How many times have we realized we need to make a change, but just don’t seem to be able to beat that bad habit? Smoking, drinking, overeating, biting finger nails, shopping, etc. Often times we realize some of our bad habits are seriously detrimental to our health and/or family’s health, but changing one’s behavior can be extremely difficult. The good news is that you can find success in changing undesired habits and I am going to help you! So relax, read and begin to believe in yourself!
1. My first step in changing a bad habit is to identify the habit. I advise that you start with one habit you need to change versus multiple changes at one time. I use the term “Build Positive, Forward Momentum.” I use this term to encourage people to reach success via a series of small successes, much like winning a war through small battle victories or a snowball rolling downhill. So only commit yourself to one habit change at a time and build some momentum.
2. Once you determine the habit to be changed, you must develop a plan. I am going to use smoking as an example. Once you determine you want to quit smoking you must develop a plan to help you succeed. Understanding triggers will be a huge part of developing the plan. Buying an assisting device such as a nicotine patch might be a good step or maybe visiting your doctor.Whatever your plan it needs to be specific to you. Maybe your trigger is boredom at work, maybe drinking alcohol, maybe friends trigger your smoking habit. During this step I try to analyze every aspect of the habit: possible triggers, benefits, why I enjoy or hate, past attempts to change, etc. This analysis helps me when I begin to develop my plan and it allows me to decide in my mind that I must make a change and understand why it is important for me to change. Be sure to provide yourself a counterpoint to your trigger! “I smoke when I hang out in bars and drink. Therefore, for the next 30 days I will avoid alcohol and bars to reduce the stress of quitting cigarettes and give myself a better chance of succeeding.” Or “I smoke when I get bored at work, therefore I will be aware of my boredom and go for a short walk instead.” After analyzing your habit write down your plan and commit it to memory!
3. Be aware that one key to changing unwanted habits is to replace the unwanted action with a more desirable action. I have known folk that quit smoking cold turkey and used shear will power to do so and it is impressive to observe. And their success revolved around immediately committing themselves to any other action when hit with a craving. Going and working on the car, chopping wood, going for a walk, washing the car, organizing and cleaning the house, chewing a stick of gum, etc. You will fail if you try to eliminate an undesired action by simply stopping the action. You must replace the undesirable with something more desirable and distracting.
4. Be patient! Rome was not built in a day and habits do not change overnight. When you stumble, dust yourself right off and get back to your plan. You might experience lots of small defeats, but if you stick with it for the long haul you will overcome. It is very important to cut yourself some slack by remembering change is a marathon not a sprint. Learn from the mistake, but do not continue to beat yourself over and over!
5. Set your goal at 30 days. Your mindset should be “I am going to focus on changing for 30 days. Failures will be a part of this process and I accept that fact, but I will not let them stop me.”
6. Don’t go it alone! Find yourself a buddy to hold you accountable and to lean on in tough times. Life in general is better with a friend and is crucial to helping you find success in changing bad habits.
7. Keep yourself motivated. The best motivation can be education so read, read, read! Find success stories related to your habit change. Read books about improving yourself, habit changing, benefits of changing your particular bad habit. All of these things will keep you constantly focused and motivated.
These are tips that I have used in the past and that I use still today. Remember, changing habits is not easy and failures will occur. But if you are determined in your mind and are resolute in your decision, then you can change your behavior. Be patient, don’t be hard on yourself and expect success. Also, be sure to share this with your friends to help spread the word!
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Always striving to improve,