How can I change my bad habits

Replacing bad habits with positive new habits is actually quite easy.

But in order to successfully replace a habit, you must understand two things.

  • habit structure
  • How quickly habits change

Let’s dive into these two topics a little deeper so you have a better understanding of how to easily change bad habits.

1. Habit structure

All habits can be divided into three basic components:

Cues or triggers: This is part of a habitual loop in which you are motivated to take certain actions by cues in your internal or external environment.
Action: Good or Bad This is the part of the habit loop where you actually take action on the habit you want to adopt or give up.
Reward: This is part of the habit loop where your brain receives a reward for doing the activity it wants (or doesn’t as you will see in a moment).
More specifically, most people fail to adequately reward themselves for taking action on beneficial habits.

Think of it like this…

Most addictive and destructive habits have built-in reward systems that require little or no input from you.

Smoking a cigarette, sniffing cocaine, or drinking yourself into oblivion are easy habits to get into because they flood your brain with the neurotransmitter dopamine (and lots of other feel-good chemicals).

These substances naturally reward your brain and encourage continued use even at the expense of your general health and well-being.

When you try to replace these bad habits with more constructive ones, you can hit a roadblock because the “payoff” part of the equation isn’t felt or felt right away.

Meditation, healthy eating, and exercise all greatly benefit your overall health, but none have the direct reward mechanism that cigarettes or coke do.

Yes, after long hours of practice, meditation, and focused work, they will all become activities that naturally stimulate your mind in a positive way and reward you for taking action.

But they need a little help getting started.

For example, studies have shown that consuming a small amount of chocolate after a workout releases chemicals and neurotransmitters similar to those released through exercise itself.

Finding motivating gifts can be applied to any habit if you’re creative enough:

  • Eat dark chocolate after a workout
  • Replace cigarettes with squeeze bags and chewing gum
  • Use the Pomodoro technique with intermittent video game breaks to beat procrastination

If you’re struggling to change a bad habit, chances are you’re not aware of the habit loop or applying it carefully.

Before moving on to the next point, ask yourself three simple questions.

What questions can I prepare in my environment to help me change my bad habits for good ones (e.g. ditch all cigarettes and replace them with gum packs)
What are some ways I can reduce the barriers that prevent me from taking action on the habits I want? (e.g. remove all junk food from your house)
How can I reward myself in a positive way that encourages me to continue this habit? (buy a cheap piece of clothing every day you sober)
If you’ve seriously thought about and applied all of these questions and still can’t stick to your habit…then you’re probably making a mistake.

2. Unrealistic Goals and Expectations About the Speed of Adopting New Habits

What would you say if a friend of yours came up to you and shared the following goals:

“I will build a billion dollar business in 12 months even though I have never built a profitable company before!”
“I’m going to run a marathon in 3 months even though I need to lose 50 pounds. I haven’t run since high school.”
“I would have made it out and dated a Victoria’s Secret model even though I was scared of women and hadn’t dated in two years”
I don’t know about you, but I’d probably laugh at them outdoors (affectionately, of course).

These goals seem completely unreasonable and unattainable to an outside viewer, however, they are very similar to the habits that most people develop.

think about it.

Habits are really just daily goals, and most people’s “goals” look something like this:

“Even though I haven’t trained in years, I will train 6 days a week for 90 minutes and become a bodybuilder”
“Even though I currently eat fast food 4 times a day, I will eliminate all processed foods and eat salads 5 times a day.”
“Even though my body is used to waking up at 9am, starting tomorrow I will start waking up at 5am every day.”
When you think about it this way, most people’s approach to forming new habits is pretty preposterous and not even funny.

So what should you do?

Well, if you really want to stick with your new habit, you have to be honest with yourself and approach your new habit in a realistic and progressive way (even though life is a marathon, not a sprint).

Here’s a simple 5-step process for creating or transforming any habit

1) Make it so small that you can’t fail

Most people try to change too much too fast.

The real key to sticking to a habit is keeping it so small you can’t say no.

If you want to get in shape, start doing push-ups.

If you want to get smarter, start by reading a page.

If you want to quit smoking, start by reducing one cigarette today.

If you want to stop procrastinating, just do the one thing you should be doing now.

Set yourself up for success and make your new habit so attainable that it’s impossible to fail.

2) Apply compound effects to your habits

If you took the habits above and multiplied them by 1% each day, in one year you would increase each habit by about 37%.

While that doesn’t sound like much, if you compare that development using something easy to understand – say finance – that’s the difference between making $100,000 a year and $137,000 a year!

If you extend the compounding effect by 10 years, you will start earning $100,000 per year and $1,370,000 per year!

3) Break big habits

If you continue to build the habit, you will experience dramatic improvement in the first two or three months.

But it’s important to keep your habits easy and reasonable.

For example, if your goal is to write a new book for 60 minutes a day, divide that 60 minutes into four 15-minute sections that you complete throughout the day.

If you want to do 100 pull-ups a day, do 10 sets of 10 to make it easier to break the habit.

4) Don’t miss twice

See, you will mess up and slip into your rut.

And that’s okay.

The basic rule is that when you fail, you get right back on the horse so you don’t fall behind twice.

It’s okay to skip one workout this week, but don’t you dare let it get to 2 or 3.

You’ll find him missing a day of meditation practice, but you’d better put your butt on the yoga mat tomorrow.

If you follow the “Never Miss Twice” rule you can fail to reach your desired destination.

5) Be patient and find a sustainable pace

If you are reading this and you are under 40, you will most likely live past 100.

So why in the world do you feel the need to speed things up in your life?

Greatness takes time, building an extraordinary life takes time, building extraordinary habits that make you an extraordinary human being, take your time.

Instead of fighting this law, work by it.

Play the long game, be patient, and go at a sustained pace.

As you can see, even a 1% increase daily can pay off big if you stick with it long enough.

So be patient and remember that slow and steady wins the race.

Hope this helps