How To Break A Bad Habit Permanently
We all have habits, some good and some bad. What’s great is that we all possess the ability to change these habits whenever we choose to. Bad habits drive you down in a downward spiral and they can be difficult to get rid of. In this article, I’m going to explain to you how to successfully quit any bad habit you have and this time for good.
Breaking Bad Habits Is Tough
Breaking a habit is tough, it really is. When you’ve been doing something for so long, stopping it can seem pointless.
But deep down we all know that these bad habits have degenerative effects. Smoking, for example, will likely kill you, living life out of shape will shorten your life. Logically, we understand these things.
We’ve been told the consequences of our actions over and over. So what exactly is it that stops us from discontinuing habits which are clearly irrational.
Bad habits weigh us down in our pursuit to becoming a better version of ourselves. Bad habits act like an anchor pulling us down.
But to succeed and to reach our full potential we have to untie each anchor one at a time in order to quicken our assent. It’s our job to untie each anchor one at a time in order to quicken our assent.
Habits Become An Identity
The reason we can’t stop these bad habits is because they become part of our identity, they become ingrained (or so it seems) with who we as a person and the moment this happens it’s almost impossible to stop something for good as long as you still define the habit as part of who you are.
We’re always changing and our identities are always re-framing based on our experiences with the external world. But what is important to remember is that who you define yourself as, your character, who you are at your deepest level is a characteristic that you always have control over.
Therefore you can change your identity whenever you choose and make the decision to change your behaviour. Of course, this is easier said than done.
But in retrospect to my own experiences in life, it’s clear that having this realisation was half the battle.
Below I’m going to go over some concepts which worked for me and have worked for people I’ve trained, with food, with exercise and with other habits.
Try and consider the following seriously. It’s not enough to just skim read over something and expect true change to happen. Apply these things, apply them straight away and then judge whether it works or not.
Changing Your Identity
Bad habits weigh us down on our journey to moral excellence; like an anchor, they can pull us back. It’s our job to untie each anchor one at a time in order to quicken our assent.
This identity is described in the sense that “my name is John and I drink coffee often” or “I smoke cigarettes every day.”
A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research tested the way people used words and how the way they used them made a difference to resisting the temptation of a bad habit.
There were two groups in the study:
Group 1 was instructed to use the phrase “I can’t”.
Group 2 was instructed to use the phrase “I don’t”.
These phrases were both in response to a temptation of unhealthy food options.
The first was a granola bar (acting as the “healthy” option), while the second was offered a chocolate bar (acting as the “unhealthy” option).
The researchers were then measuring whether their new founded “identity” would have any significant effect on whether they would choose the relatively healthy choice or the unhealthy one.
39 % of people who used the phrase “I can’t” picked the granola (healthy) option while 64% of the “I don’t” (group 2) chose the healthy option over the unhealthy one.
The idea is then that one gains greater “psychological empowerment” when phrases used in order to resist a temptation come together to form a new identity.
We can see this identity formation in action with diets.
A vegetarian may find themselves consistent, disciplined and healthier as they follow their diet, same with ketogenic diets, vegan diets.
We like to have rules which we can follow, they serve us better long-term rather than “eating healthier”.
Veganism in itself involves many ethical arguments and forms a very strong identity, you see many vegans who explicitly date other vegans (there’s nothing wrong with this, I’m simply proving a point).
Some people may have had difficulty in following a “healthy diet” and vegetarianism, Atkins, etc…come to save the day.
It’s the same for “I’m a smoker, I’m a keto-diet follower”, etc…
Lowering Decision Fatigue
In studies (as seen below) they have looked at judges and observed that as the day progresses, judges seem to lose their ability to make consistent rationally grounded decisions hence “decision fatigue”.
There’s less decision in the moment of “should I eat that” if your deontology allows you too.
This means less decision fatigue and more willpower, especially in the case of vegans “more extreme” which can hold a high emotional investment into the “cause”.
Don’t Count Days
Another idea which can help in forming this identity is to stop “counting days” this is a similar strategy as saying I can’t.
NEVER count days.
Now you may disagree, but if you are counting days you are still staying in the same identity, every day you count you are a “smoker who went 40 days without it” or a gamer who went 24 days without gaming”
Find Your Triggers
You’ve all heard of the three stages of the habit cycle.
1. The cue
2. The reward
3. The Routine
You need to find your cue. You might smoke when you’re stressed after you’re eating, when you’re drinking coffee, a meeting, drinking alcohol, or being around other smokers.
Your cue for sugar may be seeing a picture of sugar, seeing food in your fridge. You must find out what your cue is, otherwise how do you expedct to change?
Carry a notebook around and note down what happens before and after you were triggered.
When you are trying to recognise a cue ask yourself thought to provoke questions. Go into detail. Ask yourself for the time of day, your location, how you feel and your actions. these are all key to connecting the dots.
You can’t just stop the routine, you need to replace the cue.
Find something which provides you with a similar feeling. This next example may sound silly, but this works.
If you crave sugary food, at the moment of your cue, to 5 push-ups. This is just an example.
Who Are You Surrounding Yourself With?
You can do everything I just mentioned but if you’re not hanging around people who are emulating the behaviour which you wish to embody, then forget about it. You must seek to spend your time around the right crowd.
It’s hard to not workout when you live with athletes.
It’s hard to not smoke when you live with 5 smokers.
If you’re going to fail, it’s better than that failure is due to your decisions. Don’t let other people limit your own potential.
Everyone knows how to be healthy, how to stay fit. You stop the junk food, you stop the bad habits like smoking and you do what you know is correct. real
However, the real challenge comes with finding a way to do that every single day of your life and do so with ambition and without resentment.
Change your identity by using words to define who you are. Stop saying you can’t do something and start saying you don’t. Don’t use and follow restrictive language and thought patterns. You must find a way to keep yourself accountable and live life as if you’re already the person who you’re wanting to become.
You must find a way to keep yourself accountable and live life as if you’re already the person who you’re wanting to become.
“The soul, like the body, accepts by practice whatever habit one wishes it to contact.” – Socrates