5 steps to get rid of a bad habit or start a good one.
Have you been thinking of quitting smoking or starting that morning jog? Planning to get more work done in the morning or just reduce the time wasted on coffee breaks? Or something as trivial as trying to keep in touch with your friends?
Most of us have been struggling with some problem related to the bad habits we have formed over the years. Similar is the story with good habits that we want to form but just can’t seem to get started on them. Even if you start with a new habit you just can’t seem to be able to maintain it.
I have had my fair share of bad habits that I have struggled with ( and maybe still dealing with some of them). So this blog is to share what seems to work when you are trying to break or get out of a bad habit and form a new one.
1. Be realistic with goals, don’t fantasize
You want to lose some weight, you won’t quit smoking, you want to exercise daily, you want to call your mom daily. There are really a LOT of things that you want to improve in your life.
The first thing I have realized is that not to get into a ‘life transformation’ mode and try to change everything at once. This does not work mainly because:
– the enthusiasm usually dies out in a few days.
– the strong feeling of disgust for your bad habits, that you felt at the start of a transformation, usually is overpowered by your cravings of getting back at them over time.
– the mind starts to justify small exceptions or indulgences because you are apparently doing a lot of things at once and it feels okay to make some exceptions.
A more doable approach is to just prioritize what you need. Forming a new habit is a difficult task and you should treat it like that. It takes a lot of work. I would recommend not changing more than 2 habits at any given time.
2. Create a support system
When you are trying to change a habit, there are going to be instances where you are going to go off track. You should and would try your best to avoid that but there are bound to be failures. If you have someone in your life who is likely to notice the bad or good habit and keep you in check, he/she can act as a very good support system. This someone can be anyone, your wife, your office colleague or even your mother.
Having someone like this to give you positive reinforcement ( like praise ) when you are doing good and negative reinforcement ( like a good earful ) when you are slipping, keeps you on track and helps you achieve what you want. A word of caution, this someone needs to be close to you as they will need to criticize you on your failures and that might strain your relationship a bit.
3. Find a replacement or workaround
This works like a charm. Basically what this means is whenever you are indulging into a bad habit just replace it with something good. Just make sure this is something that you like to do.
To give an example, if you like to walk, replace your 20 mins routine of smoking (or tea), with 20 min routine of brisk walks.
You can even do this with one or some of your friends who were part of your chai/sutta group and are willing to change.
4. Develop a routine by doing it just this once
This one is the toughest part. Doing the right thing all the time is the only way to change your habit. But this can be immensely simplified by not thinking about the long game and just winning the ‘battle of now’.
Just focus on doing the right thing ‘now’ and you will notice a pattern that you are leaving behind you.
5. Reward mechanism
Finally, when you do start noticing that you have successfully done the right thing for the first few days, have a way of rewarding yourself. This helps initially to keep the motivation high.
Once you start seeing the results you won’t need this reward mechanism and the results would be motivation enough to keep you on track.