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5 Steps To Break Those Bad Habits And Kickstart Your Self-Improvement Journey
Everyone has habits that shape the type of person we are. We increase our chances of succeeding in any area of our lives by putting good habits in place.
Self-discipline and self-awareness build up over time when we train our minds to automate parts of our life. In the long run, we can become more focused and manage our time much better.
“The habits you repeat (or don’t repeat) every day largely determine your health, wealth, and happiness. Knowing how to change your habits means knowing how to confidently own and manage your days, focus on the behaviours that have the highest impact, and reverse-engineer the life you want.” – James Clear
Establishing a morning routine is a great way to win your mornings and develop new habits. Picking up your phone as soon as you wake up isn’t the best thing to do.
You’re already thinking about what’s on social media, who’s messaged you or what’s the latest news. Before you know it, most of your morning has flown by because you spent the whole time on your phone.
Win your mornings by building good habits in the morning like meditation, journaling, and exercise. Your energy levels will increase and you’ll have a productive day as a result.
Most of us could make an effort to break any bad habits that are hindering our growth. Below are a few steps you can take.
Steps to Breaking Bad Habits
Habits can be performed subconsciously which means we don’t even realise we’re doing it. This is why the first step to breaking a bad habit is becoming aware of it. Schedule time to sit down and list all the bad habits you may have.
This could include:
- Spending too much time on social media
- Not exercising
- Eating too much junk food
A lot of people choose to ignore their bad habits or are completely oblivious to their own behaviour. If you’ve become aware of your actions, you should be pleased with yourself! You just need to develop the determination and consistency to replace it with better actions. Remember, without the desire to establish a new habit you build them.
So, what new habits you could you adopt?
- No social media before and after a specific time
- Reading everyday
- Journalling at least once a week
- Exercise 3-5 times a week
When you’ve identified the habits or new habits you want to form, you can start making changes straight away.
2) What’s your why?
Now ask yourself, why do you want to change this? Knowing your “why” is your motivation for changing your habits.
If you reduce your time on social media, you may have more time to do something more productive. You could have more time to spend with your family/friends.
By exercising more regularly, you will be fitter and healthier. Every time you get the urge to perform the bad habit again, you should remind yourself of the reason you were trying to change it in the first place.
Being intentional with your habits is much more effective because you know your intention behind wanting to take better control of your time.
In Jim Kwik’s book Limitless, he mentions Dr B. J. Fogg’s model for behavioural change. Fogg behaviour model:
Motivation – Fogg identifies pleasure/pain, hope/fear, social acceptance/rejection as key motivators.
Ability – we are more likely to do something that is simple for us. Choose a habit you know you have the ability to do. The five categories Dr Fogg identifies as simplicity is time, money, physical effort, brain cycles, social deviance and nonroutine.
Prompts – this includes a spark, facilitator and signal. Signals are really useful for replacing old habits with new ones. I have been trying to not use any devices after 9pm, so I set my alarm for 8:45pm and 8:50pm. This acts as a signal to put my phone and laptop away. Create a prompt that would remind you to follow the habit through. This could be a sticky note on your wall, an alarm or a reminder on your phone.
3) Small Steps
“Small simple steps repeated lead to habits” – Jim Kwik
In the book Limitless, Jim Kwik points out that changed behaviour stems from “incremental progress”. Procrastination is something we all tend to do, but imagine how much we could get done if we fought it off?
One of the ways of doing this is by breaking the task down into smaller chunks. We should focus on achieving small wins when we have a big task at hand. In the end, the idea of completing something gets easier and more manageable.
Going from not exercising at all to 5 times a week is a huge jump (and not very realistic!). It would probably put you off from exercising at all. Starting with 1-2 time a week for a couple of weeks seems more reasonable and achievable.
Once you get into the routine of exercising weekly, you can then start exercising 3 times a week. Giving yourself small milestones to hit every day will motivate you to keep going.
Let’s say one of your bad habits is a lack of reading. Perhaps you came across a 400 paged book you really want to read but you think it’d take you ages to finish.
You could tackle this by choosing to set at least 20 – 30 mins aside a day. It doesn’t matter if you don’t finish as many pages as you would like to. As long as you start, that’s the most important thing.
As they say, “prevention is better than cure”. What could I do to prevent myself from performing these bad habits again? The simplest things can often turn our lives around.
Let’s take junk food for example. You snack way too much but you really want to lose weight. When you go shopping next time don’t add any junk food to your basket. Instead, replace it with fruit and veg.
I remember during lockdown I saw someone lock up their snacks in a suitcase because they were overindulging. Once it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind!
What if one of your bad habits is that you pick up your phone too much when you’re meant to be working? Next time try turning your phone off until your lunch break. You will have full focus on your work without having to worry about social media or text messages.
5) Track Your Progress
Habit trackers are extremely helpful in tracking your progress daily. There are loads of free templates on Google that can be downloaded and printed.
Alternatively, you could make your own with Google Sheets or Excel and update it daily. It’s useful to reflect on your habit tracker and evaluate how you’re doing.
It would be worth figuring out what’s preventing you from sticking to your habits if you notice too many blank spaces. Perhaps you would need to make adjustments in your routine or you would need to develop a prompt for motivation.
Nothing happens overnight. Studies have shown that automating a new behaviour can take 66 days on average but generally, individuals can take anywhere between 18 – 254 days.
Don’t beat yourself up too much when you fall off. Be patient with yourself and always remember your why.
Although getting rid of bad habits is difficult, you’ll never regret it once it’s done. Make sure you really want to do something about it or you won’t be motivated to change.
Patience, consistency and determination will give you the confidence to take control of you use your days. Don’t give up on developing new behaviours that will allow you to be more efficient and productive. It takes a bit of time, but you need to train your brain to get used to it.
Our mind needs re-wiring when we have been doing something for so long. Replacing an old habit with a new one will feel uncomfortable at first.
You’ll get the urge to perform the bad habit again but just remember your intention for wanting to change your actions in the first place.
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