5 Ways to Break Bad Habits That Harm You (And Replace Them With Good Ones)

5 Ways to Break Bad Habits That Harm You (And Replace Them With Good Ones)

From biting our nails to eating junk food, we all have bad habits. Some of us have figured out how to break these bad habits, while others continue to carry out harmful habits in our daily lives.

Bad habits drain the energy from our lives and prevent us from achieving our goals. The most dangerous thing about bad habits is that most of us aren’t aware that we have them in the first place.

We’ve talked previously about how to design productive morning routines and how to make it stick when you learn something new, so in this article we’re going to share how to break bad habits and replace them with good ones.

First, let’s discover how bad habits begin.

How Bad Habits Start

No matter what habit we’re forming — good or bad — it starts with a habit loop. The loop is a three-part process that starts with the “cue,” which tells our brain to go into automatic mode and let the behavior unfold.

Then there’s the “routine,” which is the behavior itself. The last part of the process is the “reward,” which is what will help your brain remember the “habit loop” in the future.


    When you repeat the habit loop enough times, your brain requires less and less energy to perform the same activity again. As the behavior starts to become automatic, your brain can almost shut down while performing the action. This is a real advantage because it means that you can devote all of your energy towards to something else, whether that’s learning a new skill or building a new habit.


    The bad news is that this can be a double-edged sword. Since the habit loop can be applied for bad habits as well as good habits, you can find yourself carrying out bad habits without even realizing it.

    According to human behavior expert James Clear, most bad habits are caused by two things: stress and boredom.

    Like solving any problem, if we can get to the root of what’s causing our stress and boredom, then we can reduce the likelihood of forming another bad habit. It could also be the case that your bad habits are actually caused by deeper issues that you’ve experienced in your life.

    Ask yourself: are there limiting beliefs or fears that are holding you back or causing you hold onto something that is harming you?

    For example, opening up social media or your email inbox in the morning may be a bad habit you have. It’s hurting your productivity, focus, and ability to get things done. But the deeper cause of this could be rooted from not being as connected with the people important in your life.

    The point here is, instead of cutting out a bad habit completely (i.e. quitting social media), the more realistic and effective thing to do is to replace it with a positive habit (i.e. calling your best friend or family member once a day to feel more connected).

    How To Break Bad Habits

    Let’s dig deeper into how to break bad habits. Before you move on to the next section, try to come up with one bad habit that you’re trying to eliminate in your life. This leads us to our first point:

    Become Hyper-Aware Of Your Bad Habit

    The natural thing to do is ignore our bad habit behaviors and hope they will vanish eventually. But according to James Claiborn, a psychologist and co-author of The Habit Change Workbook: How To Break Bad Habits and Form Good Ones, the opposite is true. We should increase our awareness of these bad behaviors.


    “One of the things I’m likely to suggest is some sort of record keeping — it may take the form of making a checklist to find out how often you’re doing things and under what circumstances you’re doing them,” he said. “We need to understand the behavior before we can change it effectively.”

    “What gets measured, gets improved.” — Robin Sharma

    Just like you would measure and track your progress at the gym to improve your results, you should do the same to improve your habits.

    Get Rid Of The Bad Triggers

    Triggers (or cues) are what start the habit loops in the first place. In order to eliminate a bad habit, we need get rid of the triggers causing them.

    If you want to stop drinking, then don’t go to the bar. If you want to stop eating junk food, then throw it all out. If you want to stop going on social media, download a web blocker app like Facebook News feed Eradicator (plus you’ll get some awesome quotes with it).


      Relying on our human willpower can only take us so far. If your environment is making it harder for you to break your bad habits, it only makes sense to change your environment.

      “The more you manage your environment, the more likely you are to succeed.” — Art Markman, professor of psychology at University of Texas

      Replace Your Bad Habit With A Positive Habit

      Eliminating a bad habit alone is not enough. You must take steps to replace it with a positive habit.

      Since stress and boredom are the two leading causes of how a bad habit forms, it’s natural for our brain to crave the bad habit again if we have nothing else to do.

      We need to plan ahead of time what we will do to substitute the bad habit that will instead serve us.

      Instead of going back to the bar, we can pick up a new skill to fill the time, like re-learning a language. After throwing out our junk food, we can take healthy cooking classes or sign up for a gym membership. Instead of going on social media, we can take read more books, take language classes, etc.

