If you want to overcome procrastination, then you are in the right place. This article is an in depth look at how to fix laziness, bad habits, and addiction. This is a long article with many details. So bookmark this page and keep reading it until you’ve absorbed all the knowledge it offers.
Forming new habits doesn’t need to be difficult. Your environment makes you who you are. As long as you create the environment that reinforces the habits you want, you won’t need lots of willpower to become a new version of yourself.
According to a 2014 Science News Daily report, 40% or more of a person’s daily activities are the result of habit alone. These habits emerge through associative learning. Such as waking up at the same time every day. Unless of course you wake up at different times every day which seriously Messes up your biological rhythms.
Your body is a clock! Why would you want a clock that never knows the correct time?
I believe the Science Daily report of 40% is quite conservative. I would say most people spend as much as 90% of their life doing EXACTLY the same thing they did yesterday! They eat the same foods, think the same thoughts, and go to the same places. Sociologists have studied people’s behavior and find that they can usually predict exactly what you will be doing a year from now because it’s most likely going to be exactly what you are doing today!
Of course, as you know, it isn’t that simple. I’m sure you are a very cool person with lots of goals. I’m sure you’ve tried to learn a few new skills and develop some new habits before. But inevitably, old habits return. It’s like they were just taking a vacation and waited in the background for you to get even the slightest bit lazy and then BAM! They pull you back down. Sneaky habits.
It is a struggle and is only going to be as easy as you perceive it to be. Which I’m guessing isn’t very easy at all as you are reading this and likely have a specific habit in mind you want to obliterate and replace with something more beneficial to you.
Changing behavior usually takes more than forcing yourself to do something new. No matter what it is you inevitably encounter obstacles.
It doesn’t mean you lack willpower. Addiction to procrastination doesn’t mean you are a lazy loser, though some poor habit control can be perceived that way. It usually means you are missing one of several elements essential to successfully cultivating new habits.
With a little understanding of your own psychology and a plan for coping with the temptation to returning to old habits and several other key issues you can potentially make some big changes.
Every habit has a reason, most people are unaware for the reasons behind most of their habits. If you can understand the reason for them, you can be much more prepared to resolve certain issues and change those habits and deal with challenging situations.
By being mindful of your habits and continuously developing them you can lead any life you want. No matter how busy you are you can learn how to make permanent changes, one habit at a time.
You don’t need to change every bad habit you have in one day, or even in one month.
All it takes is starting with one habit. One new habit can change your life.
Psychologists often refer to them as keystone habits. Because by changing one habit, it naturally affects other areas of your life.
Before we tackle your bad habits it’s essential to talk about willpower.
People usually talk about willpower in reference to their inability to say no to temptations.
Unfortunately lack of willpower often becomes an excuse to explain our behavior.
“I intended to avoid sugary foods this month, but I didn’t have the willpower to resist that cake.”
Don’t blame willpower for your own decisions. You have agency. You are responsible for every action you take.
Will power is often compared to a muscle. It weakens without use.
The more temptations you resist, the more likely you will be to give in as your will power is apparently limited. Fortunately, just like a muscle, it can grow in strength.
Every decision has an impact on your store of willpower.
Don’t make excuses when your willpower runs out and you give in.
Maybe you are committed to quitting smoking. It’s going great for a few days. You recognize when you usually light up but remind yourself to resist that temptation.
Then you make a few mistakes at work and your boss yells at you.
You get home tired and light a cigarette without thinking about it. You justify it as a response to being so stressed out from an annoying day.
Annoyance and stress sap your willpower just as much resisting temptation because it takes willpower to endure these situations.
It’s easy to forget about your goals when your willpower is eliminated. If that is the case at least acknowledge it. You don’t need to feel bad about failing to succeed in your goal. Muscle failure is part of growth. Eventually you will have the strength to resist this and any willpower sucking event your face.
Part of the process of building a new habit is being prepared for when your willpower is depleted and temptation is heightened.
What will your plan be?
Most habits can be changed with persistence and a proper plan.
However, some addictions will require professional counseling that can address your specific situation.
