How To Break Bad Habits And 7 Steps To Change Behaviors

Understanding the Power of Habit

Are you a creature of habit like me? I detest admitting this because I do not like to be led by anything except where I choose to go. Our daily routines are often shaped by the habits and behaviors we’ve developed over time. This is great if all our habits are good habits!

While some habits can be beneficial and lead to good behaviors, we can have ingrained bad habits too that result in negative consequences. Replacing each bad habit with a good habit is the first step toward positive change. This sounds pretty straight forward to me. Is it though?

Identify Your Unwanted Habits and Negative Behaviors

The first step in changing behaviors is identifying each unwanted habit and negative behavior. Here is where it gets tricky. Many of us are the last to know we have less than stellar habits. Take the alcoholic for example. Everyone around the alcoholic knows this person has gone way beyond social drinking. The alcoholic is always the last to know or admit this is true.

It often takes vigorous honesty to admit we have bad habits. Take some time to reflect on your daily routine and pinpoint areas where you’d like to see improvement. Whether it’s a morning routine that leaves you feeling rushed or a bad behavior that’s affecting your relationships, being specific about what needs to change is crucial.

The Power of Self-Reflection

Self-reflection involves taking a close and honest look at your thoughts, actions, and behaviors. It’s a process that allows you to gain insight into who you are and how you navigate the world. When it comes to breaking bad habits and changing behaviors, self-reflection is the key to understanding the causes of these habits and their consequences.

When I am am trying to get to the root cause of something I find disturbing I write about it. I keep a thick cheap spiral notebook handy to use for just this. Writing helps me figure out why I have run up against this same brick wall again. After I write enough about any given subject patterns begin to emerge and I am able to learn what behaviors are causing me this distress.

Now I have the opportunity to make changes and introduce new behaviors that will work better for me. Writing is my secret sauce and never fails me.

a glass orb on the beach reflecting the sand

Questioning Your Habits

To begin this process, ask yourself some probing questions:

  • What are my daily routines, and how do they make me feel?
  • Are there any habits I engage in that I know are unhealthy or unproductive, such as negative self-talk?
  • How do these habits affect my relationships, well-being, and overall happiness?

Seeking Feedback

When I am in doubt I ask a close friend for help because it can be challenging to recognize my own negative habits. Seeking feedback from trusted friends, family members, or a therapist can provide valuable insights. These folks will surely notice patterns and behaviors that you’ve overlooked or dismissed, trust me.

Accepting Responsibility

Now comes the humbling part. Accepting that you have negative habits is a crucial step towards change. It’s easy to blame other people, places and things on our troubles and many of us fall into this trap. True growth occurs when you take responsibility for your actions. Acknowledging that these habits are holding you back is the first step in regaining control over your life.

Overcoming Denial and Resistance

Recognizing harmful habits as obstacles can be uncomfortable and even painful. It may trigger feelings of guilt, shame, or regret or all of the above. However, it’s important to remember that these emotions are part of the process and should not deter you from your long-term goals to change.

Embrace Imperfection

I am a recovering perfectionist. Life became far more manageable when I admitted nobody is perfect and gave up the fight. Everyone has habits they’d like to change. You can’t move forward if bad habits are keeping you stuck.

Embrace your imperfections and understand that recognizing negative habits is a sign of personal growth, not failure. healthy habits will only be formed when when old habits change.

black and white head comprised of large puzzle pieces with a couple pieces missing showing the mind is open

Stay Open-Minded

Be open to feedback and different perspectives. Sometimes, others can see our habits more objectively than we can ourselves. Avoid becoming defensive and instead use criticism as an opportunity for growth.

It takes an honest and open minded person to admit a short coming. It is really a gift to come clean because the next logical step is to make positive changes and move forward. The power is all ours.