      Find An Accountability Partner/Coach

      According to our Ultimate Guide to Learning Anything Faster, there are 5 main reasons why we quit anything:

      1. You run out of time (and quit)
      2. You run out of money (and quit)
      3. You get scared (and quit)
      4. You’re not serious about it (and quit)
      5. You lose interest (and quit)


        By understanding these reasons before we try to break a bad habit, we can prepare ourselves for the moment when they inevitably happen. More importantly, we can significantly increase the chances of success without giving up by finding someone to keep us accountable.

        Depending on what bad habit you want to break, it may require a professional (i.e. personal trainer, therapist, etc.), or it could just be a close friend who’s there to keep you aligned.


        Realize You’re Only Human

        We can always hope that you’ll have a perfect record, but it’s more likely that you’ll slip here and there. That’s 100% okay. If you skip a workout, wake up late, indulge your sugar cravings, or miss a language lesson, it’s not the end of the world. It makes you human.

        Instead of beating yourself up for it, forgive yourself. We all make mistakes, even some of the greatest athletes and world-class leaders slip up once in awhile. The important thing is that you get back up and move on. Figure out what made you slip back into the bad habit and plan for success next time.

        That’s all there is to it.

        Next Steps…

        To put this into action, here are some follow-up steps that we recommend you take:

        • First, pick a bad habit that you want to break (self-awareness)
        • Track how many times a day, a week, or a month, that you’re performing this bad habit (gathering data)
        • Try to figure out what triggers the bad habit: a particular time of the day, who you’re with, where you are, etc. (analyzing the data)
        • Select your good habit to replace your bad habit with (i.e. cut out social media and learn a language)

        At the end of the day, learning how to break bad habits is only 10% of the equation. The other 90% comes from taking action and persevering through the difficult struggles that will inevitably come.

        Most people who end up breaking their bad habits have failed multiple times before they made it work. The most important part is that they never gave up. Remember that you may not have immediate success, but if you can forgive yourself quickly and get back up, you’ll figure out how to break bad habits in no time.

        The good news is that once you discover how to break one bad habit, you can break all the other bad habits in your life as well.

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        Last Updated on February 20, 2019

        17 Versatile Work Skills That Will Gain You More Career Opportunities

        17 Versatile Work Skills That Will Gain You More Career Opportunities

        When we look at a job advertisement, it can seem as though employers want an exhaustive list of experience and technical skills from their new hire.

        They list desirable qualities such as ‘initiative’, ‘team player’ and ‘strong work ethic’. Those words can mean a variety of things to different people and it can be quite hard for employers to illustrate fully the combination of technical and soft skills they want their potential employees to have.

        What they often want is a mix of versatile skills that make it easy for them (and you) to adapt to the changing needs and demands which occur in businesses today.

        After all, adaptability and innovation are what make businesses thrive.

        In today’s ever-changing environment, versatility is a mandatory attitude every working person needs to have. With the following seventeen work skills, you will not only make your employer extremely happy and confident that hiring you was their best decision, you will experience greater personal satisfaction and results.

        1. Know What You Want but More so Why You Want It

        Employers need to sense you have a solid idea as to why you are a fit for their role and their organization. They need to sense you have your own sense of purpose.

        However, it can be a double-edged sword to say you know exactly what you want to achieve and gain if you are successful in your application and interview.

        Some employers can perceive this as arrogance; your needs first, theirs second. What employers are really looking for is your internal sense of knowing that potential to join their organization is a winning combination for both of you.

        2. Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution Skills Save Money, Lost Productivity and Efficiency

        Can you agree to disagree? Can you evaluate without passing judgment or at least be self-aware of your own biases? Can you put these aside to find solutions for the betterment of the team?

        Employers look for versatility in soft work skills that bring peace, lower stress and contribute to creating harmony. If you have ways with words to help heated arguments reduce to a simmer so there is space for compromises, negotiations and reasoning to take place your employers’ respect for you will jump at least tenfold.

        Peace-making skills are invaluable in changing workplace culture, particularly toxic ones. Any good employer knows a strong in-house negotiator will save them thousands of dollars in engaging an external mediator.

        3. Know How to Set and Reframe Your Own Goals

        Much research has documented that when employees have a clear purpose, mission and goals, they are more likely to be highly productive. They are less likely to flounder around in many directions nor be busy and not produce results that matter.

        Employers know well that employees who develop their own goals and can align these with those of the company are more self-driven, self-sufficient and take greater ownership for performing their role.

        And the benefit is not only to the employers. You personally will find greater personal satisfaction from achieving targets you have chosen to set yourself. Everyone wins!

