How To Break Bad Habits: Try These 5 Proven Ways

This article contains proven steps and strategies on how to break bad habits and start positive momentum in your life.

Bad habits most likely can damage your reputation. You will have also limitations in moving up in your career and keeping long-term relationships. So it is very important that you know how to break those bad habits.

You can break your bad habits and transform it to good habits and replace it with positive behaviors. However, it will take time.

Good news! You can start today through learning more about bad habits in detail.

In this article, you will learn several strategies, exercises and approaches on how to transform your bad habits into good habits. These will surely help you living a happier life.

How To Break Bad Habits:

Do you have bad habits that are harming your career, work or relationships?

Maybe you are checking your emails or sending text messages every time you are in a meeting, turning up late whenever you do client calls, or taking phone calls not related to your job when you are expected to be concentrating on your work in the office.

You might be allowing your habits such as excessive internet browsing or watching television stops you on achieving your goals during weekends.

Habits Defined

Habits as defined by Stephen Covey, it is the intersection of desire, skill and knowledge. Desire is your want to do it and your motivation. Skill is how you willbe able to do it.

Knowledge is the theoretical paradigm – the why and what to do. In order to form a habit in your life, these three must be present.

You may be ineffective in your interactions with your colleagues, your spouse, or your children because you are constantly telling them what you think, but you never listen to them.

Unless you search for correct principles of human interactions, you may not even know that you really have to listen.

You may not have that skill. You may not know really how to listen deeply to another person. But knowing that you need to listen and knowing how to really listen is not enough.

Unless you want to listen, unless you have the desire, it won ’ t become a habit in your life. Creating a habit requires you to work in all the three aspects.

Through working on your desire, skill and knowledge, you can break your bad habits. You can do this through new levels of interpersonal and personal effectiveness as you break with the old patterns you have created and the source of your actions for several years.

It is sometimes a painful process.

It is a change and improvement on yourself that has to be inspired by willingness and a higher purpose – what you think you want later on and what you think you want for now.

Habits can be both harmful and helpful. When you have excellent habits such as reporting to work early or being positive in every project assigned to you, you create an ingrained and positive onward motion that you do not have to ponder much about it.

You can use your energy to concentrate on the things that you need to give special attention to.

This is true to bad habits as well. You participate in these behaviors without thinking too much which can damage your career and personal life without being conscious about it.

Here are some examples of bad habits that will surely affect your career and personal lives.

  • Always late for meetings and work
  • Thinking negatively
  • Seeking attention
  • Gossiping
  • Resisting change
  • Being defensive
  • Making abrupt decisions
  • Procrastinating
  • Participating in self-sabotage
  • Being maladaptive perfectionist

However, the habit becomes bad depending on the circumstances.

For instance, perfectionist and not allowing any room for errors is ideal for jobs wherein safety is very crucial like in the shipping industry. The accuracy of the coordinates of the location of a specific ship at a specific time is important to avoid collision with another ship or with an island.

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Why is it so difficult to break your bad habits?

The primary reason why a bad habit is difficult to stopis it is your “ cognitive script, ” as researchers call it. These are the automatic and unconscious thoughts that you face.

Your instinctive thoughts are from your previous experiences.

This means, if the scenario is one of those you have encountered for a couple of times before, you are involved in a set of behaviors without much thought about what you are doing. Your actions have become more consistent and habitual.

Usually, bad habits are very difficult to break because it became enjoyable activities that you want to do it over and over.

For instance, you might be enjoying surfing the internet during working hours instead of accomplishing on your tasks or sending emails using your smartphones during board meetings.

This happens because when you do pleasurable activities, your brain release dopamine (1). It is a substance that triggers the reward center of your brain.

This will encourage you to do those activities again. In result, the activity now becomes a habit.

Tactics for overpowering bad habits

You can definitely stop bad habits and replace it with affirmative behaviors. However, it needs time and efforts from your part. It will not happen in an instant the improvements you want to see to yourself.

According to researches, you will need to be engaged in thought patterns and alternative behaviors consistently for about 66 days in order for it to be developed as a habit. This number can change from 18 up to 254 days.

It will highly depend on you and your behavior.

It can be very overwhelming for you. But try to ask yourself and recall the last time you shrug off a bad habit. You felt great, right? Take note, your bad habits could be very damaging to your career and reputation. It is well worth giving your effort and time to conquer bad habits.

Just remember, there is no exact or ultimate tactic in getting rid of old bad habits. You will most likely need to combine several strategies in order to succeed in getting rid of your bad habits.

Key points to remember on habits

Some habits are positive which can help you succeed in your career and life. However, bad habits can greatly limit your accomplishments.

For you to break a bad habit, you need to commit first in stopping the behavior through coming up and creating a plan. Then, develop a self-awareness and self-discipline so that you can keep on track.

Try to imagine yourself in the future if you will not break your bad habit. Would you like to live a life like that for a long time?

Learn to fight the impulsive urge of your bad habit. It might be challenging at first but you will later on realize that you will benefit from it.

