I may not be as self aware as some, but I have a pretty good idea about which of my bad habits are getting in the way of my path to success. Still somehow it's difficult to stop doing these things that have become part of my regular life. For some it may be eating poorly or smoking. For others it may be the way they react to their employees or colleagues. Whatever the habit, once you identify it, you need to make removing it a priority or you not only suffer the damage of the transgression, but you can create additional stress from the pain of not doing anything about it.

Here is my personal approach to breaking a bad habit, and more insights from my Inc. colleagues.

1. Make one change your focus.

I often reassess my behavior to improve. I want to make sure I am giving myself the highest change of achieving my preferred future. Of course in each assessment I identify at least three or four habits I would like to break. I have the most success when I focus on one at a time. I establish a time frame for behavior change and attack it like any other goal. If I meet resistance I re-examine my motivation and put bigger incentives in place. Once the habit is broken I celebrate the accomplishment.


2. Make change easier.

Breaking a habit is almost impossible, but changing one is not. To me the key is to eliminate the possibility. I want to drink less soda so I keep a couple bottles of water on my desk at all times; the soda is a flight of stairs away. Same with constantly checking email like a rat in behavior modification experiment: my mail program is on a computer with no sound that I keep in a corner; that way I have to get up and walk over to access it. Purposely make performing the habit harder and it's much easier to change that habit. Jeff Haden--Owner's Manual

Read more from Jeff Haden.

3. Practice the good behavior.

It seems everyone has at least one or two bad habits they want to break, and a few other good ones they want to start. For some reason, however, it seems much easier to get bad habits started than it is to stop them--that is certainly true in my case. For years I had a difficult time saying "No" to new business opportunities that came my way, no matter how big or how small. I intuitively knew that I should start saying no to some of these opportunities--that the return would not be enough to justify the time I would spend on them. It took me a while to break this bad habit, but I did eventually do just that. I would literally practice the ways I would say "No" to these prospective clients, and the rationale I would give them to justify my answer. But the more I practiced, the easier it became, and today I no longer have my old bad habit. I only say "Yes" to the projects that make sense, and I pass on the others. Peter Economy--The Management Guy

Read more from Peter Economy.

4. Give it a persona.

I turn to one of my more debatable qualities when I'm ready to break a bad habit: stubbornness. If I want something enough and my brain tells me I can't have it, I'm on a mission to prove it wrong! When I decided to eliminate gluten from my diet I humanized the "enemy" (gluten) by giving it a personality. I saw it as a little character who stopped me from feeling well. Call me crazy, but I actually had conversations with gluten--and it worked! When that bread basket came to the table I'd tell it that I couldn't be defeated. It felt so good to win! I am one year gluten free; something I never thought I could do. Marla Tabaka--The Successful Soloist

Read more from Marla Tabaka.

5. Break your routine.

The best way to break a bad habit is to change your routine. This is true for your business and for yourself. I plan one long vacation away from work each year and use that time as a starting point to undo a bad habit. The combination of being away from home, work and my regular surroundings makes it easier to adjust my diet or to get back into the routine of working out. The same principle can be applied to your business. When employees take short vacations, their bad work habits can easily stay hidden. Encouraging your employees to take longer vacation breaks exposes gaps in how they are handling certain aspects of their job when others are required to cover for them. Eric Holtzclaw--Lean Forward

Read more from Eric Holtzclaw.

6. Start small, go one day at a time.

Breaking habits is really hard. I've found the only way to be successful is to start small--with easier to change behavior than "cold turkey"--and to take things one day a time. This keeps the goals simple and achievable: "Today, I will not eat anything after 9pm" rather than "I will never eat late night snacks again." Recently, I quit coffee successfully and I did it by going from 3 cups of coffee a day to 2 to just 1 in the morning, then to just twice a week, to finally eliminating coffee. Each day, I set an easier-to-obtain goal such as "I will only have one cup of coffee in the morning today" and later "I will not drink any coffee today." I was able to celebrate daily successes, and over time, kick a bad habit for good. Dave Kerpen--Likeable Leadership

Read more from Dave Kerpen.

Published on: Oct 16, 2014
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