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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 18, 2019

    How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes.

    I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

    One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

    Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

    The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

    And if you’re focused on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

    What to Write Down

    Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

    Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

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    Dates of Events

    Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

    For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

    Names of People

    Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

    Theories or Frameworks

    Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

    Definitions

    Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

    Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

    Arguments and Debates

    Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

    This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

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    Images

    Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

    Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

    Other Stuff

    Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

    I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

    Your Own Questions

    Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

    3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

    1. Outlining

    Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

    Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

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    For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

    2. Mind-Mapping

    For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

    Here’s the idea:

    In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

    The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

    If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

    You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

    3. The Cornell System

    The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.

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    About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

    You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

    In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

    You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

    The Bottom Line

    I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

    I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

    More About Note-Taking

    Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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