How to change a bad habit




You start the day with good intentions.  You make a strong, black coffee, pop open your lap top and start typing that important chapter you want to finish.  Before long, a seductive message appears on your twitter feed, sending you into a tunnel of distractions.

It’s 11.30, you’ve learnt about dating habits in Mongolia, but you haven’t got much further with that chapter.

Recognise this pattern? Home working, particularly, can be a labyrinth of distractions.

The tendency to be thrown off course is the whiffy smell of ‘self sabotage’.  We know in that moment that we shouldn’t distract ourselves, but somehow, it feels impossible to stop.

So, how do you stop?

The answer is simple, but not necessarily easy!

Here is a simple formula that I teach to my clients:

First, you get awareness of when you’re doing the pattern, you learn why you’re doing it and then develop new strategies to override it.

In short, to change a bad habit, you need to create a good habit.

Step 1

Pick one bad habit.  Consider which habit you have that really gets in your way of success.

Ask yourself “what is the benefit of me currently doing this habit?”

For example:  Perhaps you over commit to many projects and become overwhelmed.  By putting lots of things in your diary, it can stop you from completing anything.  The benefit of this is that it stops you from needing to show anybody – so therefore; the benefit is that you will never fail!

Step 2

Now ask yourself: “What is the benefit to me if I change this habit?”

Consider all the possibilities if you changed this habit.

Imagine what your life would be like if you no longer had this habit? What would life be like? 

Step 3

Now – strategy time. Let’s get creative.

What could be a specific new habit that could override your current behaviour?

For example:

If you’re old habit is to put too much in the diary – it may be to limit it to three things a day.  Or if your habit is to get distracted by Twitter, it may be to only check Twitter from 2pm every day.

My favourite is to make your new habit fun.  So, avoiding punishment and finding a pleasurable new habit.  For example: If you’re old habit is to stay in bed past 9am, then a pleasurable new habit may be to treat yourself to a frothy coffee if you make it up by 7.30am.


The easiest way to change a habit is to link it with an existing behaviour, so that the new habit gets triggered easily.  For example, if you wanted to remember to exercise every morning – it would help if you had an alarm feature in your phone, which gives you a message.  Or that you had your yoga mat ready every night before you go to sleep, so it is the first thing you see in the morning.

Over to you

So – what habit will you change this week?  What will you do to override it?

Do write a comment below please.  Letting other people know is a commitment in itself. 😉






3 Responses

  1. Great post, Nicky.

    I recognised a bad habit for me was leaving the house at the very last minute possible, in order to go to an appointment/meeting/lunch date. It meant I’d leave the house flustered – not fun.

    The benefit was that I got to do the most work possible, right up till that point. The benefit was also that I got to experience that adrenalin rush – it can be quite addictive.

    The benefit of changing: feeling calm, competent, in charge.

    New habit: Save fun articles to my phone (I use an app called Pocket) and decide to arrive at any meeting 10 minutes early so I can sit there with my little virtual magazine and enjoy the articles 🙂

    1. Excellent! Good for you Corrina. I know this habit well and the adrenaline rush is exciting. I think gadgets can be very helpful for taming the gremlin. I answer emails, check my facebook and tweet regularly while standing in shopping queues, a great time saver! Thanks for commenting. nx

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