off some of my clothing to buy cigarettes. This habit had taken control of my life. And at the time, I did feel hopeless.
I repeatedly told myself, “it’s because my parents were smokers. I was doomed from the start.” I even went as far as to convince myself that my bad habit was okay because “there are worse addictions out there. At least I’m not addicted to meth.”
And in both scenarios, I had hit the same obstacle. With every excuse, I was reinforcing these negative identities I had created. That I was an addict. Or that I wasn’t strong enough to quit.
The #1 Reason You Can’t Break that Bad Habit
Every time you make an excuse for your bad habit and give into it, you are reinforcing a negative identity of yourself. Many times this identity is I’m not strong enough to quit.
This is self-destructive behavior and the more you continue to think of yourself in a negative light, the harder it will be to break that bad habit. You will continue to allow yourself to get away with whatever it is that you are doing because you have convinced yourself that it’s just who you are.
This one thing psychological reason is at the top of the list of reasons you can’t break your bad habit. So how do you change that negative identity?
In the following sections, I will discuss the steps to take to break that bad habit and become more confident in yourself.
Also, check out this article from YesandYes.org to find out the other reasons you are struggling with bad habits.
1). Identify and Keep a Log of Your Bad Habit
According to Lifehacker, one of the greatest keys to your success is understanding your bad habit.
The first step in any type of recovery or change is to acknowledge the problem at hand. Once you can honestly identify how severe your problem is, you can start making a change.
To do this, you can keep a log of your bad habit. If you smoke, write down the day and place a tally mark every time you smoke a cigarette. Or, write down each time you stepped out to have a smoke.
From there, you can begin to identify triggers. What initiates that desire to go have a cigarette? Do you like to smoke directly after a meal? Do you step out to smoke every time another coworker steps out? Is it social? Do you smoke more when you are having a bad day?
Answering these questions can help you further understand your bad habit, which is key to breaking it.
2). Believe in Yourself
Remember the main reason that you can’t break that bad habit? It’s that you don’t believe in yourself.
You have either convinced yourself that you can’t do it or you feel like you are unworthy. Both are self-limiting thoughts that are keeping you from breaking your bad habit.
Now, believing in yourself is much harder than just reading self-help books and reciting affirmations in the mirror every morning. It’s the combination of a bunch of small actions and results that will build your confidence and allow you to believe in yourself.
Those actions are detailed in the process below. They include setting achievable goals, recognizing and acknowledging your victories, and rewarding yourself positively.
3). Make Your Goals Achievable
Instead of starting off with the end goal in mind, break it down into smaller, more reasonable goals.
For example, if your end goal is to quit smoking, you may want to set smaller goals such as “don’t smoke a cigarette on my lunch break.”
This may seem almost too easy. But setting these small goals time and time again will help get you closer to your end goal. And they will help build up your self-confidence and give you the motivation to continue pushing towards that goal.
When setting your goals, keep the SMART rules in mind. Keep them specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely.
When you first start out, you may need to set new goals each day, or even multiple times per day. I encourage you to write these down. Numerous studies have shown that writing down your goals increases your chances of achieving those goals.
4). Recognize and Acknowledge Your Victories
Because of a lack of confidence and that doubt that you can’t achieve your goals, you may struggle to acknowledge small victories.
If you got through your lunch break and didn’t smoke that cigarette, you may think that it was just one and it’s not worthy of any kind of acknowledgment.
You can do this step alone or you can talk to your close friend or family member. Let them know that you didn’t smoke that cigarette at lunch. Chances are they will be equally happy for you and congratulate you.
But, if you are still doubting yourself and would prefer to go at this alone, you can. Out loud, congratulate yourself and tell yourself that you did a good job.
If you want to stop overeating and lose weight, you can take progress pictures and congratulate yourself for those inches lost. Some people like to start a social media account for this because they get recognition and acknowledgment when they share these small victories.
No matter how small the action is, if it’s a step towards your goal, it’s worth of recognition and acknowledgment. Also, another way to motivate yourself is to reward your small actions
5). Reward Yourself
People are driven and motivated by rewards. We work hard at work to get promotions and raises.
We compete in sports events for medals and trophies. We spend fifty dollars at Kohl’s so we can get ten back in Kohl’s cash or use the credit card because we get mileage points.
The key to rewarding yourself is to keep your rewards positive and still moving in the same direction as your goal. So, in the scenario above, you don’t want to reward yourself with a cigarette (obviously).
But you also don’t want to exchange one bad habit for another. So, you don’t want to reward yourself with a big juicy burger from a fast food joint. Instead, try to find healthy, positive rewards.
Some reward ideas include:
- manicure, pedicure, or facial
- a new pair of shoes
- going to an art gallery
- seeing a movie alone
- take a long bubble bath
- hire someone to come clean your house one time
- go on a mini-road trip
- go to a comedy club
- take a fitness class
There are tons of healthy ways to reward yourself for hitting your goals and breaking bad habits. Some will cost you money and some are completely free. If nothing else, give yourself a free day to relax and put off your to-do list until another day.
Following the steps above will help you become more confident in yourself and your ability to break your bad habits and achieve your goals.
The process is not quick and there are no shortcuts. But, if you follow the steps and take it one day at a time, you will see and feel your progress and become motivated by it. You will see feel more certain that you can do it.