Visualize Your Ideal Self

I am a huge fan of visualization techniques! A visualization exercise I do is ‘act as if’. I act as if, for instance, I am a good gardener and do what a good gardener would do. My actions act as a self fulfilling prophecy. Create a vision of the person you aspire to be without these negative habits. Visualizing your ideal self can be a powerful motivator and provide a clear goal to work towards.

Picture yourself living without whatever noose you have around neck. Take one small step toward your goal to be free from this negative habit.

Taking Action Towards Positive Change

Once you’ve acknowledged your negative habits and their impact on your life, it’s time to take action. This involves implementing the steps we discussed earlier, such as setting clear goals, cultivating better habits, new behaviors and seeking support.

You don’t have to do any of this alone. Groups of people have a much better chance at achieving success than a lone individual. There are 12 step groups, Facebook groups and various on line forums where like minded folks join forces to support and encourage each other.

It’s important to know that all change is not linear or always easy. You probably will face setbacks and moments of temptation, but each effort brings you closer to your desired outcome. It is so worth getting through the rough patches and continuing on in a positive direction toward your goal.

We Shape Our Own Future

Your Ah ha! moment will come when you realize your negative habits are holding you back from getting all the things you want. This is an amazing moment and the beginning of change! Change requires self-awareness, self-reflection, and a willingness to confront uncomfortable truths.

Grab onto this new awareness and run with it! Take proactive steps toward change, and you will break free from the constraints of unhealthy behaviors and create a life that aligns with your aspirations and values. If I can do this anyone can and I’ve got the track record to prove it.

I need to underscore the idea that we all have the power to shape our habits and behaviors, and every small step towards positive change is a step towards a more fulfilling future. I will tell you from experience change is definitely possible and not always easy, in fact it can be quite challenging at times. When you stick with it though, the good news is, new habits become second nature – in time. 

feet walking in on one rock at a time in a pond

The First Steps Toward Behavior Change

Once you’ve identified the unwanted habits and unhealthy behaviors, it’s time to take action and initiate change. The journey to better habits and behaviors is a gradual process, and patience is key. Stick with it and don’t stop trying before you reach your goals, because the magic will happen with consistency and effort.

Set Clear and Specific Goals

To break free from an unhealthy habit or behavior, you must have a clear goal in mind. I would set myself up for a win by starting with incorporating one new habit at a time. Whether it is giving up junk food, weight loss or making an effort to be less tardy for everything, concentrating on one new habit a time is the best way. You will know when this goal has been reached when it becomes second nature to you.

As when making any plan make your objectives specific, measurable, and achievable. For example, if you want to improve your morning routine, The best way is to make a specific goal of waking up 30 minutes earlier each day to allow for a calm start.

Replace Old Habits with New Ones

Old habits die hard, but you can make the process smoother by replacing them with new, healthier ones. Instead of focusing solely on eliminating the unwanted habit, redirect your energy toward cultivating a new routine. This not only helps fill the void left by the negative habit but also sets you up for long-term success. An example of this is as follows. If you have given up consuming alcohol stay out of bar rooms.

Gradual Change Over Time

Remember that change takes time. Trying to overhaul your entire routine overnight can be overwhelming and unsustainable. Instead, make small, incremental changes that gradually lead to a better routine and improved behaviors. Celebrate your progress along the way to stay motivated.

Cultivating a New Routine with Better Habits

Creating new routines with better habits is the key to long-term success in changing behaviors. Here are some tips to help you stay on track:

Consistency is Key

Consistency is key to anything you are aiming for, at least it is for me. Think of how much practice a gymnast has put in or a violinist, they don’t just practice occasionally. When building new habits and behaviors be consistent. Stick to your new routine as closely as possible, even on days when motivation is low. Over time, consistency will turn your new behavior into a natural part of your daily life.

Seek Support and Accountability

Sharing your goals with a best friend or family member who can offer support and hold you accountable is the best way to start. You will have a greater incentive to succeed if you have told people, because you won’t want to admit you haven’t followed through. Seriously, you will think of these trusted folks during a weak moment and hopefully persevere.

