I know what you are thinking…
Not your problem, ok, let me try again…
“How could buying a gym membership but only going once in 6 months; or promising to eat better but then going on a junk food binge after only 2 days of dieting: how could these things be good things?”
Alright, if I still haven’t gotten you yet, I think this one will…
“How could the fact that I never do that thing… (yeah you know THAT thing), that thing that you always say you should do, will do, could do, but never actually do…how could that possibly be a good thing?”
Well you are in luck, because the fact that you realize you have a bad habit that needs to change is a step in the right direction.
Even more so, it means that you fit in with 100% of other human beings in the world, because just like everyone else on the planet, you aren’t perfect!
I know I am certainly not perfect
Despite devoting the past year and half to becoming better, learning new skills, becoming more fit and productive, I still have room for improvement. Just understand this fact right now…you will never be perfect, you will never achieve your full potential, and you will never reach some magical moment where you turn from a worm into a butterfly and fly away- off into the sunset.
That being said, bad habits aren’t really all that bad as long as you identify them and are willing to try and change them; some habits might require a lifelong commitment- things like being honest, showing appreciation to your spouse, or not giving up when things get tough. Who you are is like a muscle, and the more you are willing to challenge yourself and push what’s comfortable, the more you will grow.
Step one- Identify your “bad” habit
Bad habits are basically anything that you do regularly that prevents you from getting the results you want, or anything that prevents you from becoming the person that you want to become.
Bad habits can range from physical addictions, all the way down to gossiping or cheating on your spouse.
There is one rule about bad habits: if it makes you less like the person you would like to be, then it is a bad habit.
Bad habits: waste your time, are non-productive or counter-productive, they make you feel depressed or guilty, they take you farther away from your ideal self, and they are usually the opposite of what you know that you should be doing.
Bad habits means telling lies for the person who wants to be more honest, grabbing a cookie (check out the video below) at lunch break for the person who wants to lose weight or eat better, flirting with a co-worker for the person who wants to stay faithful, or smoking a cigarette for the person who really wants to quit.
Step 2- Find a replacement habit
If you suffer from any of the bad habits that I listed above, or if you aren’t making progress the way that you would like to be making progress, then you need to start replacing bad habits with better habits.
Instead of eating a cookie at lunch break try eating a carrot. Instead of flirting with your co-workers try reading a book about relationships; instead of smoking a cigarette try going for a run.
The key to replacing bad habits with good productive habits is to stop doing the bad behavior and to try doing positive behaviors that support the development of your ideal self. Take your bad habit and each time you start doing the bad thing or feel like doing the bad thing, do the good thing instead.
This process might require some experimentation, it may mean that you have to try several different habits or interventions before you find one that sticks, but that is where the personal growth phase comes in.
As you try replacing negative behaviors and habits with positive behaviors and habits, you will learn more, and eventually you will find one that sticks. If you keep experimenting, you can eventually find the habit that clicks and integrates perfectly into the person that you are so that you can become the person that you want to be.
Some people wrestle with character flaws like telling lies or stealing, some have behavioral issues like gambling or stress eating, some have a hard time staying focused or productive, others have a hard time sticking to a healthy diet. The key is finding habits that will integrate smoothly into your life that will help you become better.
Step 3 Maintain the structure that you have created and prevent regression
Once you have stuck with a new behavior a few weeks it can become a habit, but it takes much longer than a few weeks for something to become a permanent component of who you are (especially if your bad habits were around for a long time).
It can be easy to backslide into old habits, especially habits that are deeply ingrained (addictive). That is why so many people fall back into drinking, smoking, overeating, gambling, or cheating. These people may have stopped their activity for the time being, but those old habits are waiting somewhere inside of them for that single weak moment to arise. All it takes is one drink for the alcoholic to end years of sobriety, and that’s why it is so important to be relentless with the execution of your good habits.
It can take anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 years to replace a bad habit with a good one to the point that you are no longer tempted to indulge in the bad habit, and that is why you must…
Step 4- Raise your standards and refuse to accept your past behavior
Don’t be the former alcoholic who still feels like an addict inside. Understand that your past behavior has no bearing on the person that you are today and refuse to accept those types of behaviors in your life today.
You must be relentless in your rejection of those bad habits from your past if you want to change; those things must no longer be an option, these bad habits need to be seen not as a hindrance of stopping you from who you want to become, but they should be seen as an act of betrayal to the person that you are.
Once you reprogram your bad habits… you aren’t that person from your past anymore, don’t accept those bad behaviors as part of who you are, because you have changed.
Hold onto your past not as a thing telling you who you are, but as a reminder of who you once were…refuse to become that person again, understand that if you compromise your standards just once, that you will likely become that person again.
Bad habits are the key to changing who you are, because until you identify the bad habits, you will never change who you are. Becoming a better person starts with your actions; you don’t just wake up one day completely changed, but you start acting differently each day until you actually are someone different.
You are a combination of your daily habits, your beliefs (especially your beliefs about who you are and what is possible), and the people and situations you choose to be exposed to. To change yourself, change your actions…to change your actions change habits. To change your life, change your standards.
What things are you currently wrestling with in life? Leave a comment below and let me know what you are working on, I would be happy to give you a few possible scenarios and habits that you can use to reach your goals.