Severe addictions may lead to the following symptoms:
- Constantly thinking about the addicting activity when not doing it
- The activity interferes with your daily routine
- Experience withdrawal and negative emotions with unable to engage in that habit
- Spent more money on that activity than you can afford to
- Have trouble practicing moderation with the habit
- The habit affects your health
- The habit is your usual response to stress (such as drinking or smoking)
- You are ashamed of admitting to others you engage in this habit
- The habit damages your relationship with others
- You just can’t get yourself to stop once you have started
If any of your habits lead to several entries on this list, and you are reading this book, then you are likely already aware how your bad habit/addictions can be detrimental to your life. Good. At least you have some proper motivation. So it’s a start.
If you need professional assistant I recommend a psychologist or behavioral therapist who teach you how to cope with the challenges and process of developing new habits and eliminating severe addictions. Alternatively you could join a support group. Alcoholics anonymous is very successful at what they do because they get everyone to believe they can actually change.
Arguably the biggest challenge you will face in this struggle is to actually believe you can change. I know many times I’ve made a decision to “try” a new habit. And notice I would use the word, “try” it was merely an attempt. Not an intention to DO. Just as Yoda said, “do or do not, there is no try.”
During these attempts, I always in the back of my mind new I would probably fail. I doubted my ability to succeed and that belief lead to my failure. Belief is powerful.
Write a list of the addictions and habits you want to change.
Don’t worry if your list is quite long. I think it’s exciting to have a lot of things you want to improve about yourself. If you think everything is perfect about you already, well then you must be superman already and don’t have any problems with bad habits so why are you even reading this book?
It will take time and commitment of course. So change your addictions one habit at a time. Your plan of change shouldn’t overwhelm you. It should inspire you. Psychologists have found that your bad habits will always be wired and active in your brain. But they can be overridden by the proper motivation that engages the rational part of your brain that is focused on long term goals.
Really put some time and thought into this list. Think about your morning routine. Does anything need to be changed there? What about the foods you eat? What you eat becomes you! It is your fuel. Be careful about it. Do you play any stupid games or apps on your smartphone? Occasionally I do that, but after a few days or weeks I get sick of it and delete it. It really wastes too much of my valuable time. Do you smoke or drink too much? Avoid eye contact when people are talking to you? Speak in a quiet voice whenever you are intimidated by someone? Sleep at a regular time every night? Watch too much porn? Click on pointless click-bait articles? At least, ask yourself which of your habits are:
- negatively impacting your health?
- wasting your valuable time?
- preventing you from improving your life?
Choose your first habitTake a moment to understand what you are giving up. I used to really like a stupid app game I played. Hours would just seem to disappear even though I felt I had only been playing a brief moment. I became disgusted with the game and wasting my time on it. Before I deleted it, I took a moment to say goodbye to it. I reflected on what it had given me. Distraction from stress and responsibilities, and also that mild dopamine kick every time I achieved something in the game. I realized other endeavors I actually care about would provide a much more rewarding alternative.
In this instance, my plan for resisting the temptation to play was to do something else I found rewarding and stress relieving. Whenever I felt the urge to play the game, I would practice guitar or read a book. Within a few days, I deleted the app.
This may sound like a minor example, and in many ways it is. I do not intend to underestimate the potential severity of your struggle with changing a bad habit.
Having a plan for resisting temptation to succumb to your habit is effective and essential for success.
One Habit Can Change your Procrastination, Laziness, and Lack of Focus
Remember how one habit can create a chain reaction of other positive habits in your life.
The biggest habit I had to change was learning to go to bed early and waking up early at a consistent time each day. I struggled with this for many years. When I was finally able to make progress. It was like everything I had always wanted to spend my days doing was suddenly able to fall into place. I had time to go to the gym every morning, meditate, practice skills I care about, and work on projects I care about.
But just as one successful new habit can change your life so too can failure to develop one new habit. You may give up on all the things you care about changing in yourself.
It’s more effective to seriously commit to ONE habit at a time. Choose that new habit and decide that it IS you. It IS how you behave on a daily basis and believe it completely.
