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How to Get Rid of a Bad Habit

Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nerdegutt/ / CC BY 2.0

[hana-code-insert name=’social w twitt face’ /]“Bad habits are easier to abandon today than tomorrow.”
Yiddish Proverb

“Men’s natures are alike; it is their habits that separate them.”

Most of us have one or a few habits that we consider bad and we’d like to get rid of. But how do you do it?

Today I’d like to share I have a few suggestions that have helped me and people around me greatly.

Here are 8 tips that can help you to finally get rid of that bad habit once and for all.

  • Tell your friends and family. If you tell people around you that you will stop smoking or start working out three times a week then they will check up on you. And you will feel a social pressure to keep up with your promise now that it is let out into the world. I would recommend only telling people who you think will support you or be neutral. Negative people make things so much more difficult.
  • Make it painful to not go through with it. This may not be for everyone but you could consider making a promise to someone. For example, if you stray off the path to better health by having French fries or a cigarette then you will give your friend 100 or 500 dollars. The point is to add some possible pain to keep yourself in check on days when you may feel a bit tempted.
  • Listen to those who have gone where you want to go. Not to people who have no practical or real idea about what your challenge entails. It is important to get the best advice that actually works in real life. Seek it out in people around you, in the best books on the topic (check for the number of stars and read reviews on a site like amazon.com) and on blogs and forums that seem reliable.
  • What will this lead to in 5 and 10 years? See your future self vividly in your mind. Where are you going? Towards massive debt, a heart attack, serious illness and severe restrictions in your future? Do you want go to that place where it is very likely that you will wind up if you don’t make a change? Then see your future self where you have made the positive change. What positive and awesome things has it brought you in 5 years and in 10 years? See it all in your mind. And remind yourself of the positive and negative consequences by writing them down and reviewing them whenever you feel like quitting and going back to your old ways.
  • Avoid temptations. Know what usually triggers your bad habit. Places where you are likely to spend too much money. Things in your cupboard that will not help you to get healthier and you should not have at home at all. And people that drag you down and back into your old ways.
  • Replace it. If you stop doing one thing then it can leave a vacuum in your life. It’s easier to not relapse if you replace that space with a new habit. If you had chips and candy at home to snack on then have fruits and nuts to snack on when you feel the cravings. If you stopped checking social media and the internet for many hours each evening then replace that habit and space with reading more books or joining a club, sport or evening class.
  • Don’t remove more than one habit at a time. It may seem like a good idea to overhaul your life all at once. When regular life, stress and lack of energy interfere it usually leads to failure. Don’t try to be Superman or Wonder Woman. Take it easy and change one habit at a time to dramatically increase the odds of real life success.
  • Don’t make a huge deal out of it. If you think about it and talk about it all the time then it will feel like a huge deal to get rid of that habit. This will make each day much harder mentally and you may feel overwhelmed. Instead, keep it simple and realize that whatever habit you want to get rid of thousands if not millions of people have done so before. Yes, things do get tough from time to time. But there is no need to create a lot of extra drama around it and in the longer run make things more difficult than they need to be.

If you found this article helpful, please share it with someone else on Twitter, Facebook and Stumbleupon. Thank you very much! =)

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  • Sibyl July 3, 2011, 6:28 pm

    Henrik: This is an amazingly helpful post. I thought that every suggestion you made was right on point. I think so often we are trying to break a habit and don’t really have a great approach or know exactly what we can do. This post clarifies it all. Thanks for passing it along.

  • stephen July 4, 2011, 1:31 am

    Some very good points there, i always find that if i tell people what i am planning to do then it puts pressure on me to follow it through, but it is that same pressure that is usually the reason that i do not succeed!
    What i do now is if i want to get rid of a bad habit is just to make a promise to myself and i do not tell anyone, that way i find i am more successful and people tend to notice at some stage themselves and they are more surprised and happy!

