“Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.” – Warren Buffett
According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, Habit is a settled tendency or usual manner of behaviour. It is also defined as an acquired mode of behaviour that has become nearly or completely involuntary. Everybody has habits. Some are quite useful, such as laying out your work clothes the night before or turning out the lights when you leave a room. However, other habits, such as chewing your nails, drinking, smoking, etc. may not be so healthy.
Breaking bad habits can be really challenging, especially if you’ve been engaging in them for a long period. Do you know how to ride a bicycle? If you can, cast your mind to the first time you tried riding it… Similarly, the process of finally breaking free from bad habits is a little like learning how to ride a bicycle. There will be days where you’ll ride around easily. There will also be days where you’ll struggle to ride and keep falling over and over again.
To break a bad habit, it might take anything from an instant to a lifetime. The length of time it takes, however, is determined by you, the habit and your determination to quit. But, no matter what, you must keep getting back up. Life is all about networks and people are critical in everyone’s success story, yet bad habits isolate you from others, necessitating the need to break free from those habits. Hence, understanding how habits are formed is relevant to enabling the process of breaking those bad habits.
The 3 Rs is one of the main theories on how habits develop: R1 is an abbreviation for Reminder, which is also known as the cue that prompts habitual behaviours or habits. For example, flushing the toilet prompts you to wash your hands, whereas a nervous state of mind may cue self-soothing behaviours such as chewing your nails or jiggling your leg. R2 means Routine, Routine here refers to the habit, or repeated behaviour. This might be something you’re completely aware of, like closing your work computer and getting up from your desk when the clock hits 5 p.m. Lastly, the R3 which refers to Reward, is the relief or enjoyment derived from the habit. Rewards reinforce routines and help keep habits firmly in place. Some rewards can benefit you like brushing your teeth after breakfast, for example, rewards you with a clean, fresh mouth and no more coffee breath, etc.
Bearing the 3 Rs in mind, here are 3 Tips That’ll Help You Break Bad Habits:
1. Identify and Replace a Bad Habit with a Good One
“Ultimately, your state of mind determines your circumstances. To realize the outcomes you want, it is critical to recognize and experience the transition from our present thoughts, habits and actions to new thoughts, habits and actions.” – Darren L. Johnson
Humans are action-oriented creatures. Some studies have shown that the more you suppress your thoughts, the more likely you are to think about them – so take actions instead e.g. Clench your fists instead of biting your nails, or go for a short run rather than smoke a cigarette. Try to understand what needs your bad habit satisfy and then meet those needs with a healthier activity.
2. Identify the Triggers in Your Life
“Saying NO to the wrong things creates space to say YES to the right things.” – Mack Story
Remember, triggers are the first step in forming habits – also identifying them is the first step in breaking the bad habits. Track your habit for a few days to determine if it follows any pattern. Note things like; where it happens, time, feeling, people or things involved etc.
For instance, if you smoke or drink when at the bar, then avoid going there. If you eat unhealthy snacks at home, then don’t buy them. Make it easier on yourself to break bad habits by avoiding the things that triggers them.
3. Surround Yourself with People Who Live the Way You Want to Live
“To change habits, we must study the habits of successful role models.” – Jack Canfield
What are the bad habits you need to get rid of? What are the new habits you’re trying to develop? Surround yourself with people who are already living that way. This way, it’s easier to visualize yourself succeeding. This environment would help you ensure you break those bad habits.
Furthermore, it’ll be much easier to break a bad habit if you have a support network. You can set a challenge with a friend to break a habit together. Share your plan with others and ask them not to engage in the habit around you and ask them to keep you accountable.
Remember, breaking bad habits takes time and effort, but mostly it takes perseverance. Most people who end up breaking bad habits try and fail multiple times before they make it work eventually. You might not have success right away, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have it. Persevere – Keep Pushing!
“You cannot change your future; but, you can change your habits, and surely your habits…will change your future.” – Dr. Abdul Kalam
Remember, You Have Only One Life to Live, MAKE IT COUNT!