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The Secret to Breaking Bad Habits

The following post is from Jeff of My Super-Charged Life:


My friend wants to break her bad habits.

“I’m tired of people looking down on me,” she says. “I want to lose weight and be able to fit into stylish clothes.”

“So, why don’t you eat less and exercise?”, I ask.

“I try, but I just can’t do it.  I feel hungry all the time and I’m so tired after work that I just don’t feel like exercising.  Plus, with the kids, the house, the holidays and work, when do I have time?  It sounds easy, but it takes a lot of effort to lose weight.”

Habits die slowly.  Bad ones cling to us like gum to the bottom of a shoe.

The Trouble With Habits

We know what we should do.  My friend knows that she needs to reduce her calorie intake and increase her activity to lose weight.  She understands the logic plainly enough.  That’s not the problem.

It just seems so difficult, so hard to stop.

She’s in the habit of overeating.  She’s also in the habit of lying lifelessly on the couch watching American Idol.

Granted, she works hard and has a family to take care of, but she says she wants to lose weight.  Her habits are holding her back.

“First we make our habits, then our habits make us.”  Charles C. Noble hit the nail on the head with this quote.  He knew that ingrained habits take over.  They don’t just have a life of their own.  They have our life too and they hold on to it with unbelievable strength.

The Secret to Breaking Up

Breaking up with a bad habit is hard to do, but it is not impossible.

Bad habits come in all shapes and sizes and they do not discriminate.  We all have a few.  Many of our bad habits have been around so long they seem like old friends.

They can be as harmless as biting your nails or as serious as smoking, lying or taking drugs.  A bad habit, by definition, has a negative consequence.

Bad habits repel us, but at the same time, we can’t let go.

So, what’s the secret to breaking up with a bad habit?  How can we walk away and never look back?

The secret is that you’ve got to really want to be free.  You’ve got to want it more than the other thing.

Please Don’t Leave Before I Explain

Hang with me here for a minute.  On the surface, this may seem like a gross oversimplification, but let me assure you that it is not.

My friend says she wants to slim down so she can wear different clothes, but when push comes to shove, in the heat of the moment, she actually wants to eat and be idle more than she wants to lose weight.  I’m not being mean, I’m just being truthful.

In her mind, she values the payoff (the emotional, physical and psychological comfort) she gets from eating and lounging over the theoretical value she’d gain from losing weight.

If you truly need to break a bad habit, then you’ve got to change your mind about it.  I mean this in a very literal sense.  You’ve got to start by first completely overhauling how you think about the behavior you want to change.

Start by finding and acknowledging the payoff.  Why are you so addicted to this behavior?  Because that’s what it is, an addiction.  What do you secretly love so much about it?  Can you be honest with yourself?  It is hard to admit that we love something that ultimately hurts us, but, in the case of a bad habit, that’s the deal.

We love the payoff.  We love the comfort it gives us.  We love the pleasure.  We love, love, love it, but it makes us feel guilty.  Guilty that we are weak.  Guilty that we can’t stop (or don’t really want to stop).  Guilty for the damage our bad little habit is doing to us.

So, the secret to breaking a bad habit is to decide what you love the most.  You have to get 100% crystal clear about this.  If you choose to stop you can, but you must be absolutely convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are ready to walk away.

Do you know the payoff you’re getting from your bad habit? Are you ready to let it go?

Jeff Nickles writes My Super-Charged Life to help people find success and meaning in their life. He has spent many hours researching these topics and loves making it easy for others to use the wisdom he discovers. Jeff is a corporate IT Director, but also has experience as an entrepreneur, consultant, training instructor, and military officer.