Bad Habits

I wanted to do a post on breaking bad habits, so I went surfing around the web. What I found was a lot of stupid advice. “Write down all your bad habits in one column…” “get a partner to help you…” a lot of complicated claptrap that is just the opposite of what I personally must do to have any success. So instead of pointing to help from the experts, I’m going to pontificate a bit.

First, let me say up front that I don’t think things like smoking and overeating are mere habits. Habits are small things, not major addictions. Maybe you can hack at bits of addictions with habit-breaking techniques, but generally it’s more complex.

I’ve managed to break a couple of habits over the last while. I had a 20-year addiction to Mountain Dew that I replaced with Diet Coke. Yes, that is an improvement. I stopped tearing at my hands and nails, which I had done all my life.

My big wish: that it were as easy to create a good habit as it is to stop a bad one. I still don’t have that down, and if you have advice, I’m all ears.

That said, here are Kitty’s Tips For Breaking Bad Habits:

  1. Choose only one thing at a time.
  2. Keep it small and specific. “I won’t overeat” is too far-reaching and you will set yourself up for failure. “I’ll drink Diet Coke instead of Mountain Dew” is much, much easier. Success builds on itself.
  3. Don’t write it down or talk about it until you’ve been successful for about a month. Sharing your plans takes the wind out of your sails.
  4. If you have to, replace your habit with something less destructive.
  5. Don’t try to break another habit until you’ve been successful at one for about a month.

That’s it. No special exercises, no mantra. To use a phrase I wish Nike hadn’t ruined: Just do it.

I’m not so good with the follow-through, but I’ll try to post updates with my successes. I’d tell you what I’m working on now, but that would break rule #2.

9 Responses to Bad Habits

  1. Brigitte says:

    And just in case nothing helps and will-power fails you in the long run, Bill could still try the trick with the water pistol… 😀

  2. Cat says:

    Don’t give him any ideas! 😉

  3. Bill says:

    ^Ooooooh, WHAT a good idea! Thanks, Brigitte!^

  4. Brigitte says:

    You’re welcome!
    But then again, I cannot guarantee the success of this approach, of course; with some people even the most rigorous measures don’t seem to work ;).
    My husband and I have been trying to get rid of each other’s bad habbits for more than 14 years now (almost 5 years married)… – we haven’t given up hope yet %> !!

  5. Cat says:

    Brigitte, you’re seriously damaging the chances of a trip to Germany, you know. 😉

  6. Ralf says:

    I’m thinking that if you have another read of this success, you might also be able to draw analogies to the actions part of your life.

    The trick from a Zen perspective is not to have habits at all. Learn to be more aware day to day (the ultimate aim is ‘fully aware’, but let’s be realistic here 😉 ) and you will move from:

    stimulus -> response

    which is actually:

    stimulus -> subconscious choice -> response


    stimulus -> conscious choice -> response

    Try allowing yourself a bit of time to meditate every day, if you don’t already?

    Just some thought-fodder. Make sure to add salt 🙂


  7. Cat says:

    Mmm…meditation is one of those “harder to add good habits” things. I’ve done it, and I’ve benefitted, but I’ve had a hard time keeping it up.

    Personally, I like habits for certain things. If chosen they are a part of conscious living. There’s no harm in setting something to run on automatic as long as you’re aware you’ve set it.

  8. Bill says:

    *squirts Ralf with water pistol*

  9. Ralf says:

    I’d respond to that, but I’ll wait.

    You’ll keep.