You Can Break a Bad Habit More Easily Than You Think
We all have a few bad habits — maybe you’ve even got a nasty vice or two (I’ve had my share, but that’s another story). And we all wish we know how to break a bad habit.
There’s no human on the planet who doesn’t have at least one bad habit they’d like to eliminate: they not only cripple our productivity and our health, but they push our personal goals farther out of reach.
Back in Crusher™TV Episode 98: Break Any Bad Habit in 5 Days, I shared a simple a 4-step process for crushing any bad habit. But the first of those four steps, on its own, can really “loosen the screws” on your bad habit.
Before I share that hack, a quick note on habits that’s important to understand to make the hack work well…
We Need to Understand Why We Keep Bad Habits!
I mean, just think about the costs of some of our worst bad habits: Video games, drugs/alcohol/smoking, overeating and junk food, excessive sugar or chocolate, gambling, negative thoughts and rumination, procrastination, wasting time online, impulsive shopping, crappy posture, multitasking, texting while driving.
All of these bad habits drain our energy, our finances, and our time — and could even seriously harm ourselves or someone else.
So why do we form these bad habits in the first place and why do we keep them around?
Well, cuz we LIKE them!! That’s right. We like the benefits they give us. We like their rewards.
All of the habits you have right now — good and bad — entered your life because they provided some benefit to you: physiological, psychological or emotional.
How Bad Habits — and Addictions — Are Formed
When you eat your first piece of chocolate or your first bowl of Cherry Garcia ice cream, your brain quickly creates a circuit that says, “That felt really good. Remember this food. Remember where we got it. Cuz we’re gonna do that again! Soon. Actually, how about right NOW!”
It’s the same brain circuit that lights up with cocaine…and checking our Facebook feed — we get dopamine hits from all of these.
This is why we often indulge in one of our bad habits to cope with stress. When we’re stressed, or bored or sad, our frontal cortex goes offline, our cognition stops – we go “brainless,” and the automaticity of that reward circuit takes over and makes us do the bad habit to (briefly) feel better.
No wonder it can seem so difficult to eliminate them. No wonder simplistic advice like “just stop doing it” never works.
The good news is that there are simple, evidence-based hacks for breaking bad habits by breaking those circuits. And here’s that hack I promised…
Step One of How to Break a Bad Habit
Think about a habit you want to change: too much TV at night, too many cookies at night, negative rumination sessions, wasting time on your smartphone apps — whether games, YouTube or social media, etc.
Identify the reward that you get from that bad habit: The #1 reason our bad habits persist is that we don’t question them. We’re aware of them and we might even often say, “I shouldn’t” this, or “I can’t” that, but we don’t dig any deeper than that. But you’ve got to understand the reward you’re getting from your bad habit. It may be something different than what you think. Think about your bad habit and ask, “What do I get from it?”
Then ask yourself: “Is that really what I get from it? What do I really get from it?”
Here’s what I mean via a few common examples…
You repeatedly check your Facebook or Instagram to “feel connected” or to check in on your world. Maybe. But if it’s a habit, you’re probably doing it as a stress response or out of boredom, or as an escape from some difficult work.
You watch late night TV until after your ideal bed time because, well, you deserve to take a break and to be entertained – or you think it helps wind you down. Maybe. But if it’s a habit, you’re probably doing it out of a sense of FOMO, or, more likely, because the dopamine hits you’re getting from your screen are more satisfying than what you imagine to be the benefits of a longer night’s sleep.
You open your email inbox as soon as you get to work (or wake up!) to “make sure there’s nothing urgent I need to attend to.” Maybe. But if it’s a habit, you’re probably doing it as an excuse to procrastinate on starting some real work, or because it gives you the feeling of being productive (pseudoproductivity) – while in reality it destroys your productivity, divides your attention, and increases your stress.
So again, think about your bad habit and get really curious about its rewards. At the very least you’ll “loosen the screws” on it, but it might also be enough to kill it entirely.
Want to Know the Other 3 Steps on How to Break a Bad Habit?
I dedicated an entire Episode of Crusher™TV to How to Break a Bad Habit — Episode 98: Break Any Bad Habit in 5 Days, a special Facebook LIVE Episode where I shared the full 4-Step Process, plus more insights on bad habits. You can watch the FULL Episode by clicking below…
How to Break Any Bad Habit in 4 Simple Steps: Crusher™TV Episode 98, on Facebook LIVE. Learn more at www.CrusherTV.com
Posted by Alan P. Brown on Monday, January 29, 2018
Each Crusher™TV Episode is a well-researched “mini-masterclass” of evidence-based solutions on a specific productivity topic.
I think you’ll get a lot out of watching this one. (To access over 100 more Episodes on how to beat procrastination and overwhelm, get prioritized, manage your time, and more, you can become a member at Crusher™TV for a buck — $1! — and cancel any time you like).
Alan P. Brown, an internationally recognized Productivity Coach, TEDx Speaker and #1 Best Selling Author of Zen and the Art of Productivity: 27 Easy Ways to Have More Time, Earn More Money and Live Happier is the host of Crusher™TV, where he and his Guest Experts share simple ways to accomplish more in less time with less drama. Follow Alan on Twitter and on Facebook.