1. Understand that probably, you really don’t want to break your “bad” habits. This is an important thing to know if you think you want to break bad habits : probably, on some level, you really want to stay on the couch (exercise? ugh!) and keep drinking (sobriety? ugh!) or that some part of you is still caught up in “negative thinking” or old patterns for an infinite number of reasons.
To break bad habits would require change, and almost no one wants change. So first things first? Understand that to break bad habits you’re going to need to acknowledge that change will be required, and might be difficult.
2. That is, almost no one wants change until the pain gets to be too much—so one way to break bad habits is to honestly assess the present or to forecast the future.
If you honestly assess the present, are you deeply suffering due to the habits that are in place? For example: perhaps you notice that you’ve got a habit of thinking you’re not enough, and it’s the habitual place you return to, every time you are embarking on a new project. You think that you want to change that habit but really (back to point #1) most people also don’t want to change. It’s more comfortable to shy away from taking a risk by telling yourself that you’re “not enough” than it is to do the work to change—that is, unless you really deeply acknowledge how painful it is in the present to miss all those opportunities because you have this bad habit of telling yourself that you’re “not enough.”
You could also go deeply into your future forecast of regret because you tell yourself that you’re “not enough.” The recognition of what is inevitable if you keep the bad habits around can be enough to prompt you to get serious about changing your life.
3. In other words, you can do what I call “telling the truth-truth-truth.” To tell the truth-truth-truth, the very real truth, the down-to-the-core-truth, is always scary and deeply courageous. It is also the doorway to everything that you actually want in your life.
4. Speaking of the things you want in your life? You can also break bad habits by forecasting into the future with all the things that you want, that are light-filled, joy-filled, courage-filled. This is your courageous life , and the great gift is that you’ve been given these lungs that breathe air and that, more often than not, there’s at least some kind of choice available to you. I’d never tell someone who lacks access to basic human rights to just spout some pithy positive affirmations, but I’d definitely tell them not to give up on seeing where choices are available, whenever they are available (and, by the way, I’d ask, “How can I help?”). My point: you probably have lots of choices that you don’t take advantage of. What are those? And how can you break the bad habit of not seeing or acknowledging those choices?
5. Focus less on how to break bad habits , and more on how to create better habits. Imagine, if you will, this metaphor for your life: let’s say that you have an ugly green chair. It’s a million years old, ugly, the cat has peed on it, and you’ve tried to resuscitate it several times but really, the thing is falling apart.
You tell yourself, “I don’t have the time to figure out what to replace it with, right now—I’ll wait, next year will work better.” You tell yourself, “I don’t have the money to replace it, right now.” You tell yourself, “Maybe the chair isn’t so bad; maybe I don’t need to get rid of it, after all.” Maybe you ask ten of your friends what THEY think you should do with the ugly green chair. Meanwhile, that shitty chair keeps sitting in your house.
And then, one day? You finally get so tired of looking at it and smelling it that you decide that it’s time for a change. So, you take it to the upholsterer to get re-done, or you haul it to the curb to go to the dump. Either way, what happens when you walk back into your house is that there is this new space where the ugly green chair used to be. Your brain starts turning with what you want to put there, instead. Also? You need somewhere to sit, so you’d better get to taking action.
There’s an ugly green chair, somewhere in your life. Maybe it’s your habit of making excuses for the soul-sucking job (“It’s not the right year to change careers,” “I don’t have the money to change careers,” “Maybe this job really isn’t so bad…”) or maybe it’s your habit of thinking that you’re not enough when you try to go after your dreams.
The ugly green chair is the bad habit that you want to break, but breaking bad habits means empty space. Spaciousness is great—and—you probably need something to replace it with. So how about a better habit? Creating better habits is more effective. Instead of completely changing careers, try moving to a different company in the same industry while you figure the rest out. Instead of trying to forever banish negative thinking, try to reframe limiting stories that you tell about yourself.
So really, you could sum this up as:
– Be real about the fact that change is difficult (and that’s okay).
– Be real about how the current “bad” habits are not, in fact, okay. Stop settling for the status quo.
– Be real about your desires for something more for your life. Tap into your Most Courageous Self, and dream into that space.
– Focus less on trying to break bad habits and more on trying to create better habits, the habits that make it easier for your most courageous self to emerge.