We all have habits, some good, bad and annoying. But the good news is, you can do something about them.
If you have some bad habits that you’d like to break and replace with positive habits, that improve rather than impair your life, this article is for you.
What Are Bad Habits?
Bad habits are habits that hinder, rather than improve your life. Some include:
- Smoking cigarettes.
- Excessive alcohol consumption.
- Binge eating.
- Not Washing your hands.
Sure there are many more bad habits than these, and I’m sure you can think of some.
Simply think of bad habits as habits that aren’t effective. And good habits as effective habits.
What Are Good Habits?
Good habits are routine activities that if done regularly, can improve your life.
Good habits include:
- Working out multiple times per week (become more athletic)
- Reading for 30 minutes to 1 hour per day (become more knowledgable)
- Write for 1 hour per day ( create meaningful work that helps others, and if performed regularly leaves a legacy)
- Making your bed every day ( become more organised)
How Does A Habit Begin?
Habits are small decisions that are made regularly. And habits form when new behaviours become automatic and are acted out with minimum conscious awareness. The more you repeat the small decision the more the habit becomes entrenched.
The good news is that habits can work for and against you. For example, if you’re overweight the root of your problem is bad habits but it can be resolved by good habits.
Ultimately the quality of our habits determines the quality of our lives. They also determine our outcomes.
For example, being overweight is the result of the habit of eating too much. But being fit is the result of the habit of working out multiple times per week.
Habits are formed by repetition. The more you make a decision the more the habit becomes entrenched.
Good Habits Lead To Good Results, Bad Habits Lead To Bad Results
With habits, you reap what you sow. And you’ll find that small changes can compound into remarkable results if you stick with them for years.
For example, if your financial habits were in order, within years you’d see massive compound interest in your investment portfolio.
If you read 10 pages every day, you’d read 18 books per year. And over years this gives you a massive advantage.
If You’re Making Little Progress Your Habits Are Out Of Whack
If you stick with the same habits you’ll get the same results but if you prioritise effective habits the results can be extraordinary.
For example, habits are just systems and if your system is ineffective your outcome will be ineffective.
An example of this is weight loss. Many people buy weight loss pills or detox teas and these are scientifically ineffective and are a scam.
But still, many people fall for the too good to be true marketing and make little progress getting to a healthy body weight. Ultimately the systems botched.
The good news is that this system can be changed to a more effective system. For instance, if all you did was eat in a calorie deficit (eating fewer calories than you burn) by counting them on an app like my fitness pal, weight loss would be certain.
Look for effective systems and make them a habit, in turn, your results will prove to be effective.
How To Build Effective Habits In 3 Simple Steps
- Start Small.
- Make it easy.
- Stick with it long enough to become a habit.
1. Start Small
Success is the product of daily habits – not once in a lifetime transformations.James Clear – Habit Expert
Want to build a blog? Start small by writing no more than 500 words per day. Want to lose weight? Cut out the dessert after dinner? Want to build a reading habit? Read 5 pages every morning.
Over time these results compound, and progress happens as a byproduct of seemingly insignificant changes.
When trying to build a new habit start small first and then build up from there. Remember small habits are better than no habits, especially if they’re effective ones because over time they compound.
2. Make It Easy
One way to make a difficult habit easier is to do it as early in the day as possible. That way you have more freedom to enjoy the rest of your day once you’ve done the hard things that really matter.
Make Sure Your Environment Is Helpful
It’s easier to get in the habit of losing weight if you don’t have junk food visible throughout your kitchen. Instead, don’t buy junk food or at least cut down on how much you’re buying. And once bought hide it out of sight in cupboards or drawers. This way you won’t feel compelled to eat it every time you set foot in the kitchen.
Or if you want to get into the habit of working out and eating healthily. Make sure your gym bag and clothes are on your chair ready in advance so you can go to the gym first thing in the morning upon waking.
Also preparing a healthy lunch to take to work will make it easier to say no to the greasy takeout on your lunch break.
A good way to make getting into the habit of reading easier is to put your book on your pillow.
This way you’ll have to pick it up while you lie down in bed, which will help you get motivated to read it compared to if it was out of sight.
3. Stick With It Long Enough To Become A Habit
Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.Warren Buffet
Habit formation can vary between 18 and 254 days. But once established habits can be considerably hard to break. So your primary goal is to stick with the good habits for long enough for them to become automatic and easy.
Once the habit is built it takes considerably less willpower to do the task.
Become The Habit You’re Trying To Build
Want to be a writer? Then consistently write. Want to be strong? Then consistently strength train? Want to be an actor? Then act.
