6 habit-busting strategies: if not now then when?

At the start of every year, we all take a look at our old habits and often decide that enough is enough. And so begins a journey of liberation, a journey of freedom from overeating, excessive worrying and all manner of life-limiting habits of thinking, behaving, feeling and relating. What makes someone succeed are successful habit-busting strategies. In this post we look at 6 of them.

1) Pros and cons

All negative habits start for positive reasons, so ask yourself whether those reasons still hold? Conduct an honest assessment of the pros and cons of your old habit. Really get to the heart of the reasons you still do it, and then really get to the heart of why you want to stop.

  • Does your old habit fit with who you are now and who you want to be?
  • Does your old habit fit with what you are doing now and what you want to be doing?
  • Does your old habit make sense given the lifestyle you are leading and are working towards?

Doing this exercise is called ‘counter-conditioning’. Counter-conditioning is the process whereby the pathways in your mind/body systems that drive your problem habits are weakened and removed, and those that will drive your new ones are laid down and strengthened.

2) Take a leap of faith and avoid the ‘evidence trap’

The evidence trap is where we need to see clear outcomes – our desired destination – to justify breaking old habits. This need is often fear-based: fear of failure, fear we might lose more than we gain. Future-gazing can be deceptively convincing when driven by fear because it makes an imagined future look and feel very real. What we need to accept is that fear actually makes us very poor clairvoyants. So, set off on your journey of self-discovery knowing that the destination is not separate from the journey but created by it.

3) Take the Valuables Test

The Valuables Test is a way of discovering how much value, you give away each time you carry out your problem habit. In this context, value is defined as your wellbeing. The question to ask is this: how much more can you afford to give away? If you were asked to hand over everything of value you possess by a complete stranger, your answer would be ‘No!’ Your house, car, money, technology or things of emotional value – none of it would you give away. So why would you fight to hold on to your car keys and laptop, but not your wellbeing?

What is it about your old habit that persuades you to hand over, often without a fight, the very thing on which everything else depends – your wellbeing? What if you stopped giving away what you value? How would that come about?

The Valuables Test

Start by listing everything of value you possess. Once you have your list, really connect with the possessions on it. Remind yourself what they mean to you. Now imagine a stranger or even someone you really don’t like asking you to hand it all over. How do you feel? I hope you feel like saying ‘No’. Now locate in your mind and body where that ‘No’ resides. This is your ‘place of certainty’. When your self-defeating behaviour comes along, which it will, and asks you to hand over everything of value again, be ready for it. Locate your ‘place of certainty’ and stare them in the face. It wants nothing more than to take away what you value the most. This time you will say ‘No’.

4) The Goldilocks Principle of challenge

Not too much, not too little, but just right. The best way of discovering the right amount of challenge is to keep an eye on our level of progress over time. If we are not making enough or any progress, possibly spending our time procrastinating instead, then we either have too much or too little challenge. One way to find the right amount of challenge is to find our ‘entry point’, which is the point where progress can be made with the resources, we have available to us. Finding this point can be a process of trial and error, but anything important is worth committing to. Once we have found our entry point, something magical happens: we are neither pulled back by the old habit nor defeated by the new one.

5) Develop a helpful model of transformation.

When we fail to break old habits, this is often because we are too impatient and unrealistic. A helpful model of change removes the self-defeating. Below are some characteristics of an unhelpful model of transformation, followed by a helpful one. See which you connect with the most.

An unhelpful model of transformation

  • Impatience and the need for a ‘quick fix’
  • Unrealistic goals and expectations
  • Low self-esteem/self-worth
  • Perfectionism, self-sabotage & self-criticism
  • A lack of knowledge, information and resources
  • Erroneous ideas
  • A lack of self-belief
  • Poor motivation
  • The right goal, but the wrong strategy
  • Not enough support or the wrong type of support
  • Difficult emotions such as fear, anxiety or depression

A helpful model of transformation

  • Acceptance of one’s current reality and a commitment to doing what it takes
  • Time and patience
  • Positivity – towards oneself and from others
  • Self-belief and trust in one’s abilities
  • Turning setbacks into opportunities
  • Useful ideas, a sound knowledge & effective resources
  • Skills – practice and repetition
  • Alignment of realistic goals with effective strategies
  • The right type of supportand encouragement
  • Positive emotions that help rather than hinder
  • A resilient mindset

6) Emotional persuasiveness

Unless and until new habits are more emotionally persuasive than the old ones, sustained change can’t and won’t happen. It really does have to be ‘worth it.’  The good news is our mind/body systems work by locking on to the strongest source of emotion. Once the new habit has more emotional pull than the old one, the rest as they say is history. It’s like pushing a ship’s anchor overboard. Yes, it takes a great deal of effort to get it to the edge, but once pushed over nothing can stop it from reaching the seabed. If you make the above five ideas and strategies work for you, then you will build up enough emotional persuasiveness. Then  you can step back and enjoy watching your anchor find its spot on the seabed.

Getting support to bust your habits

These 6 habit-busting strategies are just some of the many ways you can liberate yourself from the grip of old, unwanted habits. From food to gambling, worrying to self-sabotage, we have helped many clients to overcome regain control of their life from their habits. So if you have woken up today and said ‘Enough is enough’ please get in touch so we can share our strategies with you.