You’ve heard of affirmations right?
The idea that you consistently say positive phrases to yourself to influence your mindset to internalize those beliefs.
Well they are great for developing positivity. But to really believe in them you must follow through with your actions.
Actions influence belief just as much as belief influences action.
You can start that process from either end.
So you might as well start with the belief, then consistently engage in the new behavior, which reinforces your belief that your new habit is the way you behave ALL the time.
This is only the first step, but a positive mindset towards your ability to succeed is crucial to your progress.
If you don’t have the willpower to write down a list of habits you want to change then how would you have the willpower to change even one of them? Honestly I’m amazed you even have the will power to read this book!
But if that isn’t you then great! Next to the first habit you want to tackle, please write down the reason you want to change it. Such as how do you believe changing that one habit could impact your entire life positively? This also helps with the motivation.
Also please write down what you expect from yourself in order to accomplish this goal. That it for now really. Write that stuff down. If that has obliterated your willpower for the day then please get some rest as soon as possible and continue tomorrow.
Identify your TriggersEvery habit has a trigger. When the alarm wakes you up early in the morning with it’s annoying as hell beeping it triggers you to hit the snooze button and either intentionally sleep another few minutes or lay in bed until you fall back asleep because you are dreading the day you would otherwise be facing.
When you feel stressed out maybe you smoke a cigarette or eat a piece of unhealthy food. And if you pay attention you can identify the most specific triggers that lead to your specific habits. Pay attention to who is around you. It might be certain people or their behavior trigger your bad habits. Pay attention to what you are doing. And I believe most importantly, pay attention to your thoughts. Your thoughts are your way of interpreting the world. Check what you were thinking just before engaging in your bad habit. There is likely a connection. However most people seem to live unconsciously and unaware of how their reactions to their world, and their resulting thoughts about it are controlling their behavior.
I would much rather choose for myself how I am behaving than to be dependent on the external environment for my moods and subsequent behaviors.
Write down your triggers. They are essential to the process of replacing your bad habits with ones that will contribute more to your life.
A helpful technique you should now begin is to monitor your relationship with the habit.
Keep a record of when exactly you engaged in the habit, how many times you did it, or how much time you spent on it.
You may now begin trying to quit your habit. This will be a challenge of course. Don’t beat yourself up over occasional failures of your willpower.
The important part of this initial stage is to keep track of those failures and note when they occur and their triggers.
This way you will begin to become mindful of your own behavior. You may even become aware of something about yourself you didn’t realize before that will be key to readjusting your habits.
Some people use the words habit and addiction synonymously. So what is the difference between habit and addiction?
Well in fact they are the same thing. They are both patterns of behavior developed by frequent repetition until you begin to perform this action automatically. Your brain rewards you for every action you take. Repeat the same action enough times and it because subconscious.
The key difference however is that addiction comes with a more overt negative connotation as we usually associate it with drug abuse, alcohol, smoking and other nasty habits that can potentially harm your life and health. Addiction usually refers to an unhealthy relationship with a substance or behavior.
Addictions to drugs and alcohol get all the attention because they obviously destroy people’s lives. The impact of these addictions can be seen by everyone.
But most addictions are lower key. What about the guy who eats nothing but greasy fast food until he dies of a heart attack at 55?
You could argue that people are free to choose their addictions. And yeah, if you want to get used to habits that could shorten your life by as much as half then that is your choice. But it is a choice fueled by instant gratification and willful ignorance of the consequences.
There are probably many addictions in your life. Habits that drain your energy and have detrimental consequences to your life and health. Many habits you have may be preventing you from achieving your potential for success and creativity.
What habits are preventing you from doing what you really want?
You should be aware of what your goals are in life. Such as how much time you want to spend with family and friends. What places you want to go. What skills you want to learn. And you should be conscious of what habits are preventing you from fulfilling those desires.
Keep a record of why you want to change your bad habit, what the obstacles are, and your plan for changing this habit.
To show you how to organize this. Here is an example:
I want to stop staying up late and waking up late nearly every night.
