We all have them. Negative patterns so ingrained that they run the show. These are our bad habits. They can take many forms: overeating, overspending, procrastination, smoking, chronic lateness. Even though you know these habitual actions put you on a downward spiral, and you resolve time and time again to turn over a new leaf, you seem stuck and unable to really break free. Here are 6 steps to get you onto a new path.
- Admit you have a bad habit. If you don’t acknowledge you have a habit that is negatively effecting your life, you’re in denial. Break out of denial to break that habit. Genuine commitment to stop requires personal honesty.
- Set a deadline. Work out D-day…your deadline date to start on a new behavior. Be sure you are ready. Starting prematurely can doom your efforts. So take your time to get physically and psychologically prepared. You may even want to work with a therapist, coach or trusted friend to see if there are any obstacles to success you are overlooking.
- See it coming. Recognize habit-prone situations and understand what triggers them. Make a list so you can anticipate and prepare for them. Have a game plan for what you will do when one of these situations arises. Rehearse the game plan in your head so you are ready.
- In with the new. Adopt helpful new habits. A habit is nothing more than a learned behavior. All you are doing is replacing one behavior with another. It will take time to extinguish the old behavior and for the new behavior to take root, so be patient with yourself.
- Pace yourself. Don’t try to break too many habits at once. For example, if you want to change your eating habits and your exercise regime, you’re more likely to succeed if you break the most negative one first. Then tackle the next one as you gain confidence and momentum.
- Forgive yourself if you lapse. Replacing old habits with new ones doesn’t require perfection. You can afford an occasional slip, as long as you are committed to returning to the new behavior. A lapse is not a relapse. Relapse is giving up. Lapse is learning and moving forward.
So stop being a creature of habit. Instead, become a creature of choice. Choose to replace those negative behaviors that put you on a downward spiral with actions that are uplifting and fulfilling.