3 effective ways to break bad habits

productivity May 10, 2023
3 effective ways to break bad habits

Let's face it, nobody wants to keep bad habits, we just get stuck with them and learn to live with them. This isn't healthy. If left alone, bad habits become like parasites. They suck away at you and your precious time and energy. If you're done with letting bad habits rule over you, you'll love these 3 effective ways to break bad habits.

Before I dive into them, I want to preface this with one important side note: leave your willpower as a last resort.

Using willpower to prevent yourself from doing bad habits will only make it harder for you to resist them in the future. Whether that future is tomorrow or in 10 minutes, it's a losing battle.

While I do see the merit of wanting to use willpower as the primary line of defense, it's best left as the last line of defense. So instead of using willpower as your primary line, here are 3 more techniques you can use instead.

1. Taper down

As the old saying goes, slow and steady wins the race. Only fools rush in, and getting rid of bad habits is no exception. While I understand that you want to be rid of your personal plagues as fast as possible, it's more important that you're rid of them for good. To ensure the highest rate of success in this realm, you must taper down your usage.

So, why taper down over time? The answer can be found in nature.

I've mentioned before that nature abhors a vacuum. If you just rip it out, your mind will want to fill the void as quickly as possible, and the thing that fits easiest in that hole is the bad habit you ripped out.

Instead of ripping it out all at once, you want to slowly take it out while simultaneously replacing it with something else.

This pattern over time will make it so there's no struggle for you to not engage in the bad habit. By slowly getting rid of the bad habit while slowly introducing a good habit, you're reprogramming your mind to go after that good habit instead.

It's important to keep in mind that if you mess up, it's ok. Don't beat yourself up, just dust yourself off and get back in the saddle.

The most important thing with this technique is not how perfect you are but how consistently you choose to do the new habit, especially when you mess up.

2. Being mindful of the root of your bad habit

More often than not, most methods these days that seek to solve problems only address the surface level and don't touch the underlying cause at all. The end result of this is that the problem keeps springing up stronger than before. In order to truly abolish bad habits, you must know the root of the problem.

Now, it can be tricky to get to the root. The mind wants to protect you and it can be very scary to dig that deeply into yourself.

However, to resolve your problems and rid yourself of bad habits, it's very worthwhile.

Being mindful of your bad habits doesn't require you to stop them, it requires you to be observant of them. This means that when you engage in your bad habit, question yourself about it.

Why are you doing it? What were you hoping to get out of it? How did it turn out? Was it as good as you thought it would be?

These are the type of questions you want to ask yourself when being mindful. Each one you can answer honestly will be ammunition in your effort to eradicate your bad habit.

As mentioned, it can be scary to do this. Digging that deep into yourself may require you to re-evaluate the image you have of yourself.

Many people who are addicted to porn are addicted because they want a fulfilling sex life, even if they tell others all the time that they don't really care. It's hard to accept that you may want something that goes against what you've been taught, but this self-confrontation is normal for growth.

To make the most of this technique, you need to fully embrace who you are and what you want. And when I say that, I mean you need to embrace the root of your bad habits in order to get rid of them. Only once your bad habit knows you will fulfill what it truly wants will you be free from it.

3. Make the bad habit harder & the good habit easier

Of all the different ways I know to make getting over bad habits easier, this is by far the most underrated one. Sure, you hear all the time, "Just stop doing it," but it's not really all that helpful. The reason for that is because it's only half the picture. If you really want to make dropping bad habits easier, you need to do less of the bad stuff while doing more of the good stuff.

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, it's best to save willpower as the last line of defense. There are two main reasons for this.

First off, willpower is limited and is used even for doing good habits. 

Willpower is a power source that we call upon to do things that we may not want to do at that moment. When trying to get over a bad habit, your results will be net neutral at best until you start picking up momentum.

The hardest part of creating momentum is the beginning, and once you get rolling, things are much easier. However, using willpower first to build momentum is working harder, not smarter.

Regardless of whether you work smarter or harder, both require willpower. If you're going to use willpower to make a bad habit harder, you might as well make it so you need to use less.

Second, it's not sustainable with self-image.

One of the most effective ways to truly change yourself is to change your self-image. If you're a gamer, for example, you would start saying things like, "I don't play video games." 

So, how does willpower interfere with this? The use of willpower assumes that there is something you are trying to overcome. If you are constantly using willpower to overcome something, it means you aren't free from it. In fact, it means you are a slave to it.

This is in line with the saying, "What you resist, persists." The more you resist, the more opportunities to think about it. The more you think about it, the more opportunities for your willpower to falter.

It's been my experience that making good habits much easier to do while making bad habits much harder to do leads you to eventually drop the bad habit naturally.

Out of sight, out of mind. By cutting off your triggers over time, you can keep the bad habit out of your mind while building good habits to replace it.

Work Smarter, not harder

The crux of effectively getting rid of bad habits is to work smarter instead of harder. The less willpower you use the better, and there are more ways than these three to minimize willpower usage.

I've tried using willpower alone to get rid of bad habits, and I've failed when that was the case. By utilizing methods like these, I was able to make the journey that much simpler.

- Karl