When you become the habit you reinforce the doing and eventually see yourself as the type of person who does x.
It’s Okay To Have A Goal But Focus On Systems Thinking
Just thinking about a goal doesn’t do anything to make it a reality. But focusing on effective systems that lead to an effective outcome is much more important for achieving your goals.
For example? Many people who want to lose weight might say something like “I want to lose 2 stone before I go on holiday this summer”.
But merely saying that isn’t going to get you any closer to the goal. You need to focus on systems which are essentially habits.
In this case to lose 2 stone you’d have to consistently eat in a calorie deficit so you lose around 1-2 pounds per week for 14-28 weeks. The system ensures you are in a calorie deficit every day which leads to the goal outcome.
Once the goal is set forget about it and dedicate your full attention to the system and seeing it through which will result in the goal of losing 2 stone.
You don’t magically achieve your goals, you build systems that help you get closer to your outcomes one step at a time.
How To Break Bad Habits (3 Tips)
1. Swap Bad Habits With Good Habits
The easiest way to break bad habits is to replace them with good habits. Swap the ice cream you buy on the way back from work with the apple.
Swap the Netflix binge with a gym workout.
Swap the alcohol with the water.
2. Remove Triggers For Bad Habits
Staying up late watching hours of Netflix in bed? Remove the television from your room.
Spend too much time on Facebook and it’s affecting your mental health and becoming a time suck? Either set time limits on your social media apps or delete them.
Sick of binging on junk food? Stop buying it and reserve it as a treat for weekends. If you never have junk food in the house then when you get a craving you’ll have to make a special trip to the supermarket.
This tip makes the habit of eating junk food less likely to manifest. Because it’s much easier to have a junk food habit when you have lots of junk food in the house. It’s not so easy to establish a junk food habit when you always need to make special trips out to get it.
What Stands In The Way Becomes The Way
Whatever habit you’re trying to make stick, it may seem hard. But there are ways to get a multitude of effective habits to become automatic.
For example, if you want to make going to the gym a consistent habit but have a busy job, a family to look after and it seems like you just can’t make time to go. The good news is that these obstacles at the same time, provide solutions.
- The obstacle of having to be at work from 9am till 5pm can be a solution by stopping off and having a workout at the gym on your way to work. Or you could stop off at the gym on the way back from work.
- Or if you need to drop your kids off at school before work then to get around this obstacle you could go to the gym at 6 am.
- If you can’t do that then you could go to the gym at night before the gym closes, when your kids are asleep.
- Lastly, you could go to the gym on your days off from work.
A habit is just an obstacle to getting what you really want.
Eating in a calorie deficit is an obstacle to losing weight. Going to the gym is an obstacle to getting stronger. Writing is an obstacle to publishing a blog post. Eating a healthy nutritious diet is an obstacle to becoming a healthier person.
The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.– Marcus Aurelius
Habits Enable You To Be The Person You Always Knew You Could Be
Every action you make has consequences, both good and bad, think of the butterfly effect. Good habits are the secret to becoming the person you’ve always known you could be. Bad habits can destroy your life and turn it into a nightmare.
You Are The Sum Of Your Habits Up To This Point
A powerful mindset I have discovered in my life is that “I am where I am today because of the choices I made yesterday”.
Habits are choices and good choices lead to good results, where as bad choices lead to bad results.
So if you’re a fit and healthy person you’ve probably made good choices like:
- Ate a nutritious and healthy diet.
- Worked out multiple times per week.
- Haven’t overeaten in excess.
Whereeas if your someone who is overweight then you’ve probably made bad choices like:
- Overrate on high-calorie foods.
- Done very little exercise.
The good news is that if you’ve got into the habit of making bad choices and imbedding bad habits. You can change those choices to good and effective habits. I promise you the results will be striking.
The Bottom Line On How to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones: Guide On Habits
- Good habits enable you to make small improvements every day and in the long term lead to remarkable results.
- Habits are systems. Choose the habits that improve rather than impair your life.
- The best way to get a habit to stick is to start small and be consistent enough for the activity/ action to become a habit.
- Make the habit easy. For example, put your most mentally and physically demanding tasks early in the day when you’re fresh and full of energy. Don’t cram them into your day at the very end because you’ll be tired and the output won’t be as good. Or if you want to build the habit of eating healthier always have the fruit bowl full, and have very little junk food in your house.
- The best way to break bad habits is to swap them with good habits. For example, swap the Netflix binge for the daily walk or the gym workout.
- Good habits enable you to become yourself. And the very best version of yourself.