  • Sajith July 4, 2011, 8:23 am

    Thanks!! Great tips.
    One important thing to keep in mind while trying to get rid of negative habits would be to understand the secondary benefits one gets out of that habit. For example, will power may help to get a person off cigarettes for a short time. But as long as the secondary gain ( like a boost in confidence when smoking..etc.) is not taken care of, the subconscious pressure will be tremendous on the person and in many cases will force the person to revert to the old (familiar) habit. The idea is to identify the secondary benefit and replace it with a new one

  • Melinda July 4, 2011, 8:48 am

    Only problem i have is i m unable to sleep restfully and deeply whenever i’m in tension even if it’s a tiny one.Some days i sleep so deeply and nicely and other days I mess up with my sleep.Any suggestions?

  • Lauren @ MRS July 5, 2011, 4:17 am

    Great tips! I myself, try to incorporate a type of rewards and punishment system when it comes to accomplishing a goal. Which is why, if anything at all, I try to stick to it more than ever.lols

  • Kara Lane July 6, 2011, 11:11 pm

    Your 8 tips on getting rid of a bad habit are helpful. I think the first two tips, “Tell your friends and family” and “Make it painful to not go throught with it,” are especially meaningful. I have a very recent personal experience that perfectly illustrates their usefulness.

    My dad (who is in his seventies) had smoked since he was a teenager and just recently quit cold turkey after a health scare. In the July issue of our “Your Monthly Motivator” newsletter, I wrote an article called “Change Your Life the Slow and Difficult Way” and specifically bragged about my Dad quitting smoking and thanked him for the inspiration. I then sent him a copy of the newsletter to give him additional motivation not to go back to smoking, since he’d been personally and publically praised for quitting by family, friends and even total strangers! (Newsletter referenced above can be found at http://www.championsofpowerfulliving.com/)

    Thanks for the great content you provide, Henrik!

  • Jacqueline July 6, 2011, 11:14 pm

    I found that the first rule has been the most helpful. By telling my friends and family, mainly my mother and boyfriend, I was able to gain their support and achieve my goal.

    Habits can be hard to break but when they are broken it becomes an accomplishment. Share what you’ve accomplished on iachievedgreatness@blogspot.com and help others do what you’ve done.

  • Emily July 7, 2011, 9:27 pm

    I think making it painful NOT to do it, as well as replacing it, are the two biggies in the list.

  • Rob Winter July 8, 2011, 9:18 pm

    Some very interesting points. I teach people about habits and try to get them to understand what is a healthy habit is. Once thats been established I work on awareness, this is the key factor.

  • Moo Chen YEAN July 12, 2011, 12:38 pm

    This is most useful..!

    Telling people is a good way to get our butts kicked. It will also get us some sort of feedback. Listening to others who’s been through it will get us motivated and prepare us for the journey. Tackling one habit at a time makes it look possible and simple. This last one is good piece of advice becoz sometimes when we have too many bad habits, we get so confused on where or how to start. I blog about this rather often.


  • Sean July 14, 2011, 3:44 pm

    Wonderful tips about how to get rid of bad habits. It seems something logical and obvious but if you try to make a list as you did is not easy.
    I’m a compulsive person and normal habits turn into bad habits when I’m in stress, so I need to reset myself almost every month.

    The tip, What will this lead to in 5 and 10 years? is the one that helps me better. I use to practice yoga and it helps me to get back to what I really need, always listen to your body…

  • Louise Gillespie-Smith July 14, 2011, 4:07 pm

    Great post! Telling people and replacing it with something else always works for me. I hate to go against what I say I am going to do so if I tell enough people I will have to do it!!! Thanks x

  • Gerry Hartigan July 15, 2011, 3:09 am

    Great stuff from everyone. Lots of great advice. A few years ago I had a friend who was addicted to watching porn and wanted to stop. I told him to tell his wife he had a problem and she was to ask him every day how he was doing. That would break him of his habit pretty quickly. He said he did, I am not sure if he was telling the truth but sharing your struggles with someone close to you is a powerful way to break any bad habit.

    • Anonymous August 19, 2011, 1:18 am

      thats very nice but it probably cant break my habit!

  • Heather July 20, 2011, 7:46 pm

    I love this blog! Another good self-help one that I’ve found that’s just starting is katypearson.com …If you love animals and lessons you can learn from them you’ll like it.

    Keep up the good work! very inspiring!

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