Whether you smoke, swear or bite your fingernails, your bad habits can endanger your health and sink your reputation at work. If you’ve tried to address these issues and given up, commit to conquering them once and for all.
Begin with some self-motivation. List the pros and cons of continuing the bad habit. Benefits of chewing your nails, for instance, can include relaxation or release of nervous energy. The disadvantages—from the negative way others perceive you to the physical discomfort that can result—will surely outweigh the advantages.Keep this list handy and refer to it frequently. It can remind you what’s at stake and why you must bear down and persevere.
Identify triggers that induce your bad habit. Assess the setting, time of day and other variables that lead you to indulge in your unwanted behavior. By exploring cause-effect relationships, you can change your daily routine to minimize tempting triggers.
Once you expose the triggers, engage in “counter conditioning” by substituting healthier habits. Examples range from meditation and positive mantras to taking a sip of water. By devising a competing response to your triggers, you can overcome bad habits with neutral or even constructive behaviors.
Give yourself a fighting chance
When combating bad habits, avoid mental traps. For starters, don’t get overambitious and attempt to erase two or more habits at once. It’s hard enough to banish one unwanted behavior without spreading yourself too thin.
Also, don’t rely solely on self-talk. Write down what you want to accomplish and why. The act of writing detaches yourself from the challenge and increases your accountability.
Finally, beware of getting stuck in what behavioral experts call “the contemplation stage.” Wistfully pondering the benefits of conquering a bad habit is not the same as doing the hard work required to act.