7 Steps to Break Your Bad Habits

UPDATED: April 21, 2016
PUBLISHED: June 30, 2015

Everybody has bad habits. Everybody. Now granted, some people have less than others and some people’s bad habits are more grating than those of others, but we all have them.

What is great is that we don’t have to. We’re all capable of change, so let’s!

There are two kinds of bad habits: The ones you know you have, but others may not notice, and those you don’t know you have, but everybody else is keenly aware.

How do you get rid of a bad habit if you don’t know you have it? The answer is simple but hard: Ask somebody to be brutally honest with you. You might be afraid of being embarrassed, but would you rather everyone talk behind your back? Get up the courage and ask. Ask somebody who loves you and has your best interest in mind. Be gracious and don’t defend yourself. Just accept it and work on it.

What about the ones we know about? Those are the tough ones. Why? They must be tough if you know about them and yet you still have them. If they weren’t tough, they would be former bad habits.

How do you boot a bad habit out of your life? Here are a few things that must be a part of the plan:

1. You have to want them to go.

In truth, some people actually want their bad habits to stick around. So the first thing is to go deep into the recesses of your heart and ask, Do I really want to give this up?

You do? Good. Then on to the next step…

2. Make up a list of all of the reasons you want to quit your bad habits.

Make them positive. Make the list long. Start with the really powerful and dramatic if you need to. Now memorize them. Put them in your mind.

You are making connections between stopping the bad behavior with what good things you will get from doing so. If you want to lose weight, then picture yourself slim and looking good in those skinny jeans. If you want to stop smoking, picture your wife actually kissing you rather than sending you to the bathroom to brush your teeth.

3. Choose.

Once you have the information, this comes down to one thing: an act of the will. Choose to do it. Say to yourself throughout the day, I am choosing to…

Eisenhower rightly said, “The history of free men is written not by chance but by choice, their choice.” It is your choice. You can write your history.

4. Take action.

This is tricky because there are two philosophies about it.

One theory is that you must take massive action—you must go all or nothing. Using the weight loss example, this person would go spend $500 to join a gym, rework their schedule and hit the treadmill every day for a year. They will get rid of all fat in the house. They go all out—and that works for some.

Others would burn out on that, feel like failures and be worse off than before. They should start out slow, taking baby steps but working diligently toward a planned goal. This person would decide to start walking three days a week. They would decide to limit dessert to two nights a week, down from seven.

Either way is OK as long as you get to the goal eventually. Which one are you?

5. Tell somebody.

This is your accountability partner. Tell them your goal and tell them your plan. Write it down for them and have them ask you on regular intervals about your progress. This will prove invaluable.

6. Recover from failure.

Inevitably most people will have setbacks. The key is to have them be setbacks and not turnbacks. Pick yourself up and get going again.

Some people may want to lose 30 pounds and after losing 15, they eat a gallon of ice cream. Then they feel bad and give up. Don’t! Reset your goal for another two weeks and get going again. Chalk it up to experience! Say to yourself, Sometimes you win and sometimes you learn.

7. Reward yourself.

You should regularly congratulate yourself by rewarding yourself with some gift. Start small with small victories and plan a big one when you are finally and for sure over the habit.

Is it that simple? Most of the time, no. Habits are hard to break. There are so many intangibles that it would be hard to cover them all. But this is a simple and workable plan that will help you make great strides if you just apply the principles.

Check out a shortcut to personal growth—a life hack called “Tiny Habits” that will help you create good habits.