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10 Ways To Take Control And Quit Your Bad Habits

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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Scott Christ

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

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

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.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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