Although I’m not an expert in the field of habits, I’ve read many books and articles on the topic in an effort to try and understand and better myself, and also in the hopes that I may share with others the knowledge and success that I gain along the way.
What are habits?
Habits are simply the tiny decisions we make and the actions we perform daily.
According to a Duke University study, our habits account for 40% of all behaviors on any given day.
Simply put, your life today is a sum of your habits. For instance:
- How fit or unfit you are is a result of your habits.
- How happy you are is a result of your habits.
- How successful or unsuccessful you are is a result of your habits.
What you repeatedly do ultimately forms the person you are and what you believe. When you want to perform better at anything, start with having better habits.
I love the way James Clear, author of Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones, phrases this. Clear says, “When you learn to transform your habits, you can transform your life.”
How do bad habits form?
Simply put, bad habits SUCK!
- Disrupt your life
- Often stop you from accomplishing your goals
We all have at least one bad habit that we want to eliminate because it is either jeopardizing our life or it’s just wasting a lot of our time and energy that we could use to focus on things that elevate and move the needle for us.
I have learned that our bad habits are the result of two things:
Determine the root cause of your bad habit
It’s necessary to address the root cause of your bad habit, not only the symptoms. By recognizing the roots and causes of our bad habits, we’re taking a critical and crucial step to replace them with better ones. Remember, our habits do not need to define us.
How do we break our bad habits?
There are multiple ways that are suggested for breaking bad habits, so I’ll offer five ways that I’ve found helpful and that have worked for me.
#1 - Choose a Replacement Habit
Plan ahead so that when you feel that urge to practice that bad habit, you know which action you are going to replace it with. It doesn’t have to be anything big. You can start small such as breathing exercises, going for a walk, whatever it is you need to do to replace your bad habit, start there.
#2 - Eliminate as Many Triggers as You Can
Eliminate temptation and triggers. If you’re constantly reaching for the cookies and bag of potato chips, don’t put them on your grocery list. You want to eliminate triggers so that you’re more likely to succeed.
#3 - Find a Habit Accountability Partner
Partner up with someone who is also trying to quit bad habits and work with each other to keep one another accountable. It is inspiring and motivating when you know someone believes in you and knows you can accomplish your goal. You’re also helping another person so you, too, want to create that example and be accountable.
There’s an African proverb that I love that reads: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” This is not a sprint, it’s a lifestyle change, so it’s a marathon. Finding that accountability partner can be critical to and helpful for your success.
#4 - Surround Yourself with People Living the Way You Want to Live
Surround yourself with people who support your desired way of living.
For example, if you’d like to quit smoking, it might be very challenging to quit that habit if everyone in your network smokes. I’m not saying the answer is to ditch your friends! But there is something powerful to be said about finding new friends or new circles of people that understand where you are and who can encourage you. And then, at some point, you could be a good resource for your smoker friends who are possibly looking to quit as well.
#5 - Plan for Setbacks
We all slip up every now and then and it’s okay!
Steve Kemp says it the best. Kemp says:
“When you screw up, you skip an exercise, you eat bad meals, you sleep in—it doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you human, so welcome to the club.”
Things happen. When you slip up, don’t dwell on it and don’t beat yourself up over it. Plan for it, acknowledge it, and then get right back on course quickly.
The key about the slip-up is not to do it twice in a row because then you start conditioning yourself to slip back into your bad habit.
So, where should you start?
The best place to start is with awareness. Don’t feel bad about your bad habits. Now that you’re aware of them, use your awareness to plan your plan of action.
- What triggers my bad habit? Who am I with? What am I doing?
- How many times has it happened?
- What triggers these behaviors?
Then process your answers, track your habit, and start creating a plan of action to help you replace your bad habit with positive ones.
I’ve included a simple habit tracker to help you get started with this process, and in our next video and blog post, we will talk about how to build new habits.
Live your purpose.
Remember, you are Just One Goal Away!