Thursday, July 17, 2008

Challenge Yourself: Break a Bad Habit!

Velvet Jones
Originally uploaded by Lost America

"Good habits are formed; Bad habits we fall into." ~ Unknown

My friend, Ryan likes to point out (quite often, actually) that it takes most people three weeks to create a new habit (good or bad). In most cases, I would say he and others are right. Therein lies one of the most difficult challenges in breaking a habit. It takes time.

We're all creatures of habit. Sometimes the type of habits we form are not always in our best interest. Once we've allowed a bad habit to take hold, it can be difficult to challenge ourselves to break it. Who wants to work through something for nearly three weeks? We like to tell ourselves and sometimes everyone else who will listen that we don't have time for many things. We're just too busy. So we hold on to bad habits, or talk ourselves into never changing course.

Have a habit you'd like to break? Something you know is not benefiting you or those around you? Now is the time to challenge yourself. Realize it may take a few weeks to overcome, but in the end it will be worth it to change course. There is no better time to begin your challenge than now.

  1. Identify Your Habit - If you're ever going to change you must first admit you have a habit that needs challenging. Whether it's exercising more, quitting smoking, eating less, or whatever the case may be. You must identify and admit it. Then you can start taking steps in your challenge.
  2. Tell a Friend - Some of us have the will to go it alone. Most of us, however, could always use the encouragement of a friend. If you're challenging a habit you find difficult to overcome, tell someone. A friend or loved one who will help you, not one who will shrug off your challenge. It always makes things a little easier if you have someone cheering you on in your challenges. But make sure they will hold you accountable! Your confidant isn't much help unless they are challenging you and holding you accountable on a daily basis.
  3. Set Daily Goals - Be sure to set goals, but make them realistic. They must be attainable or you will be setting yourself up for failure. One way to stay the course is to keep track of your progress and monitor it daily. If you're trying to work out more, set some daily goals you'd like to achieve and keep track of them. If you stay on top of it on a daily basis, before you know it those first 2-3 weeks will be over and you will be altering your lifestyle dramatically.
  4. Replace Your Bad Habit - So you like to eat often? Can't seem to resist that unhealthy snack? Keep some sugarless gum around. As soon as you start chewing on some Orbit (or any brand of your choice) you'll find that craving will subside. It's about tricking your mind or more accurately, your stomach. It doesn't have to be a piece of gum. Just find something that is better for you than indulging in your poor habit.
  5. Understand There Will Be Setbacks - This is one of the biggest problems with so called yo-yo dieters (I've experienced some of this personally). You're doing great for a couple of weeks, even months. You've cut out certain foods and everything seems great, then all of the sudden you've just ate a bowl of ice cream! Suddenly a little bit of ice cream derails everything in your mind. The next thing you know, you're back to where you've started. When challenging yourself, understand there will be setbacks. This doesn't mean you accept them and shrug them off. It just means that when you face a setback in your challenge you're not going to let it derail your goals. Setbacks will happen. Understand it and get back to work on completing your challenge!
There are other tips one can use to challenge a bad habit. This is just a small list to get you started. Once you get going you can adjust your goals or even set new ones, in an effort to continue challenging yourself. The important thing is to get started and stay on track. Overcoming a bad habit of any kind takes time and patience. In the end, when you've successfully challenged yourself you will know it was worth it.

If you want some more tips and better advice this post on LifeEvolver has some great tips as well.


Ryan said...

It's true, my dad pounded it into my head (for positive purposes) that 21 days makes a habit. I've used for refraining from soda, working out, and various other things I've fallen OUT OF HABIT with over the years.

Good post sir...I'll keep reading.

Andrew Weaver said...

It's good to see you'll keep reading. Try it for another 17 days or so and it will soon become habit.