        4. Great Time Management and Organization Skills Make You Highly Productive

        Being able to exercise versatility with these work skills needs no explanation. Great time management does not mean multi-tasking. It actually uses more brain power and reduces effectiveness.

        Having great skills to prioritize your activities and demands, being able to assess how long things might take you to address are planning skills which greatly aid effective and better execution.

        Working in harmony with your colleagues’ timetables makes for better teamwork and workflow plus a less stressed environment.


        In today’s working world, any strategies for reducing stress-invoking opportunities are like finding golden nuggets. Your employer will want to hold on to those for dear life!

        5. Be a Flexible Team Player by Being Able to Change Roles When Required

        Employers will be looking to see how flexible a team player, a potential employee could be.

        If you are a natural leader, being a better team player might, in fact, mean you stepping down from the helm and encouraging someone else to exercise and step into their leadership potential.

        It might be more beneficial to your employer to play the role of Indian as opposed to the Chief in certain situations. Stepping into different positions on your team not only helps you grow but also the rest of your team.

        Employers relish having a versatile work team which can adapt and is ready and willing to play different roles, even if uncomfortable when crises happen.

        6. Initiative, Self-Motivated and Driven

        When you have your own internal reasons for looking to undertake a role your motivation is driven by something sizzling inside of you.

        There is a personal drive and desire for the satisfaction you will experience when you meet a certain target that no other person will be able to give to you.

        When you can genuinely identify and demonstrate your own personal connection to the role’s objectives and the greater goals of your employer’s business, they will see you have an internal drive that they don’t need to whip and flog to keep the momentum going.

        Any employer will be grateful they just need to help navigate you and support you with the right tools and network and off you go.

        7. Be Confident but Not Arrogant

        Imagine if you were conducting initial telephone interviews with shortlisted candidates and one of the questions they asked was:

        “How long would it be until I’ll be eligible for a pay rise or promotion?”

        There is a significant difference between being confident and arrogant. Employers are not looking for confidence purely in you being able to perform every aspect of your role at gold star level.

        It comes with being comfortable to say you don’t understand, you have made a mistake, you need support, further training, acknowledging what your limits are and being willing to risk stepping outside your comfort zone.

        When you’re a new kid on the block, respecting that you may need to learn to walk before you can run is essential. Unless it is your job to start making significant changes from day one, chances are you’re going to create enemies if you’re so confident your new methods and ideas should replace existing processes.

        8. A Positive Attitude

        Demonstrating positivity as a work skill that will truly win over your new employer is about being genuine and actively applying strategies which look for the glass half full.

        Recruiters and employers are not dumb. They can easily see through short-term bright smiles, nervous giggling and general ‘you just need to think positive’ statements.

        In the face of grueling challenges, employers are going to look much more favorably on that candidate who can acknowledge the negative features of a situation but still encourage another solution-focused perspective to be adopted.


        Even better, if you can use language effectively to demonstrate how you have adopted a positive perspective and helped turned around a tough situation.

        It is one thing to have a positive attitude but your potential employer will see you as a superhero if you can show them how you have successfully applied it.

        Take a look at these tips to learn more about staying positive:

        10 Tips To Make Positive Thinking Easy

        9. You Are Resourceful but Know the Value of Asking for Help

        There is nothing more unproductive (let alone frustrating) than that person who simply asks out loud a question to their team when they could simply have Googled the answer.

        Or worse still, they have a manual at their fingertips which has the answer to their question…they were simply too lazy to look for themselves.

        Be that person with Sherlock Holmes as their middle name who sleuths like a dog after a buried bone. You can research and turn over stones to discover and learn what you need but you also are able to ask for help and assistance when you need to.

        Any employer will relish that person who looks to discover the answers to their own questions first before reaching out and asking for help.

        Hesitate to ask for help? This article may just change your mind:

        Afraid to Ask for Help? Change Your Outlook to Aim High!

        10. Emotional Intelligence Creates a Harmonious Workflow

        Despite the level of seniority of your role having a strong ability to handle emotions is fast becoming an essential work skill (and also life skill).

        It is even more desirable for any employer when your work skill set includes the ability to detect, adapt to and have skills in managing certain emotional patterns of others you need to work with, manage or report to.

        So much time, energy and productivity is lost due to individuals’ lack of skills in this area. Any manager who can see you possess and can demonstrate such versatile work skills will think they’ve won the managerial lottery!

        You can learn how to improve your Emotional Intelligence from this article:

        7 Practical Ways To Improve Your Emotional Intelligence

        11. Be Able to Adapt Your Learning Style

        There is no real evidence that using preferred learning styles actually increase the rate at which we learn nor the effectiveness of certain styles.

