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10 Ways To Take Control And Quit Your Bad Habits

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10 Ways To Take Control And Quit Your Bad Habits

“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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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More by this author

Scott Christ

Scott Christ is a writer, entrepreneur, and founder of Pure Food Company.

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Last Updated on October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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