Of course I can stop my bad habits. I quit smoking… dozens of times every day!
Yes, it’s a bad joke. For many people who are willing to talk about their innumerable failed attempts to break their bad habits, it’s either bad jokes or tears.
“Don’t you know you shouldn’t __________________?” (Fill in the blank with your bad habit of choice: smoking, eating bad foods, biting nails, not exercising, talking on the phone while driving, etc.)
“Of course I know I shouldn’t. Don’t you think I would if I could? Rubbing my face in it makes it all the worse. And the worse I feel the more I do it.”
I’m here to let you know that you—YES, YOU READING THIS—can absolutely break any bad habit. All you have to do is know how. The solution is surprisingly simple.
Let’s say you have onychophagia (compulsive nail biting). As my mother used to say, “You bit your nails down to your elbows.” You focus on stopping:
“I will not bite my nails. I will not bite my nails!”
And what happens? You end up giving yourself a reason that it’s okay to bite them or, in a moment when you’re focusing on something else, you find your fingertips in your mouth. That’s what often happens with any habit you wish to break.
To understand why you’ve failed, you have to look at what you’re doing. Look at what you’re focusing on. What is it you will not bite? MY NAILS. MY NAILS. MY NAILS. The more you focus on it the more your attention is on your nails. Eventually, your actions will to return you to your nails and biting them. After all, that is the focus of your attention.
So, step one is this:
It’s not enough to stop doing something, you have to replace it with something else.
Further, that “something else” needs to be appropriate. If you try to replace biting your nails with running around the block you’re not going to succeed because you can’t do your running as easily and as unconsciously as you can when biting your nails. A good replacement behavior might be reading a page from a book or magazine, or getting a drink of water.
As long as you don’t give up you haven’t failed.
I have a friend who is a vegetarian. She went to a restaurant and had a “vegetarian” bean burrito. She found out later, however, that the restaurant had lied about the food. They seasoned it with meat.
Does that mean she ceased being a vegetarian? Not at all! It meant that she was a vegetarian who accidentally had some meat. If she gives up, saying “Well, I had meat so I’m not a vegetarian any longer” and eats a steak, if she gives up, then she is no longer a vegetarian. But if she stops going to that restaurant and continues as a vegetarian, she remains a vegetarian.
Only when you give up do you fail. If you take the information from what happened (the food had meat) and then act on that information (don’t go there again), you are a success.
So if you go back to your old habit, it’s only a failure if you give up. If you learn why you failed and act to prevent that from happening again, you will succeed.
The third step is for you to:
Know it won’t be like this forever.
Experts in habit change believe it takes 21 days, just three weeks, to change an unwanted habit for a desired habit. That’s all! That bad habit may have been with you for 21 years or more and you can end it forever in just 21 days. Yes, those 21 continuous days may be a challenge, so reward yourself after 7, 14, and 21 days. Buy some clothes. See a movie. Try something new and fun. Be kind to yourself. Don’t hate yourself for what you don’t like; love yourself for everything that’s great about you.
What bad habit will you replace?
Donald Michael Kraig graduated from UCLA with a degree in philosophy, and has become a certified hypnotherapist and Master NLP practitioner. His book, Modern Magick, is the most popular step-by-step course in real magick ever published.
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