First, let me say that my idea of a bad habit may differ from yours! This isn’t about habit shaming, this is about what it takes to break out of old patterns and make new behaviors permanent. I invite you to pick one bad habit, go ahead… Just one! Now, for a moment, imagine what would be different if that habit was gone. Really, give yourself the small gift of at least 15 seconds here. […]
Ok, what new experiences would you have? What behaviors and decisions would be the new normal? What does it look like? Feel like? Is it worth it? No sense in getting rid of an old habit, if the new habit isn’t worth it.* If it isn’t worth changing a habit, then it is simply a chosen behavior– not necessarily bad based on your preferences, values, and long-term desires.
Note: this is where you stop thinking about someone else’s habit. We can’t make people break habits. We can only inspire change. Time to inspire change for yourself. Pauline Wallin offers quite a bit of insight in her book Taming Your Inner Brat: A Guide for Transforming Self-Defeating Behavior. If you aren’t offended by the suggestion that you have an Inner Brat, you will find these tips helpful in redefining your old habits into something new:
- Minimize Stress: Stress can trigger calming behaviors, like grabbing an unneeded snack or playing just one more game on the phone. Notice that a calming behavior might be just the behavior we are trying to rework. Allow this to bring awareness, not justification.
- Conserve Mental Energy: We readily accept that physical strain drains our energy. Our minds can tire, too! Bad habits need special attention when we are mentally drained.
- Focus on One Habit: When we finally hit bottom, we say things like, “That’s it, I’m changing EVERYTHING!” On the contrary, we are more successful when we break things down into smaller goals. For example, “This week, I won’t snooze my alarm. Next week, I’ll spend the extra 20 minutes every day on learning Spanish.”
- Reframe Discomfort: Yep, this is gonna hurt. Be realistic about the level of distress. The keys to unlocking a new behavior are in the discomfort of breaking the old behavior. Wallin says, “Feeling uncomfortable is a sign that you are making progress toward change.”
- Avoid Negative Self-Talk: Everyone has self-talk. …And, if you just thought, “Not everyone,” then you’ve proved my point! These private comments can be discouraging and often untrue. Positive self-talk takes practice and sounds more like a pep talk!
We are especially vulnerable to bad habits when we are under a lot of stress, at the end of a long day, trying to change too many things at once, and succumbing to a little discomfort. Encourage yourself with encouragement and kindness. Determine if you have a bad habit or if you are truly making a decision about certain behaviors.
* In this context, I am not addressing addictions or illegal behaviors. Please seek help as needed.
— Join a Synergy Group where we will discuss what the
Bible says about Habits. —
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michelle Sugerman (PMP, PCC) is a speaker, author, and leadership coach with Leading Synergies. She hosts global masterminds, called Synergy Groups, for REALLY BUSY Christians leading with powerful confidence and humble hearts. She works with high-performing leaders focused on organizational effectiveness by refining strategy, inspiring teams, and delighting clients. Michelle specializes in the areas of information technology, project management, franchise management, and business as mission. Michelle lives in Colorado where she hikes fourteeners and enjoys gourmet meals with her loving husband of 21 years.