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Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad

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We all have habits. Some of them are good – daily flossing, for example. Others are poor – drinking too much caffeine, maybe. The thing about habits is that the vast majority of them are unconscious – we do them on autopilot, without even realizing it. Unfortunately, changing even a small habit is challenging. This is because, like a homing pigeon always automatically flies back home, we will often unconsciously go back to a habit, even if we know it’s not good for us. Bad habits are like a comfortable bed: Easy to get into, hard to get out of!

The great news is that you can make a good habit automatic and you can stop an automatic bad habit. Anytime you replace even the smallest of bad habits with a more positive one, you change your life. Good habits are one of the key ingredients of success in life, so it’s vital to focus on them and encourage their development. Here’s how you can break bad habits and start building better ones today:

Identify a Cue

What triggers your bad habit? It can be people, places, times or emotions. One of my bad habits is a cup of tea and a cookie after a long day. During my Irish childhood, tea and cookies were the antidote to everything so I still almost automatically reach for them today when I feel a little tired or under pressure.

Reveal the True Reward

What craving is your habit satisfying and what is it you really want? For me, tea and cookies might be a response to a challenging day, but they’re not what I really want. I actually desire an effective way to unwind, relax and shake off stress.   

Create a New Response

After years of battling my sweet tooth, I have successfully created a new routine. Instead of having tea and cookies when I get home after a long day, I now drive by the ocean to decompress and appreciate the beauty of nature and then I go for a swim. This new routine does way more to relieve stress than the old one ever did!

Make the Healthy Response Attractive

When you do the good stuff, reward yourself. I still enjoy the odd cup of tea with a sweet treat – but now it’s a conscious reward, not something I do on automatic pilot without even realizing it.

Take Small Steps

Nothing changes overnight – there has to be a sequence. Small steps are a powerful way to reach your goals. As Confucius said, “The man who moves mountains begins by carrying away small stones.” If you want to change your habits, start small!

Identify With the Habit Personally

If you want to build up a good habit, you must affirm and identify with it. For example, if you want to be a swimmer, begin slowly and then consciously affirm this new identity to yourself. The more you repeat a certain desired behavior, the more you reinforce the identity that is associated with that behavior.

You can change your life by changing your habits, one step at a time. So, stop living your life on autopilot, break your bad habits and start developing your positive habits today! As Og Mandino said, “Good habits are the key to all success and bad habits are the unlocked door to failure.”

Listen to the latest episode of “It’s a Good Life” to hear more about improving your habits.

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