No matter how successful, productive, healthy, high status, famous or wealthy you are right now, there are probably a few bad habits that you know you want to get rid of but can’t.
Humility is the start of any learning process; I applaud you for that.
Without further ado, let me give you three keys you must have to break bad habits permanently.
Key #1: Break ONE Habit Only At A Time
One common trap people fall into after identifying their bad habits is to start breaking EVERYTHING they don’t like at the same time.
Not a smart move.
(By the way, you can use Charles Dhigg’s method called Cue, Routine, Reward to identify your bad habits.
Basically, by first identifying the situational triggers (Cue) of your habits, the bad habitual routine of default behavior and the rewards you gain from performing the wrong actions, you will discover the entire neuro pathway of your response and be able to change it.)
Every time you try to resist performing the bad behavior, you’re using your limited willpower to do so. Therefore, if you decide to break more than one habit at a time, you’ll slice your energy too thin, and it’s likely you will fail to break any habits at the end.
Therefore, always focus ALL your energy in breaking ONE habit at a time.
Once you’ve reached the stage where performing a healthy new habit is effortless and unconscious, you can spend your energy on the next bad habit.
Key #2: Establish Reasons On Why You Want To Quit Your Bad Habits
Without some emotionally charged reasons behind to back up your actions, we won’t sustain our motivation, drive, and behavioral change long.
Breaking habits is not a few days thing; it takes weeks, months, if not years, to establish a positive grounded, stable new behavior into your entire system.
To win this long game, you must list out the pros and cons of this journey of change.
What benefits are you going to gain if you change this habit successful?
How does it feel to get rid of the old habits that have been bugging you and sabotaging your success for years?
What happens if you don’t change and remain the same three months from now? 6 months from now? A year from now? Five years from now? What are the consequences to you and your significant others?
List out the benefits and drawbacks, pros and cons, pleasures and pains of WHY you want a change now, and read this list every day.
Key #3: Experiment With A 10-14 Days Period Of Habit Cycles
Again, changing habits is a long game to play.
Instead of having a quick consecutive 30 days of temporary success and feeling exhausted from the change, you want to change with the ebb and flow.
A Habit Cycle is a short period where you do whatever it takes to FULLY committed to cutting the old habit and performing the new pattern.
But the beauty of this is that, once you’ve persisted for just 10-14 days, you are allowed to REWARD yourself to do whatever you want and take a short break.
It goes so far that you can choose to revert to your old bad behaviors or even decide not to continue changing your old habits.
Why is this psychologically powerful and works?
It’s because humans hate to be forced into doing certain things. We all like to feel a sense of control and have free will to choose to act (or not).
So if you force yourself to do something so unpleasant for an entire month, once you’ve reached that “finish line,” you will feel shattered, drained and even frustrated for the pain you’d suffered.
You’ll develop resentment for the change.
You’ll need a long break for your nervous system.
And you’ll lose momentum to continue, and thus the habit installation fails.
Therefore, a smarter way to approach a permanent lifestyle change is to make tiny incremental changes in your daily behavior with periodical celebratory breaks.
I found that 10-14 days of persistence, consistency, and discomfort is the sweet spot for most people to create lasting change in a fun, non-stressful yet committed way.
Work in a habit cycle. Build things up slowly. And you’ll be empowered, energized and motivated to replace bad habits with good ones one by one.