Live Better: Work Better: Feel Better - Stop Habits that Don’t Work

We all have pesky habits. You know, the bad ones. The ones that we’re not proud of but do ALL the time.  Like drinking 5 cups of coffee a day or eating that donut when we feel less than awesome.

What if I told you that you can stop those bad habits? That the reason you might feel like you can’t has nothing to do with self-discipline, but more to do with your environment. In order to succeed at habit building, we have to intentionally set ourselves up for success.

As we’ve discussed in our previous article, HABITS are created by CUES that lead to DESIRES, which lead to REACTIONS, that results in BEHAVIORS.

To put it another way:


To break a habit, we need to address one of the first three variables in this equation. The first being reducing exposure to TRIGGERS.

Removing the temptation is the #1 way to eliminate the craving to fall into a bad habit.

In other words, you need to make the trigger INVISIBLE.

Contrary to popular belief, self-control is not the quality that determines whether someone will or will not stop doing a bad habit.  Most people who have high self-control aren’t just relying on willpower, they are also staying as FAR AWAY from their triggers as possible.

It is much easier to avoid triggers than resist them. Self-control works some of the time, but just like any dieter knows, if we keep junk food in the house, soon enough it disappears into our mouths.

Key Take-Away: Remove the triggers.

The junk food. The alcohol. The cigarettes. Whatever the trigger is, find a way to hide it.

Another way to break a habit, is to make the CRAVINGS stop. The reason we have cravings is because we WANT something. Whatever it is that we crave, we find ATTRACTIVE. It feels really really GOOD.

To stop a craving, we need to make the trigger as unattractive, difficult, and unsatisfying as possible.

Let’s say you really want to stop reaching for junk food when you open the fridge. Making this unattractive looks like not keeping it in the house. If your desire to stay home outshines your desire to go out and buy junk food from the store, you have made junk food unattractive.

Let’s say you want to stop checking social media as your go-to distraction. Making this difficult looks like removing the apps from your phone. To check social media, you’d have to re-download the apps and sign in. If your desire for ease outshines your desire to mindlessly check social media, you won’t re-download the app.

Last example. Let’s say you want to stop ruminating on how the worst case scenario could happen to you at any given moment.

Making this unsatisfying would look like writing down all the different ways doing this makes you feel terrible. Drawing attention to how thoughts, behaviors, and beliefs affect us negatively is a great way to stop doing them because overall, our brains are wired to crave GOOD experiences.

Barriers are your friend when breaking bad habits.

Make it DIFFICULT. Put as many actions, people, and beliefs in front of you and your bad habit as possible. The worse you can make an experience, the less likely you will crave it.

But what if you’ve done all of these things and you are STILL struggling to establish good habits?

Don’t worry! In this next bit, you’ll read about the top FIVE things stopping you from making headway in building great habits.

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