Having someone to share your progress with can be incredibly motivating and help you stay committed to your new habits. Spend less time ‘thinking’ about changing your behaviors and more time ‘acting out’ your new behaviors.

a colorful graphics chart

Monitor Your Progress

If you like keeping track, monitor your progress regularly. Keep a journal or use a habit-tracking app to record your successes and challenges of letting go of each specific habit. Monitoring your progress not only provides a sense of accomplishment but also helps you identify areas that may need further adjustment.

Like I said writing your way through a tough time is a great way to stay on track. Your writing will give you an inside look at what is really going on and will show you your part in whatever is disturbing you. Use these insights as a starting point to make change.

Embracing Positive Change

Breaking bad habits and changing behaviors is a transformative journey that requires dedication and effort. By understanding the power of habit, identifying unwanted habits and negative behaviors, and following the steps to initiate change, you can cultivate a new routine filled with better habits and positive behaviors. 

It’s all about taking that first step and committing to a new you. Instead of entering into behavioral change kicking and whining embrace the power of habit, and let the journey to a better you begin!

Maintaining Your New Routine and Sustaining Better Habits

It’s equally important to maintain your progress and ensure that these positive changes become a permanent part of your life.

Stay Mindful and Self-Aware

Self-awareness is your greatest tool in maintaining positive change.

As you continue on your journey to better habits and behaviors, it’s essential to stay mindful and self-aware. Regularly check in with yourself to assess how well you’re sticking to your new routine and identify any potential challenges or triggers that might lead to a relapse into old habits.

light colored fireworks - tan background - white fireworks

Celebrate Small Wins

Celebrate your successes, no matter how small they may seem. Recognizing your achievements along the way will help you stay motivated and reinforce the positive behaviors you’ve adopted. Celebrate each milestone you reach, and don’t be too hard on yourself if you encounter setbacks; they are a natural part of the process.

Adjust and Adapt

Life is ever-changing, and so are our circumstances. Your new routine and habits should be flexible enough to adapt to different situations and challenges that may arise. If you find that certain aspects of your routine no longer serve you or need modification, be open to making adjustments to keep it aligned with your goals.

Avoid Temptations and Triggers

Identify the triggers that may lead you back to old, unwanted habits or behaviors. Once you’ve identified them, take steps to minimize exposure to these triggers. Another example is if you’re trying to cut down on unhealthy snacks, keep them out of your home to reduce temptation.

The Long-Term Benefits of Positive Behavior Change

Maintaining a new routine with better habits and behaviors will bring you a lot of long-term benefits. You will walk taller and gain confidence.

Improved Well-Being

Positive behavior change often results in improved physical and mental health. You’ll likely find yourself feeling more energized, less stressed, and better equipped to tackle the challenges of daily life.

Enhanced Relationships

Better habits can positively impact your relationships with others. Whether it’s being more patient, empathetic, or communicative, these changes can lead to healthier and more fulfilling connections with friends, family, and colleagues.

Increased Productivity

A well-structured routine with positive habits will significantly boost your productivity. You’ll find that you have more time and energy to devote to your goals. My wish for you is instead of dreading a new day, you will jump out of bed looking forward to start your day!

Greater Self-Confidence

Achieving any goal and maintaining better habits will boost your self-confidence and self-esteem. There is little in life that is better then feeling confident. All that second guessing will melt away.

By being painstakingly honest you will find the negative habits that are holding you back from living your best life. Make changes, stay resilient and focused and in time you will truly feel a great burden lifted.

pic of author

Marj Bates is a life long ridiculously organized declutter-er and artist. Less is more are words Marj lives by in everything she does except collecting dogs. “Dogs are like potato chips! Can’t have just one.” says Marj. Marj wonders if growing up with a fanatically clean Jewish mom means her decluttering and organizational skills are in her blood.

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