How to Break a Bad Habit, by Doug Grady

Deciding what habits to develop and which to give up is one of the most important undertakings you will ever take on to reach your potential. It’s up to you to take inventory of the habits you have formed throughout the years. Every once in awhile you may determine it is time to let one go.

I have personally used some version of the following formula to break at least five deeply rooted habits which were not serving me.

habits“First we form habits, then they form us.” –Jim Rohn

Five Steps to Break a Habit

1. Decide. Make a commitment to do whatever it takes to break this habit. This is the first and most important step.

2. Get Leverage.

  • Look backward. What has this habit cost you throughout your life? How has it impacted your finances, your time, your relationships, your health? Go deep; feel the pain.
  • Look into the future. What is the best case and worst case scenario if you continue with this habit? How much could it cost you financially, physically, emotionally or otherwise? How much time will you waste because of this activity between now and the end of your life? How will it affect your ability to reach your greatest potential? Be specific.
  • Now consider what would be possible with the elimination of this habit. What would be available to you? What could happen that would never happen otherwise? What results do you see yourself achieving? What kind of person might you become? Would you be a better example to others? What excites you about this? Why is this important?

3. Prepare:

  • For the break. Remove as many pathways as possible. This may include places, people, phone numbers, and events which tend to accompany or contribute to this behavior.
  • For support. Support can come in many forms. A trusted friend, a support group, a professional counselor, a good book, prayer. Where will you find yours? Set up your support system in advance.
  • For discomfort. It will come. It may be physical, emotional, mental, or some combination thereof. Where will you turn instead of to your old habit?
  • For situations in which you typically engage in this habit. How will you handle these?

4. When temptation comes, know that it will pass. The urge, no matter how strong, will dissipate. In the meantime:

  • Remove yourself from an environment in which you feel uncomfortable.
  • Call your friend or someone from your support system.
  • Engage in an alternative activity. Replace the old habit with a new habit, one that you consciously choose. Consider exercise, nutritional choices, service and personal growth activities as possible options.

5. Stay the course. Inevitably the time will come when you are alone with your thoughts, and that little voice will start talking. You know the one. The one that lets you off the hook. Just as you had the power to make the initial decision to break this habit, you have the power to stay the course. Ultimately nothing and no one can do it for you. Refer to step #1. Do whatever it takes to stay the course. You can do it.

Don’t be afraid to seek professional help for a habit that you feel is getting the best of you.