Many of us have habits that either frustrate us or infuriate those around us. A few of my pet peeves are repeatedly using the word “like” in a conversation, talking about losing weight but then chowing down on unhealthy food, and arriving late for meetings. I’m sure there are others that bug you. Here are a few approaches to eliminating bad habits. Let me know what others you can add to the list and I’ll share them in an upcoming newsletter.
5 Ways to Break a Bad Habit
1. Start small.
When I was a kid, I bit my nails. I HATED this habit and really wanted to stop. So I told myself that it was ok to bite all my nails except my pinkies. It took me about two weeks to stop biting my pinkie nails. Then I moved on to my ring fingers, and so on. I remember biting just my thumbnails for about two months before I was able to say, “OK, just the left thumbnail.” The results? I haven’t bitten my nails in 50+ years.
2. Create a Mantra.
Come up with a concise phrase that you repeat to yourself whenever you’re tempted by a bad habit. If you’re trying to eliminate fried foods, for example, every time you see them remind yourself, “Fried foods are bad for my beautiful body. Fried foods are bad for my beautiful body….”
3. Wait a while.
If you want to buy something that you don’t really need, tell yourself that you’ll wait until next Friday (or whenever). If you want to eat a bowl of ice cream, tell yourself to wait an hour (check the clock) and if you still want it then, you can eat it.
4. Get an accountability partner.
I’m breaking a bad habit I have of talking over people, or to put it less politely, interrupting. I have an accountability partner and every morning I report on my results for the past 24 hours. I shoot her an email with a score of 1-10 (1 = I interrupted people all day long. 10 = I can’t think of a single time I interrupted anyone all day.) Being aware of this habit and knowing that I’ve got to report on it makes a big difference.
5. Get a non-verbal clue.
When I chaired a neighborhood swim team several years ago, I had a bad habit of taking on tasks rather than enrolling others to do them. (If you know me now, you’ll marvel that this could have ever been possible!) My husband, who wore glasses at the time, was on this committee. We devised an approach that whenever I started to take on a task, he would remove his glasses and hold them in his hand as a non-verbal clue that said, “You’re doing it again, Mary.” Once I was aware of the situation, it only took a few meetings to break myself of the bad habit.