Always believe in yourself. Avoid telling yourself that you cannot do something that is a habit that needs to be stopped.

Take one or two bad habits at a time. If you will take more than that, you will feel overwhelmed.

Make sure that you will congratulate and reward yourself whenever you are doing well or seeing some improvements to yourself.

Always set for realistic plans in avoiding your bad habits.

Try your best not to think of your bad habits.

Always consider all the good things about the habits that you have.

Think of alternative ways or something that will replace your bad habits and still give you satisfaction.

A bad habit is termed as a “ bad habit ” because it is basically bad. However, if you create a good habit to overpower the bad ones, then it helps. For instance, if you are smoking, you can start a habit of writing or reading. If these habits are not for you, try acting or spending time with your family and friends.

With the right mindset and persistence, it is possible for you to break your bad habits.

1. Be Proactive

Being proactive is more than taking initiative. It means you are responsible for your own life. Your behavior is not your condition.

It is a function of your decisions. You can subordinate feelings to your values. You have the responsibility and the initiative to make things happen.

Look at the term responsibility – “ response ” and “ ability. ” This means, your ability to choose what will be your response. A person who is highly proactive will recognize his or her responsibilities.

They do not blame their conditions, conditioning or circumstances for their behavior. The behavior is the outcome of their own conscious choice and based from their values rather than an outcome of their conditions and based from feelings.

By nature, you are proactive. If your life is a function of conditions and conditioning, it is because what you have by conscious decision, chosen to empower those stuff to control you.

In making your choice, you tend to become reactive. A reactive person is often affected by the physical environment. For instance, if the weather is perfect, they will feel good. If it is not, it will affect their performance and attitude.

But a person who is proactive, no matter what the weather is, they can perform well. Whether it shines or rains, it does not make any difference.

A proactive person is value driven. In result, they can produce excellent and quality work. It is not a function of whether the weather is conducive in working or not.

How to become proactive

Being proactive does not mean you will be aggressive, pushy, or insensitive. Proactive people are smart. They are value driven. They read reality. They know what is needed.

1) Start being proactive with your words and statements you use every day.

As mentioned earlier, being proactive, you have to be responsible. You need to be in control of your life and to powerfully influence the events happening to you through working on it and what you are.

2) Be committed and start making promises that you can keep. The commitments that you make for yourself and to other people, and your integrity to those commitments is the clearest manifestation and essence of your proactivity. It is also the essence of your growth.

Through your abilities of conscience and self-awareness, you become conscious of the areas of weakness, areas of talent that can be enhanced, areas for improvements, areas that can be eliminated from your life, and areas that need to be changed.

Then as you recognize and use your independent will and imagination to act on that awareness – setting for new goals, making promises and being true to them – you build your strength of character and your whole being that makes possible everything possible in your life.

You have two ways on being in control of your life immediately.

a) You can make a promise and keep it

b) You can set for a goal and try to work on it to achieve it.

As you make your commitments, even the small ones, you begin to establish inner integrity that will give you the awareness of courage, strength and self-control to accept more of the responsibility of your own life.

Through making and keeping promises to yourself and to others step-by-step, your honor becomes greater than of your moods.

The power to create and keep commitments to yourself is the foundation of developing the basic habits of effectiveness. Desire, skill and knowledge are all within your control. You can work on any one to improve the balance of the three.

As the parts of the intersection becomes larger, the more you are deeply immersed in the principles upon which the habits are based.

In result, you create the strength of character that will help you move in a well-balanced way towards increasing your effectiveness in your life.

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The 30-day test to proactivity

You do not have to go through a war in order to develop and recognize your own proactivity. It is in your everyday life that you can develop the proactive capacity in order to handle the extra ordinary pressure of your life.

It is how you handle traffic jams, how you respond to an irate customer or deal with a disobedient child.

Now, the next step is to challenge yourself for 30 days. Just try it and see what will happen. Make small commitments and keep them. Here are some examples:

  • Reading the newspapers everyday or finishing a book in one week
  • Taking actions immediately especially urgent and important matters
  • Eating fruits and vegetables
  • Going home immediately after work
  • Sleeping and resting for eight hours
  • Drinking eight glasses or more of water

Be a light to yourself and to other people and not a judge. Be a role model and not a critic. Be part of the solutions and answers and not the problem.

2. Start with Your End Goals in Mind

In breaking a bad habit and transforming it to a good habit is to begin today with the picture or image of the end that you want to achieve.

Every part of your life – your today ’ s behavior, tomorrow ’ s behavioror your month ’ s behavior – can be observed in the perspective of the whole which matters the most for you.

Through clearly keeping in your mind your end goal, you are sure that whatever you do on any specific day will not contradict the criteria you have defined as absolutely important. Make sure that every day of your life will contribute in significant ways to the ultimate goal you have in your life.

For you to start with your end goals in mind, you need to have a clear understanding where you really want to go and what to achieve.

