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How to Quit a Bad Habit by Answering Four Power Questions

How to Quit a Bad Habit by Answering Four Power Questions
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…

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.”

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    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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    Last Updated on September 10, 2019

    How to Master the Art of Prioritization

    How to Master the Art of Prioritization

    Do you know that prioritization is an art? It is an art that will lead you to success in whatever area that matters to you.

    By prioritization, I’m not talking so much about assigning tasks, but deciding which will take chronological priority in your day—figuring out which tasks you’ll do first, and which you’ll leave to last.

    Effective Prioritization

    There are two approaches to “prioritizing” the tasks in your to-do list that I see fairly often:

    Approach #1 Tackling the Biggest Tasks First and Getting Them out of the Way

    The idea is that by tackling them first, you deal with the pressure and anxiety that builds up and prevents you from getting anything done—whether we’re talking about big or small tasks. Leo Babauta is a proponent of this Big Rocks method.[1]

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    Approach #2 Tackling the Tasks You Can Get Done Quickly and Easily, with Minimal Effort

    Proponents of this method believe that by tackling the small fries first, you’ll have less noise distracting you from the periphery of your consciousness.

    If you believe in getting your email read and responded to, making phone calls and getting Google Reader zeroed before you dive into the high-yield work, you’re a proponent of this method. I suppose you could say Getting Things Done (GTD) encourages this sort of method, since the methodology advises followers to tackle tasks that can be completed within two minutes, right there and then.

    Figure out Your Approach for Prioritization

    My own approach is perhaps a mixture of the two.

    I’ll write out my daily task list and draw little priority stars next to the three items I need to get done that day. They don’t need to be big tasks, but nine times out of ten, they are.

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    Smaller tasks are rarely important enough to warrant a star in the first place; I can always get away without even checking my inbox until the next day if I’m swamped, and the people who need to get in touch with me super quickly know how.

    But I’m not recommending my system of prioritization to you. I’m also not saying that mine is better than Leo’s Big Rocks method, and I’m not saying it’s better than the “if it can be done quickly, do it first” method either.

    The thing with prioritization is that knowing when to do what relies very much on you and the way you work. Some people need to get some small work done to find a sense of accomplishment and clarity that allows them to focus on and tackle bigger items. Others need to deal with the big tasks or they’ll get caught up in the busywork of the day and never move on, especially when that Google Reader count just refuses to get zeroed (personally, I recommend the Mark All As Read button—I use it most days!).

    I’m in between, because my own patterns can be all over the place. Some days I will be ready to rip into massive projects at 7AM. Other times I’ll feel the need to zero every inbox I have and clean up the papers on my desk before I can focus on anything serious. I also know that my peak, efficient working time doesn’t come at 11AM or 3PM or some specific time like it does for many people, but I have several peaks divided by a few troughs. I can feel what’s coming on when and try to keep my schedule liquid enough that I can adapt.

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    That’s why I use a starred task list system rather than a scheduled task list. It allows me to trust myself (something that I suppose takes a certain amount of discipline) and achieve peak efficiency by blowing with the winds. If I fight the peaks and troughs, I’ll get less done; but if I do certain kinds of work in each period of the day as they come, I’ll get more done than most others in a similar line of work.

    You may not be able to trust yourself to that extent without falling into the busywork trap. You may not be able to tackle big tasks first thing in the morning without feeling like you’re pushing against an invisible brick wall that won’t budge. You might not be able to deal with small tasks before the big tasks without feeling pangs of guilt and urgency.

    My point is:

    The prioritization systems themselves don’t matter. They’re all pretty good for a group of people, not least of all to the people who espouse them because they use them and find them effective.

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    What matters is that you don’t fall for one set of dogma (and I’m not saying Leo Babauta or David Allen preach these things as dogma, but sometimes their proponents do) until you’ve tried the systems extensively, and found which method of chronological prioritization works for you.

    And if the system you already use works great, then there’s no need to bother trying others—in the world of personal productivity, it’s too easy to mess with something that works and find yourself unable to get back into your former groove.

    “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

    In truth, this principle applies to all sorts of personal productivity issues, though it’s important to know which issues it applies to.

    If you thought multitasking worked well for you each day and I’d have to contend that you are wrong—multitasking is a universal myth in my books! But if you find yourself prioritizing tasks that never get done, you might need to reconsider which of the above approaches you’re using and change to a system that is more personally effective.

    More About Prioritization & Time Management

    Featured photo credit: Sabri Tuzcu via unsplash.com

    Reference

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