        However, being able to make changes to what we are given to learn and adapting it to suit our needs and preferences does help us settle into a new work transition sooner.


        We also need to recognize that even though we feel uncomfortable learning a new skill a certain way, it might actually be the way we need to receive it to cement the learning. It is also likely that our new employer only knows or has a budget to deliver training in a certain way.

        Either we can choose to adapt or resist but we know for sure the latter is not going to benefit to anyone.

        Want to find out what your learning style is? Take this quiz:

        How This Learning Style Quiz Can Help You Make the Most of Your Life

        12. Flexible Leadership Style

        Dan Goleman has conducted extensive research on different leadership styles, emphasizing that being versatile to switch between different styles (e.g. authoritative, coaching, affiliate, coercive, pace-setting) and knowing when to do is a fundamental skill for any leader.

        Being able to change your style to lead other people is as important as how you lead your own role responsibilities.

        If you want to be a better leader, these books are great resources:

        15 Best Leadership Books Every Leader Must Read To Achieve Success

        13. Incredible Communication Skills That Actively Listen and Give Clear Messages

        Strong and effective communication across all mediums takes time, life experience and highly developed intuition.

        Knowing when to use email, a face to face conversation or telephone discussion is one thing. Another is to use words which emotionally connect and influence the receiver to accept, hear and heed your message.

        Great communicators know that it is their responsibility as much as the receiver for good communication to take place. However, they also know that the receiver may not feel this is the case.

        When you can listen equally, be sensitive to read between the lines to hear the message of ineffective communicators and can respond kindly with inspiring, equalizing and encouraging words, your influence and general likeability as a new addition to your employer’s team will develop in leaps and bounds.

        These books are also nice resources to learn effective communication:

        13 Best Communication Books for Stronger Social Skills & Relationships

        14. Accountable, Responsible and Dependable

        We’ve all worked with people or managers at some point who lay external blame the instance something goes wrong.

        Contrary to popular belief, making mistakes and owning up to it is a highly desirable and versatile work skill that gains loyalty and understanding particularly when mistakes occur.

        Owning up to errors early allows both yourself and the business to recover quickly and shows you’re willing to take responsibility to continue forward on when you have stumbled.


        When you illustrate you can do this, you build your employer’s trust and faith in you.

        15. Exercise Proactive Self-Awareness

        Self-reflection is a highly empowering work skill that contributes greatly to becoming better and performing better.

        When you actively look for the achievement, celebrate your success and look for pockets of where mistakes you have made can be corrected you improve faster, become more effective and make your work easier.

        When you start to look at your own errors, receiving feedback from your employer about the same errors can feel far less confronting and having corrective conversations is easier, transparent and far less stressful and emotional.

        You naturally increase your resilience and make life easier for yourself and your employer if you conduct regular self-check-ins and keep your employer updated.

        Here’s how to practice self-awareness:

        How to Increase Your Self Awareness to Be Much More Successful

        16. Apply a Problem-Solving Growth Mindset

        When faced with a problem or challenge, your ability to activate a growth mindset is a highly versatile work skill employers love. Not only are you able to reduce the pain and anguish that a fixed mindset can sustain but your ability to remain open to possibilities to find different pathways or ideas is refreshing and helpful.

        If your thought patterns automatically ask: “How can we?” or you often think “there must be a way”, you will only contribute to creating growth opportunities for your organization and inspire others to think the same way.

        Learn more about developing a growth mindset here:

        5 Ways to Cultivate a Growth Mindset for Self Improvement

        17. Be Teachable

        If you have ever tried to teach someone a new skill or technique and they keep reverting back to traditional ways that are familiar to them, you might have become frustrated to the point of giving up.

        Don’t be that person who’s stuck in tradition which no longer serves the business. Whether you are entering a new environment, learning new software or negotiation skills, know that all employers need people who are open to being taught.

        Innovation is a core concern of every business. Innovation means change and change means doing something different.

        Stay Versatile and Keep Learning

        Technical skills can often be taught. Ray Croc illustrated how well a systemized franchise can dominate the planet. Over 36,000 McDonald’s establishments around the world are run by managers barely in their twenties!

        Soft work skills, however, take time to develop, learn and confidently apply.

        There is a key combination of work skills that would make any candidate employer’s dream. However, the essential factor underlying all of these work skills is versatility.

        Equip yourself with these 17 work skills, stay curious and keep learning; and you’ll always nail the job you want.

        More Resources About Career Success

        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via

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