This means, you should know where you are going in order for you to better understand where you are currently located and the right steps that you need to take in order for you to take the right direction.

It is very easy to be trapped on your way to your destination because of the busy-ness of your life; you are working harder and climbing up the ladder only to find out that you are going on the wrong wall or direction. It is very possible to become very busy without really being effective.

Many people find themselves achieving victories that are useless and empty. These are successes that they will suddenly realize that it is not really valuable to them.

Your personal mission statement

One of the effective ways in starting with your end goals in mind is to create your personal mission statement (2). This is also the creed or philosophy that you live and follow in your life.

It must focus on what you want to become or your character; and to do or your achievements and contributions; and on the principles or values upon which doing and being are based.

Each person is unique. Your personal mission statement will reflect its uniqueness, both in form and content. Here are some examples of a personal mission statement.

  • Have a successful home first.
  • Merit and seek divine help.
  • It is a no-no to compromise with honesty.
  • Always remember all the people involved.
  • Always hear both sides of the story before judging.
  • Seek counsel from other people.
  • Defend those who are not around.
  • Be sincere and at the same time decisive.
  • Develop a new skill every year.
  • Plan your work for tomorrow.
  • Keep a positive attitude.
  • Always smile.
  • Have a sense of humor.
  • Be organized and orderly at home and at work.
  • Do not be afraid of mistakes.
  • Listen more.
  • Concentrate in all the activities at hand.
  • Stop worrying too much.

Now, it is time you create your own personal mission statement. It is your personal constitution.

3. Learn to Put First Things First

Learning to put first things first is the actualization and fulfillment of section two and three. This is the physical creation.

Independent will, imagination, conscience and self-awareness are the composition of effective self-management. It is your ability to make choices, decisions and act in accordance with it. It is your ability to act and not to be acted upon.

Important vs. Urgent

An activity can be defined as important and urgent.

Important means there is something to do with your results. If there is something that is important, it will contribute to your values, mission and your high priority goals.

On the other hand, urgent means, you are required to give your immediate action. It is “ Now! ” A ringing phone is an urgent matter that needs your immediate action.

Urgent matters are commonly visible. It will press you to respond immediately. Urgent matters are in front of you. There are times that urgent matters are easy, pleasant and fun to do. But, most of the time, they are unimportant.

You react to urgent matters. Important things that are not urgent will require more proactivity and more initiative. You have to act in order to seize opportunity and to make things happen.

If you do not have a clear picture of what is important of the outcome you want to happen in your life, you can easily diverted to responding to the urgent.

Try this:

Organize your week. Start writing down your goals and roles for the week in your journal. Then, transfer your goals to your exact plans.

At the end of the week, you need to evaluate the status of your plan – translate your purposes and deep values to your daily life.

4. Think of The Win-Win Situation

Win-win situation is a frame in heart and mind that constantly search for mutual benefit in all interactions. This means that solutions and agreements are mutually satisfying and beneficial.

In a win-win situation, all parties involved will feel good about the committed action plan and the decision that has been made. Plus, it sees life as a cooperative situation and not a competitive arena.

Think win-win. It is not only your way or his way. It is much better to have a better way and the higher way for both parties involved.

Four step process to achieve win-win solutions

  • Step one: Look at the problem from a different point of view. You have to seek in order for you to understand. Give your expression to the concerns and needs of the opposite party.
  • Step two: Identify the key concerns and issues involved. Make sure it is not the position.
  • Step three: Determine the results that will constitute to a fully acceptable solution.
  • Step four: Identify all the possible new options to achieve those results.

In order for you to practice always achieving win-win situation, here is what you are going to do: Come up with a list of obstacles and hindrances that will keep you from applying the win-win paradigm.

Determine what you could have done in order to eliminate those obstacles.

5. Learn to Synergize

Synergizing is the most unifying, empowering, and most exciting part of breaking a bad habit and transforming it to a good habit.

Synergy can be found anywhere. The essence of it is to value the differences – the emotional, mental and psychological differences of people. The secret in valuing these differences is to realize that all the people look at the work as they are and not as it is.

Apply learning to synergize through this activity:

Make a list of people who always irritate you because they think differently from you. Then ask this question to yourself, “ Do they represent a different point of view that could lead you the way to be synergized if you only have valued the differences between you? ”

Remember, people interpret things differently because they have been conditioned to interpret things differently.

However, if you “ value the differences ” in terms of the perception of each person, value one another, and the belief to the possibility that both sides are right, you will arrive at something better.

Just imagine if you have the same perception. There is no point of discussing and appreciating the other person ’ s perception.

I hope this post about how to break bad habits was able to help you to know the ways on how to overpower your bad habits. The next step is to get moving. Apply all the practical activities or exercises mentioned on my post.

Przemkas Mosky
Przemkas Mosky started Perfect 24 Hours in 2017. He is a Personal Productivity Specialist, blogger and entrepreneur. He also works as a coach assisting people to increase their motivation, social skills or leadership abilities. Read more here