Several years ago, I went through a complete re-evaluation of myself, my life, and my dreams. I’ve had my fair share of struggles but eventually, through a lot of self-reflection, and with the help of those around me (including all of you), I found healing and hope. Throughout my journey to self-discovery, I made a conscious effort to build good habits and break bad ones. I knew it was something that would benefit me, but I didn’t realize how much it would help my family as a whole.
A habit is made up of repeated actions and decisions. Creating and maintaining a habit involves repeatedly performing actions and making decisions, day after day. Habits, both good and bad, can make you into the person that you are today.
According to Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, habits can be separated into three parts: trigger, routine, and reward. To create a habit, there has to be a trigger (a.k.a cue). Triggers can be a location, feeling, belief, time of day, or person. A trigger is followed by a routine, which then leads you to the reward. The reward is what motivates you to repeat the process, which then creates a habit. This process is the same for good and bad habits.
Most of our days are driven by our habits, good and bad. It’s often easier to build bad habits than good ones. But, breaking bad habits and forming good ones can significantly transform your life for the better.
If you’re plagued by your bad habits daily, you’re not alone. I’m sharing some of the ways you can build good habits and break bad ones so that you’re better equipped to achieve your goals and become the best version of yourself.
How To Build Good Habits And Break Bad Ones
Reshape your identity
James Clear, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Atomic Habits, recommends thinking about the type of person you want to become, rather than focusing on the outcome of your goals. When you tell yourself you are someone who does the action you’re striving for, the outcomes will fall into place on their own.
“Habits reinforce the identity, which leads to the outcome in the long run,” Clear explains. “Every action you take is like a vote for the type of person you want to become.”
For example, being a mom is hard and I’m constantly striving to improve my parenting skills. Rather than telling myself “I want to be a better mom,” I tell myself “I am a great mom.” This makes it significantly easier to do things that align with the type of parent I want to be.
As another example, I stopped thinking “I want my blog to be successful” and instead started reminding myself “I am a writer.” This blog is a part of my current identity, not someone I hope to be in the future. I also
This mindset shift might seem insignificant initially, but I’m a testament to how powerful and motivating it can be in reinforcing the type of person you want to become.
“Identity change is true behavior change,” Clear says, “because once you identify as that kind of person, you’re no longer even looking to achieve some kind of behavior change; you’re just acting in alignment with who you already think that you are. It’s one thing to say I want this; it’s another thing to say I am this.”
Follow the Laws of Behavior Change
One of Clear’s most popular ideas for personal and professional habit work is the four Laws of Behavior Change. These laws determine how good habits form:
- Make it obvious
- Make it attractive
- Make it easy
- Make it satisfying
To break a bad habit, reverse the habits above:
- Make it non-obvious
- Make it unattractive
- Make it difficult
- Make it unsatisfying
You can implement the Laws of Behavior Change for all of your goals and habits, whether you’re trying to eat healthier, keep your home more organized, use your smartphone less, etc.
Change your environment
Take a minute or two to think about how your environment influences the actions you perform and the decisions you make. Then, consider ways you can create an environment that supports positive habit-building.
For example, if you’re trying to use your smartphone less, remove all the phone chargers from your bedroom. Or if you want to keep your home tidier and more organized, designate spaces in your home for boxes or baskets that can hold your child’s toys.
Replace bad habits with good ones
Bad habits are often formed because of stress and boredom. James Clear explains “Most of the time, bad habits are simply a way of dealing with stress and boredom.
Everything from biting your nails to overspending on a shopping spree to drinking every weekend to wasting time on the internet can be a simple response to stress and boredom.”
However, sometimes habit formation from stress or boredom can be the result of a deeper issue. “Bad habits address certain needs in your life,” Clear continues. “And for that reason, it’s better to replace your bad habits with a healthier behavior that addresses that same need.”
What he means is that you can’t expect yourself to give up a bad habit without replacing it with a good one. Otherwise, certain needs won’t be met and it’ll be much easier to break the new, good habit.
To make it easier to create a positive habit, you have to eliminate as many distractions as possible. A distraction is anything that gets in the way of building your good habits.
Some distractions are easy to get rid of. Using the same example as earlier, having your phone within reach is distracting for someone who wants to spend less time on their phone. To eliminate the distraction, you have to eliminate the proximity and convenience that makes it hard to resist. Put your phone somewhere out of sight and inconvenient. Keep your phone upstairs or in a different room on the other side of your house.
With a few simple adjustments, anyone can build good habits and break bad ones.
Everyone has at least one bad habit they wish they could break. Rather than trying to give it up cold turkey, use the tactics mentioned in this post. Not only will they make it easier to break your bad habit, but they’ll help you replace it with a good one.
What is a bad habit you’re ready to break? What good habits do you want to create? Share in the comments below.
Then, head over to my blog where you’ll find inspiration, reflection, and empowerment for parents who raise their children with authenticity and intention.