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Pirates' Stories

Breaking Bad Habits

Everyone has some of them. Everyone struggles at least from time to time with them: Bad Habits

Most of the time it’s really difficult to get rid of them and that’s not just my feeling. Some people describe those pesky habits as huge trees in our brains, that have already developed strong roots.

Others illustrate them as highways in our neurological system. 🧠

Have you ever tried to destroy a highway or a huge tree? 🌳

So, what to do with those nasty devils? 😈

There’s no pill against poor practices yet. Nevertheless, here are a few tips to make the fight (a bit) easier:

📈 Track It & Analyze It

As with implementing good habits, before we can encounter those unhealthy habits, we first have to find them. I guess you already (roughly) know which behavior you want to get rid of. To get a better perception of it, it is recommended to track it for a week or so to get some plain numbers. You can only improve what you can measure. 

Start with asking yourself these questions:

  1. How often do I perform the behavior? (per day, per week, …)
  2. When do I perform the habit? (e. g. mostly in the evening, morning, at 1 p.m., …)
  3. Where do I perform the habit? (at school, at home, in my bed, …)
  4. Are there other activities that trigger the behavior? (something you do before or after it)
  5. How do I feel when the desire for the habit comes up? (e. g. mostly tired, sad, bored, etc.)

Noticing those details can help you get a deeper understanding of the practice you want to get rid of.

😱 Scare Yourself

Now it’s time for some storytelling. I got this one from the psychologist Jordan Peterson. Imagine how your life would look in, let’s say 1 year if you would stop doing the bad habit today. How would you feel? What would be different? Would you have more time? Feel better? Imagine it as vividly as you can. You can do it in your head, but it’s even more effective if you write it down.

Next comes the crucial part: Imagine how your life would look in one year if you continue with this bad behavior. Dramatize and try to be as pessimistic as possible. Again, it’s also helpful to write it down.

Jordan Peterson states that it’s useful to work towards a goal (your first future), but it’s even more useful to also run away from an outcome (your second future). That way you have two motivators.

🔄 Swap It

Now that you have scared the hell out of yourself let’s get on removing this damaging practice. The difference to starting a new habit is, that if you decide to stop doing something, you are left behind with nothing more than a blank space (that’s literally free time!). To avoid falling back into old patterns, you have to decide what you will do with this newly won time. This is also a great opportunity to start a good behavior that you have wanted to implement. 

😎 Change

It will take some time for your brain to change and connect the new behavior to the triggers that have been causing the previous behavior (remember the tree and the highway?). So be patient, and most important be consistent. Have the vision of your future better self in mind and just keep going, one day at a time.

One last thing: Don’t primarily think about implementing a new habit, but more about becoming the person that does this habit naturally. For example, don’t let the goal be “read a book”, let it be “become a reader”. Don’t name it “work out more”, name it “become a fit person”. If you know who you want to become, the actions will come more naturally. And every time you complete the new habit you get closer to the better person you want to become. If you want to dive deeper into the topic of habits check out my last blog post Creating Epic Habits.

So, which bad habit-tree will you destroy today and what gorgeous new behavior are you going to plant instead of it? 🌻

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