4 Steps to Kick the Habits that Kick Your A**
Yeah, YOU, stop procrastinating. And judging people. And eating junk food. And bailing on plans. And looking at your phone. And smoking cigarettes.
But seriously, how do you kick the habits that are seriously holding you back?
Be it business or personal life, here are a few ways to break up with your crutches and move the heck on:
Step One: Acknowledgment
Yes, this is like an AA meeting, but it’s bad habits anonymous.
Hi, my name is Elyse and I’m a procrastinator. 👋🏼
You have to know that you have a bad habit first, and you have to want to change it, even if it’s going to be tough. What defines a bad habit? I would say, something that holds you back from being your best self. “Triggers” are the friction points in life that cause us to revert into our worst selves. It could be that you are tired, stressed, hungry, anxious or lonely and you want to self-soothe by implementing a shitty habit that makes you feel good temporarily. Being aware of those triggers and knowing that you have a tendency to respond poorly is a great place to start. We’re not always holding ourselves to the highest standard or considering the long-term effects of our decisions, but when you become aware of your tendencies, you open the door to change, which is what we want!
I’m a procrastinator and I have plenty of work that needs to be done, but right now I’m tired and I’d rather take a nap… If I succumb to that, guess what isn’t getting done today?? I have to saddle up, drink some damn coffee, and get on with my day! Acknowledgement that I’m lazy. Done.
Step Two: Reverse Reverse!
Your brain naturally looks for and creates patterns, it’s how we create efficient neurological processes. When something triggers you and you respond in a way that gives your brain temporary satisfaction, that response is noted and repeated if possible, to create the same satisfaction in the future. It’s this repetition that creates a bad habit; it may feel good in the moment, but long-term-you doesn’t need this response. You have a choice to change it!
Next time you notice your bad habit creeping up, take note, and stop it in it’s tracks. Acknowledge what made it creep up in the first place and then respond in a way that is healthy and satisfying in a completely different way. Teach your brain that there are alternative responses that you (and it) will flourish from.
One great way to change your response to a habit is to visualize how someone you respect would handle it, and mimic that response. What would your role model do when triggered with the same situation? Start responding in a way you think that person would be proud of, and low and behold, you will teach your brain to repeat that pattern instead!
Step Three: Check In
Just as it is important to set goals in order to keep moving upward and onward, kicking a habit abides by the same rules: check back in with yourself and see how far you’ve come. I recommend setting a daily reminder in your phone to either assess where you are or encourage you to act differently. Say you’re a smoker and you’re trying to quit: set daily reminders to smoke one less cig, or force yourself to put a tally down for every one you smoke. Sometimes that alarm in your head (and blaring out of your phone) is annoying enough to make you want to stop it. And you can’t stop it until you’ve broken the habit.
You can also try keeping a log, daily or weekly, where you will write down all your successes in overcoming your vice. Do it in a place like your bathroom mirror or on the fridge where you will be forced to look at it daily. Did you go 3 days without eating junk food? Celebrate that shit! Not by eating a whole bag of salt and vinegar potato chips, but by writing it down somewhere where you can look at it every day and admire your dedication.
Step Four: Love Thyself
Give yourself some freakin’ grace. Appreciate the days that you kick-ass at changing and rearranging your life, and allow yourself a few to fall short. Harsh criticism (your own or other’s) forces you into a place of fear and failure. Try encouragement instead. Maybe today wasn’t your best effort, but that means tomorrow you will be all the more driven to beat today’s record. And you may approach things differently than someone else would; that doesn’t mean that your way is wrong, as long as you are seeing results.
Lastly, give yourself time. Nothing changes overnight. It takes effort and dedication to boot a bad-habit and it probably took a while to get engrained in your head in the first place. It will take time to unwind, and the fact that you recognized it and had the desire to change at all shows quite a bit of grace, too.