6 Steps to Breaking Bad Habits

breaking bad habits

The rule of Habit: Every time you re-perform an activity it gets easier and easier to perform; to the point where virtually no mental effort will eventually be involved in the re-performance of the activity.  The opposite of this is also true, whenever you refrain from an activity it becomes increasingly more difficult to perform, until you have virtually no desire to perform the activity.

We know that everything that appears in our life first originates from our thoughts.  If a habit is in our life, we know the parents of that habit was, and continues to be our thoughts.

The Conception of a Habit

Habits first begin as a single-thought, then they become a multitude of thoughts, which evolve into actions, then habits; our habits make up our character, and our character dictates our life.  But it all starts with a single-thought, and then is perpetuated by the continuation of related thoughts.

Your ability to stop that initial negative thought from becoming a multitude of negative thoughts will determine your success in breaking or preventing any negative habit.  This article is about how to consistently extinguish that initial negative thought.  By doing this you will prevent a single flame from burning down an entire forest.

An Example

I would liken the formation of bad habits to the formation of an adulteress relationship.  Initially the relationship may be innocent, but then your eyes lock and you are enticed by their beauty. (A seed has now been sown, and conception has taken place.)  You must now make the decision to retreat or pursue.  You decide to pursue.  You take them out, and you shower them with gifts.  Now at the zenith or pinnacle of your relationship, you make love. It appears to be an amazing experience.  And so, you do it again, and again, and again; you feel like you must see this person everyday.

But eventually the habit of this negative relationship interferes with your life, a part of you wants out and a part of you wants more.  You recognize that you can’t live with the habit, but you feel as if you can’t live without it.  You are a prisoner.  You have become as the Apostle Paul who wrote in his time of struggle: “….that which I would, I do not, and that which I would not, I find myself doing….”

Breaking the Cycle

In the example above, the locking of eyes represents the first negative thought.  Deciding to pursue the person represents the multitude of proceeding thoughts.  The gifts represent the fascination with the thought (this is when the thought gets incubated and begins to grow strong).  Making love represents the first action, which gets repeated over, and over again in this negative cycle.

What started out as a single-thought has erupted into lasciviousness; what could have been changed by a single-thought, a single switch of focus, is now out-of-control.

So how do you break the bad habit and free yourself from this adulteress mental relationship? Here are six steps.

Six Steps to Breaking Bad Habits:

  1. Change your environment. Certain environments are breeding grounds for certain behaviors.  You must consciously change your environment, and document a written plan to ensure your changes are permanent.  If you’re addicted to food, you may need to get all of the junk food out of your house and create a plan to never purchase it again.  If you’re in a bad relationship, you may want to create an environment that doesn’t include the other person.
  2. Extinguish the initial negative thought. As soon as a negative thought comes to you, you should say, “Cancel, Cancel” and proceed to think of something positive.  Never think about the negative habit again.
  3. Surround yourself with friends who are already what you want to become. Limit your time with people who aren’t what you want to become (e.g. If you want to quit smoking, you can’t hang around smokers all day).  Some habits may require you to change what movies and television shows you watch.
  4. Schedule a day to jumpstart your new program. Start this day by spending a few moments meditating and seeing yourself free from the habit.  Make an affirmation stating your new intentions; this will help to put you in the right frame of mind for this new life you will be living.  During this time you must make the decision to change.
  5. Create a positive habit to replace the negative habit.
  6. Remember to come back to this list and begin again. You’ll have to jumpstart yourself again with a time of mediation and affirmation to help reset your programming.

Do you have any tips for breaking bad habits? Please share your advice in the comments below.

Photo byValentin.Ottone

23 thoughts on “6 Steps to Breaking Bad Habits”

  1. Thank you for your article. When people have trouble letting go of the habit, a few additional things can be helpful. First, is acknowledging the purpose of the habit. It might be protection or avoidance of something or even providing a social outlet. Then maybe that function can be achieved in some other way. Second, is acknowledging the loss incurred in letting go of the habit. It can feel like breaking up with a long-term lover, to continue your metaphor. Third, is to welcome all the feelings around changing a habit as valid. Letting go of a habit can be a challenging process and benefits from compassion directed toward ourselves.

  2. I’ve recently started to get stricter about eating healthier. I’ve been extinguishing thoughts that lead to eating bad foods rather successfully lately. I think most of my success comes from the fact that I am aware what thoughts trigger my bad eating habits.

    Great article and sound advice, however I feel there is no better time to start breaking a habit than now. How many times have you heard someone say they’ll start eating better on Monday? I’m guilty of such a comment! I say make time for yourself now and jumpstart the new program.

    1. @Mark Lewis,

      I agree with you…in fact I wrote an article a while back titled “The Power of Now”…when I said “schedule a day” I certainly didn’t mean several days from now…I should have said “schedule today”….Thanks for the comment….

  3. I read somewhere that our lives are only a collection of habits good and bad. That said habit change is very easy – all you have to do a make a decision is change. Think about crossing a bridge and burning it behind you – there would be know way to go back would there? When you apply this kind of thinking to habit change there is no need for the above steps

  4. Hi Mr Self Development – what sensible advice .. the positive is definitely the way to go .. we live in a negative world, where things can be ‘too difficult’, where we always throw up challenges, where we never just turn the tables and say .. ok that’s a good idea .. lets go this route ..

    Things can be challenging, but changing friends may be necessary, changing thought patterns – too many of us believe what we see and read .. and they are not always the best alternatives. Like the news ..

    Thanks – we can all help ourselves .. after all it is our choice … and I like Mark’s comment re ‘today’ .. not in the future ..

    Hilary Melton-Butcher
    Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

  5. Hi, thanks for this post. I think being conscious of our bad habits and then directing a negative thought to a positive one is critical to changing a bad habit to a good one. Changing habits comes from changing our thoughts inside and being always being aware of them, until we get to a point where we don’t even think about the action anymore.

    As Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

  6. For me willpower alone is not enough to break bad habits. There will always be weak moments when my willpower lapses. So I need to convince myself of the need for change so that it becomes the norm. Kind of what you’re getting at when you say replace the bad habit with a new good one.

    1. @Julian. You are spot on. To say to just have positive thoughts, and change will come is easier said than done. It takes more than positive thoughts to change, but it is a start.

  7. Great tips on how to break bad habits. We are mostly influenced by our peers. If they are into smoking and drinking then the tendency is to be like them. Thus, better choose the right ones.

  8. remembering that a bad habit is just what its name implies. bad doesnt make you feel good. lapse is allowed because we all need to feel what bad feelings feel like in order to appreciate the good ones even more.

  9. gaining freedom from bad habits really takes time. You have to accept first that it’s a bad habit and that you needed to change it. And the acceptance, most of the time requires humility.

    I have counseled people who at first, resist to accept that they indeed needed to change that bad habit.

    anyway, great insight you got here.

  10. Great tips in this article! Im a little late to the conversation but i think another that goes unnoticed is taking care of our health. When we are nurturing our bodies with the right nutrition and getting exercise, our brains function better. When our brains can function, we are more likely to exercise our choice muscles as well. Anyway to reduce the willpower of making a decision was critical in my changes. Thanks for sharing!

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