Deadly Mistakes Most People Make When Trying to Break Bad Habits
Most of us have, at least once in our lives, fallen prey to bad habits that we can’t get rid of no matter how hard we try.
It seems that we relapse as soon as we make a breakthrough and only a few lucky iron-willed individuals somehow manage to steer clear of addictive behavior.
In case you’re not one of these few disciplined individuals who successfully break bad habits, you’re in for a treat.
Depending on the habit and how badly you cling to it, it may get next to impossible to break it without the right guidance.
Luckily, Habitify is here to provide that guidance and point out the deadliest mistakes most people make when trying to quit their bad habits.
1. Postponing the strife needed to stop the bad habits
Habits, no matter how bad they are, have a way of making us feel safe in our comfort zones.
The problem with comfort zones, however, is that, after a while, they actually get really uncomfortable.
Leaving comfort zones, however, seems to be harder than we think. That’s why instead of breaking free, we fool ourselves by postponing our decisions and keeping things vague.
Mistake: We fail to specify exactly when, how, where, and why we’re going to break the habit.
That way we maintain the illusion that we’re trying to leave our comfort zone, although we never really try.
We just postpone what we have to do by saying that we’ll definitely do it sometime in the non-specified near future.
Worse yet, in times of great pressure, we can’t seem to remember all the pros of breaking the habit and all the cons of keeping it. Our motivation falters and we go back to our old toxic ways.
Time passes and our bad habits grow deeper roots.
Advice: Specify exactly when, why, where, and how you’re breaking the habit.
Write it on a piece of paper and leave it in visible places so that you constantly remind yourself of your decision. This is also a great way of keeping track of your results and motivating yourself to change your behavior. So write your idea, your desire, and your highly-specified plan of execution.
Don’t wait for the conditions to be perfect so you can start restructuring your behavior. Don’t put it off for next Monday, Christmas, or any significant date… That’s just postponing the work. Start now.
2. Overanalyzing how you’ll break the habits and talking about it too much
This mistake is the polar opposite of the previous one.
You must have heard that it’s not that good to talk too much about your intentions, endeavors, and enterprises.
That’s true, but do you know why it’s wise to keep your mouth shut?
It’s not just because your environment might get bitter and plot to compromise your efforts…
Among other reasons, silence is golden because talking about your intentions has its way of weakening your resolve.
Talking too much is a form of procrastination.
By constantly jabbering about how you’ll do this and that, you’re visualizing it and fooling yourself by thinking that you already did it… which naturally stops you from even trying to actually do it.
Your mind acts as if you’ve done the deed already so why would you make an effort to really do it?
The same goes for thinking.
At least 50% of what goes on in your mind is narration. The rest half of your thought processes imply visualizing what your inner voice narrates.
Your subconscious doesn’t know the difference between what you think and what really happens. If you want proof of that, just of how your heart rate increases when you watch horror movies, etc.
That’s why, constantly thinking about doing something and overanalyzing how you’re gonna do it, actually keeps you from doing it.
Worse yet, the more you think about it, the more complex it gets and you start dealing with trivia instead of facing the problem head-on.
Advice: Don’t think about it too much, don’t talk about it. Don’t complicate. Just (shut up and) do it already.
3. Trying to do more than you are capable at the moment
Try not to over-reach and over-schedule.
We need an example here so let's just say you're a millennial trying to quit drinking.
Like most of the millennials nowadays, you can't think of a party without the booze and the last time you partied, you got so wasted and hungover that you made the famous commitment of never-ever drinking again.
Well, kudos... but...
Your best friend celebrates his birthday in two weeks and he'll be so insulted if you don't vibe with the (drinking) tribe.
To make things worse, you're taking your crush to a date this weekend and she likes to hang out in bars.
You're afraid that you'll need the help of that I don't care juice to loosen you up, but you decide to stay sober anyway.
Your date fails badly which makes you totally lose motivation in all fields of life, especially your resolution to stay sober.
Peer pressure at your friend's party next weekend seals the deal and you completely give up the decision to stop drinking.
Moral of the story: Don't deal with absolutes. Making a vow to immediately and completely eradicate certain types of behavior is dangerous.
If the pressure gets the better of you so you don't stay true to your vow, you'll lose confidence and it will only get harder to stay true to your commitment from thereon.
Advice: Don't try to break bad habits immediately. It's better to start small and stay consistent.
Instead of saying you'll never drink again, pick the right, non-tempting time to stop doing it. After you complete your first little streak of sobriety, it will get that much easier to prolong it thereon.
4. Successfully breaking the habit and then rewarding yourself by relapsing
You know that scene from Coffee and Cigarettes where Tom Waits and Iggy Pop talk about how they quit smoking? Tom Waits says that the best thing about quitting is the fact that he can now reward himself with a smoke (paraphrase alert). Then both of them start smoking again and it becomes apparent that they never really quit smoking in the first place.
The scene perfectly depicts what really goes on when people make any sort of breakthrough...
They start feeling good about themselves and become cocky which makes them reward themselves and relapse.
Advice: Never underestimate the power of bad habits and don't lose your grip.
In other words, don't get arrogant. Breaking bad habits is like fighting a war. Don't think you won the war just because you won the battle. Persevere.
SEE ALSO: A Strategic Approach to Building and Breaking Habits
Whether you can't break free from serious maladies like smoking, drinking, gambling or it's something more casual like procrastination, you now have the knowledge needed to restructure your behavior.
Here's a short resume of the 5 biggest mistakes people make when getting rid of toxic habits:
- Having a superficial approach to what the habit is all about and failing to specify why, how, when, and where they're going to break the habit.
- Postponing the decision and avoiding the struggle of withdrawal.
- Talking and overthinking instead of putting their back into breaking the habit.
- Expecting results too early, getting disappointed, and relapsing.
- Celebrating the results too early, rewarding themselves, and relapsing.
And there you have it. We’ve equipped you with the knowledge you’ll need to reprogram your behavior the way you see fit. Spread the word.