How to Quit a Bad Habit

I bet there’s a habit you’d like to quit.

Maybe you have even tried, but things haven’t worked out as you hoped. Unfortunately, the very idea of “quitting” can make things difficult for you: let’s discover why.

  • The forbidden fruit is always very attractive. When you were a child, do you remember how everything became more attractive after it was forbidden? Well, there’s a part of you which still works in the same way…
  • Quitting something is difficult when you always think about it. When your
    habit change strategy is driven by the idea of quitting – quitting cigarettes for example – you’ll often think about the very thing you want to forget.
  • There’s no excitement in just saying no. Have you ever tried to take something away from a little boy? Not easy. And what if you give him something else instead? Now you’re talking! If the new toy is “exciting” enough, the old one will be given up with ease.
  • Our unconscious mind doesn’t understand negation. As Freud said, and as every hypnotherapist knows, there’s a part of our brain which simply doesn’t understand negation. And there’s more to it. An hypnotherapist would avoid telling you to “Quit smoking”, because your unconscious mind might drop the word “Quit” and produce an urge for “smoking” instead…
  • You never simply quit something, you do something else instead. Your bad habit takes time. When you stop, you’ll have some free time on your hands: you can make space for something new and exciting, or simply indulge more often in a pleasant activity you already know well.

In short, the idea of “quitting” is not doing you any good: something positive need to become the engine of your habit change. And this lead us to the first question…

1. What will you do instead?

Quit! Stop! Control! If there’s something you really want to remember about this post, it’s the idea that you should turn a negative worded goal of “quitting something” into a positive one. I’ll give a few tips on how do to it, but you are flying solo here, and gut feelings will be your guide.

Let’s make a specific example: how could you turn the negative worded goal of “Quit smoking” into a positive one?

  • Look for positive consequences. Any habit change opens up new possibilities. Let’s forget for a moment the health benefits you get when you quit smoking: you’ve probably heard them a million times… If you are short on cash, when you stop smoking you’ll suddenly increase your pocket money: is there something you’d love buying with such money? For me, the goal could be: “I’ll buy myself a luxury breakfast everyday with the money I was previously using for purchasing cigarettes!”
  • Look for mutually exclusive activities. Sometime if you choose to do something new, and then stick to it, you became practically unable to engage in your old bad habit. For example, it is difficult to smoke a lot when you are preparing for a marathon.
  • Go nuts! Have fun thinking of weird and interesting things you could do instead of smoking cigarettes. For example: “When I feel like smoking a cigarette I’ll have a sexual fantasy instead!”

2. Do you really want to change?

I have a confession to make: sometimes I complain about something even if I don’t really want to change it.

I guess it’s a way to release stress, and I accept it, even if I don’t particularly like it.

What about you? Have you really decided to change? If the answer is no, praise yourself for your ability to have such a deep insight about yourself, and buy a little treat. On the other hand, if you really want to change, get ready to answer the next question.

3. Is now the right time?

You’ve heard it many times. I’ll tell you once again. It’s important to focus only on one habit change at a time, so if you have too much on your plate right now, you might want to wait before introducing new challenges.

4. What’s in it for you?

Successful habit change requires a strong motivation.

The best way to fire up you desire to change, is having a full picture of all the positive things you are bringing into your life, and of all of the negative ones you are moving away from.

In short, you can answer the fourth question by writing down two separate lists: “Good things I move forward to”, “Bad thing’s I get away from.”

The trick here is to make sure that all of your personality has a say in writing those two lists: you don’t want to approach change only with a parental attitude “I should be doing…”, or in a purely logical fashion “smoking is detrimental to my health, hence I quit”.

Follow the steps below and you’ll make sure that nothing is left behind.

  • Put a piece of paper in front of you and write down: “Good things I move forward to.” What would be those good things for your parents?
  • Keeping the focus on good things, consider all of the objective information you have on your habit change, and write down all of the benefits that such change will bring.
  • Imagine explaining the advantages of your habit change to an intelligent 8 years old child. Write down simple worded benefits which could be attractive and understandable to a little boy.
  • Now repeat the same process with the “Bad things I move away from.”
  • You’ve done it all: it’s time to celebrate!

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