As a follow up to my last article that listed 14 of Leo Babuata's 29 tips to break a bad habit from my book, Kensho, A Modern Awakening, I have listed the final 15, below. Remember that if you don't succeed the first time, keep trying new ways to break the bad habits in your life. You will eventually hit on a system that works for you. The following points offer a plethora of information to help you "get back on that horse," and stay there.
1. Have strategies to defeat the urge.
Urges are going to come -- they're inevitable and they're strong. But they're also temporary, and beatable. Urges usually last about a minute or two, and they come in waves of varying strength. You just need to ride out the wave, and the urge will go away. Some strategies for making it through the urge: deep breathing, self-massage, eating some frozen grapes, taking a walk, exercising, drinking a glass of water, calling a support buddy, posting on a support forum.
2. Prepare for the sabotagers.
There will always be people who are negative, who try to get you to do your old habit. Be ready for them. Confront them and be direct. You don't need them to try to sabotage you. You need their support, and if they can't support you, then you don't want to be around them.
3. Talk to yourself.
Be your own cheerleader, give yourself pep talks, repeat your mantra (below), and don't be afraid to seem crazy to others. We'll see who's crazy when you've changed your habit and they haven't changed theirs.
4. Have a mantra.
For quitting smoking, mine was "Not One Puff Ever" (I didn't make this up, but it worked -- more on this below). When I wanted to quit my day job, it was "Liberate Yourself." This is just a way to remind yourself of what you're trying to do.
5. Use visualization.
This is powerful. Vividly picture, in your head, successfully changing your habit. Visualize doing your new habit after each trigger, overcoming urges, and what it will look like when you're done.
6. Have rewards.
Regular ones. You might see these as bribes, but actually they're just positive feedback. Put these into your plan, along with the milestones at which you'll receive them.
7. Take it one urge at a time.
Often we're told to take it one day at a time -- which is good advice -- but really it's one urge at a time. Just make it through this urge.
8. Not One Puff Ever (in other words, no exceptions).
This seems harsh, but it's a necessity. When you're trying to break the bonds between an old habit and a trigger and are forming a new bond between the trigger and a new habit, you need to be really consistent. You can't do it sometimes, or there will be no new bond, or at least it will take a really long time to form. So, at least for the first 30 days (and preferably 60), you need to have no exceptions. Each time a trigger happens, you need to do the new habit and not the old one. No exceptions, or you'll have a backslide. If you do mess up, regroup, learn from your mistake, plan for your success, and try again (see the last item on this list).
9. Get rest.
Being tired leaves us vulnerable to relapse. Get a lot of rest so you can have the energy to overcome urges.
10. Drink lots of water.
Similar to the item above, being dehydrated leaves us open to failure. Stay hydrated!
11. Renew your commitment often.
Remind yourself of your commitment hourly and at the beginning and end of each day. Read your plan. Celebrate your success. Prepare yourself for obstacles and urges.
12. Set up public accountability.
Blog about it, post on a forum, email your commitment and daily progress to friends and family, post a chart up at your office, write a column for your local newspaper (I did this when I ran my first marathon). When we make it public -- not just the commitment but the progress updates -- we don't want to fail.
13. Engineer it so it's hard to fail.
Create a groove that's harder to get out of than to stay in. Increase positive feedback for sticking with the habit, and increase negative feedback for not doing the habit.
14. Avoid some situations where you normally do your old habit, at least for awhile, to make it a bit easier on yourself.
If you normally drink when you go out with friends, consider not going out for a little while. If you normally go outside your office with co-workers to smoke, avoid going out with them. This applies to any bad habit. Whether it be eating junk food or doing drugs, there are some situations you can avoid that are especially difficult for someone trying to change a bad habit. Realize, though, that when you go back to those situations, you will still get the old urges, and when that happens, you should be prepared.
15. If you fail, figure out what went wrong, plan for it, and try again.
Don't let failure and guilt stop you. They're just obstacles, but they can be overcome. In fact, if you learn from each failure, they become stepping-stones to your success. Regroup. Let go of guilt. Learn. Plan. And get back on that horse.
Have you changed a bad habit? Did you do it by employing a healthier replacement? If not, what strategies did you use? I'd love to hear from you -- either in the comments here or via social media channels.
Stay strong and carry on!