How To Kick a Bad Habit

istock_000003688168xsmall.jpgMost of us realize what a bad habit is. We know that smoking, overeating, skipping meals, biting fingernails, and tapping fingers are annoying bad habits, but do you know that the following are also bad habits? You can buy vapor cigarettes to somehow reverse the smoking habit gradually.


Procrastination is the root of all unproductive evil. Every time you complain to someone that “you just don’t have enough hours in the day” or you “can’t get anything accomplished,” chances are that procrastination is the real culprit standing between you and your personal success.

“What’s a few more hours of surfing the internet?” “Is one little phone call really going to matter?” If these activities stretch on, from one instance to the next, the answer is YES – “just one more” is the biggest offender, and the sole reason why you never seem to be on top of things at home or on the job.

Being a “yes” person

Just like its cousin procrastination, being a “yes” person can cause us to bite off more than we can chew and end up starving for time in the process. We may think that we’re doing the right thing, serving our civic duty and living up to the expectations of everyone around us, when we’re always saying “yes” to projects and favors. But the reality is that there is only so much time in a day and only so much energy leftover that we can put toward those extra obligations and complications that crop up.

Too much TV

One reason why too much TV might just be a “bad” habit is that it only stimulates certain parts of our brains. If you’ve ever heard of “sensory integration disorder” then you know what happens when parts of the brain don’t develop at the same rate as others. While I’m not about to suggest that too much television is the CAUSE of such disorders, it’s certainly feasible that excessive television watching may cause parts of our brains that are not being used regularly to diminish in size and function.

Other reasons too much television could be considered a “bad” habit: it takes us away from pleasurable and rewarding activities such as: spending time with other people, honing our athletic and creative skills, solving logic puzzles, and exercising our minds in various other ways.

Stressing out

Many people respond adversely to overwhelming and challenging situations in their daily life. Some do it so often that “stressing out” becomes a ritual or “habit” that is repeated every time an event occurs that could be considered even mildly frustrating. Indeed, stressing out may “feel good” because it’s a bit of an emotional release; but expressing anxiousness, anger, or frustration often doesn’t do much to solve the actual problem.

What ends up happening is that we have our little display or tantrum, and then the repercussions of such behavior actually create MORE stress for us down the road – and more reasons to fly off the handle. Those who have learned to manage tension-filled situations and solve their problems in a cool-headed and reasonable manner are actually much better off than those who worry, yell, “melt down” or otherwise react emotionally to everyday stress.

Hard Habits to Break

If bad habits are impulses, then how do we break them? The answer is we don’t. Bad habits come about through lack of care or failure to pay attention to/own up to our own behavior. The only way to change such impulses is to replace them with beneficial behavior. Dr. Stephanie A. Burns* calls this “installing a new habit.”

It typically takes about three or more weeks of repetition for a behavior to become a habit. Negative habits are formed within that time, as well as positive ones.

What would happen if you altered specific behaviors for 21 days? Do you think it’s possible to:

• Recognize each time you’re about to trip the procrastination switch – and stop yourself?
• Exercise for half an hour instead of watching TV?
• Roll out of bed 10 minutes earlier every morning?
• Tell someone “you’ll think about it” when they ask you for something, instead of automatically responding “yes”?
• Chew gum instead of smoking a cigarette or searching for e liquid?
• Respond to a tense situation in a calm rational, and solutions-oriented manner?

Our habits define our routine in our physical, personal, and professional lives. To install a new habit, you must first decide exactly what it is that you want to do and then set triggers to help you remember your goal. Alarms, notes, friends, a rubber band on your wrist, even rituals – these can all help in the beginning.

Turn goals into habits

To change an old and undesirable habit often requires that you set a goal. To set a goal, you must describe the outcome or end result, and then define the steps that you plan to take in order to get there.

Once you discipline yourself into carrying out the goal on a regular basis, it becomes a learned behavior. This behavior eventually ingrains itself into your psyche and soon you no longer have to “tell yourself” to engage in the behavior. It just happens.

You’re going to encounter some failures, and that’s okay. The difference between success and failure is not the absence of failure, but the ability to get right back up and try again.

Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

* Source: The Leadership Labyrinth –

Thanks to for including this article in the Total Mind and Body Fitness Carnival, and to Tip Diva for featuring this in the Carnival of Tips.

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