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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 January 13, 2020

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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