“Successful people are simply those with successful habits.” Brian Tracy

Bad habits are hard to break. They’re deeply ingrained into your subconscious because of behavior you learn and repeat over time. So how do you “unlearn” them and finally quit those bad habits once and for all?

Start here.

Identify what triggers the bad habits.

Research tells us that one of the most effective ways to control bad habits is to be aware of your triggers for potential slip-ups and vigilantly monitor those triggers. Have a response ready to combat these triggers when they pop up, and make sure the response is framed in an assertive manner.

For example, “I do not drink soda” or “I will pass on dessert.”

They’re surprisingly effective.

Avoid situations where you know there will be triggers.

You’re probably well aware of the situations that are going to trigger your bad habits. Maybe you want to quit smoking and you know you smoke more when you go out drinking with your buddies. Or you eat fairly healthy at home but know you’ll splurge when you go out to eat.

As hard as it may sound, don’t put yourself in these types of situations where you know you’ll trigger a bad habit. You can still go out with your friends or go to dinner, but have a clear intention of what you’re not going to do and stick with it.

Replace bad habits with good ones.

Here’s an idea: every time you get the craving for a cigarette, eat a mini-carrot instead. Or every time you see the creme brulee on the menu, ask for a cup of fruit. Of course it’s infinitely more difficult than it sounds. Habits take time, persistence, and patience. You need to make a commitment and find ways to stick with it (more on that to come).

Start small, and repeat your good behaviors as much as possible and they’ll eventually turn into habits.

Anticipate failure and plan for success.

Failure is inevitable, especially when you’re trying to quit your bad habits. When you slip, accept it and move on. But learn from your mistakes. View every failure as an opportunity for growth.

Let’s say you’re spending time with your family over the holidays and you know you won’t be able to resist your mom’s amazing apple pie. Set your plan in motion in advance. Offer to cook a healthy side dish. Commit to splitting a piece of pie with someone else.

A little foresight goes a long way.

Make tiny changes.

Stanford behavioral psychological BJ Fogg recommends a “tiny habits” approach to turning bad habits into good ones. His premise is simple:

1. Start small. For example, if you want to exercise more, do two pushups a day.

2. Link the new behavior to an existing spot in your routine. For example, do two pushups every day as soon as you wake up.

3. Repeat the behavior every day until it becomes a habit. You’ll find yourself naturally progressing and doing more pushups each week.

Make a commitment.

Commitment is a proven psychological principle that can help you quit your bad habit. In his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Dr. Robert Cialdini says that people who make a firm commitment to do something are more likely to stick with that goal.

Tell your friends.

This is a common strategy that weight loss clinics employ. They require their clients to write down their weight loss goals and show it to friends, family, and colleagues. Why?

Because it works.
Telling about people about your commitment to quit your bad habits puts pressure on you to stick with the commitment. It helps hold you accountable during times you want to give up.

Keep a journal.

Research proves that there’s a significant association between self-monitoring and positive health outcomes. In other words, keeping a journal to track your progress can help you increase your odds of turning a bad habit into a good one.

Ask for help when you need it.

As much as you might try to go about it alone, you’re going to have a much easier time ditching a bad habit if you have the support of the people you love. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. When you slip, it’s okay to call a friend and talk about it. If you know friends who have quit the same bad habit you’re looking to get rid of, ask them how they did it, and seek their advice when you get stressed.

Focus on your plan more than the end goal.

Too many of us are outcome-focused. We want immediate results and get blinded by the end goal.

Instead, focus on the journey. Form a plan to quit bad habits and place your time and attention on your plan and “system”. If your mindset is too focused on achieving your goal by a certain date, you can set yourself up for failure when you don’t accomplish your goal by that deadline.

Build your plan, then focus on small action steps each week to get you closer to where you want to be. This is the most important thing to remember to quit your bad habits and/or achieve your dreams. Stop thinking, start doing.

Bad habits are destructive for your mind, body, and soul. Whether it’s chain-smoking, channel-surfing, nail-biting or emotional eating, there’s no denying the fact that our bad habits are harmful to our health. Bad habits aren’t something you’re born with. How To Break Bad Habits Once and For All

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