A man lived in the same Los Angeles suburb for 12 years. Every day, he took the same route home from work. Then he moved to another suburb across town. One day after work, he set out for home. It was only when he found himself in his old neighborhood that he realized that he had gone in the wrong direction. By force of habit, he had gone to his former home!
It’s no surprise that the force of habit is sometimes called “second nature,” an influence that affects our life in powerful ways. In this sense, habits can be likened to fire. A fire can be a welcome light in the dark; it can warm our bodies and heat our food. Yet fire can also be a ferocious enemy that destroys lives and possessions. The same is true of habits.
What category would you put the habit of fastening your seatbelt before driving your car in? How about the habit of taking a daily multi-vitamin prior to starting your day? Then there are other habits, like returning to that “never right for me” old flame when you find yourself a bit lonely. Or maybe the habit of drinking to excess each time bad news is received.
Properly cultivated, habits can be of great benefit. However, they can also be destructive. This leads to a question: After you have identified bad habits, what’s the best way to get rid of them?
1. Understand and admit to yourself that you have a bad habit.
You won’t get anywhere unless you admit this fact.
2. Build your own “good behavior” zone.
Find someone you like who disapproves of your habit. Tell yourself you won’t indulge in the act whenever you’re around that person. If you like the person enough, you will find yourself having less desire to go back to the habit. Use the person as an anchor. Just be around this person whenever you feel like controlling the urge.
3. Try to replace a bad habit with something positive in your life.
The key is not to focus on the “not doing,” but to think instead about “doing.” Instead of thinking about missing that piece of chocolate cake after dinner, think about how good it’s going to feel to take a long walk without all that sugar in your system.
4. Visualize the “new” you without the habit.
See it, feel it, hear the sounds of success. Hear the compliments. Hear your new thoughts of how great it feels to have made this change.
What are your own favorite methods for getting rid of old habits?