Start Date: Writing the date you start commits you to this change from the date you start. Take this seriously and it will become something you care about. Start as soon as you can. Start today.
Reason: staying up late lead me to waste my valuable time on pointless activities. I would often end up sleeping 10 or more hours and was tired all the time. I didn’t have time to do anything productive in the morning. This was a horrible habit and it was ruining my life.
Triggers: I realized I stayed up late because I didn’t have a stable sleeping schedule. I would go to bed and wake up at different times every day. Whenever I would have a very busy or stressed out day, I was used to reading about things that interest me and doing a few enjoyable things for a few hours. Somehow, I was convinced I needed this reaction to relax and compensate for the nonsense I had endured that day. In some ways, yes it relieved my stress, but at the cost of my sleep and health.
Obstacles: The obstacle is often your learned reaction to the trigger. Very stressful days will be challenging for overcoming a bad habit that is a reaction to stress and the daily nonsense life throws at you.
Plan: My solution was to be mindful of my level of stress. Whenever I realized I had an especially stressful day, I made a commitment to turn off the devices that distracted me long into the night, and instead engaged in some other relaxing though brief activity for a few moments before going to bed early. A few moments of meditation was very helpful as it disconnected me from my usual routine.
List of Possible Excuses: This is important. So please be honest with yourself as nobody will see what you will write down. When you make a commitment to change something about yourself, the part of you that gets a reward for engaging in the habit will resist and think of excuses for doing that habit.
So take a moment and listen to what that negative voice is whining about. My voice was telling me maybe at night I’ll want to check something on the internet, or prepare something for tomorrow. Or what if I get a phone call when it’s really late and it interrupts my sleep? Be aware of the excuses your mind will try to think up.
Visualize Goal: There are lots of studies that say visualizing something leads to belief in it. It apparently affects your life just as much as actually doing it. People who spent years not actually practicing some skill actually improved in it by visualizing practice alone. I also find it helpful to visualize my goals. So for this specific habit, my goal was to go to bed and wake up early every day. I visualized this, and added thoughts of how this will positively impact my life.
Results: Try to commit to your plan for 30 days. As if you are just trying it out to see how it affects your life. The first time I did this for my sleeping habit I was able to stay on schedule and appropriately react to my stress for about 2 weeks. I tried it again the next month and have been more or less following this new habit ever since and it has DRAMATICALLY enhanced my productivity and quality of life.
After you have been able to commit to this new habit for the majority of the days in a month you should be capable of choosing whether it is worth it to keep it in your life or not. And you most likely will decide to keep it as you are nearly completely used to it. With more time devoted to it. It will become more and more natural to you and thus require less and less willpower until it is just the way you behave all the time.
You don’t have to completely eliminate your bad habit in a day and force yourself to endure the inevitable cravings to return to it.
Science tells us your habits are all always in your brain. Connected by neurons that strengthen the more you engage in any activity. They are connected to reward mechanisms such as dopamine released whenever you do some activity. Suddenly remove that activity and you feel withdrawal.
Some people can handle that. Some people have a weaker ability to form new habits. Which is good in some ways bad in others.
So for most people it is wise to incrementally change your habits if you can.
For some habits, you just choose to do it or not. Such as pick your nose in public. If you do that please stop. It’s disgusting and should be the first habit you write out a plan for and seriously commit to changing.
For other habits, especially those that affect your health, you can monitor how much you engage in it. Such as how many cigarettes you smoke, how many alcoholic drinks you drink, or how many hours you waste on the internet on Facebook and clickbait.
So if you smoke 15 cigarettes a day you can set a goal to smoke 3 less every day until you are finally off of them.
This gives your body time to slowly readjust to the lack of your chosen stimulant.
I used this incremental method when readjusting my sleep schedule. I would set my alarm to wake up one hour earlier each day until I was able to consistently wake up at 8 am each morning. Then I would consistently go to bed an hour early each night until I was always getting enough sleep. Very gradually this became my normal habit, as it should be to maintain health.
To change your habits you MUST be conscious of the processes that lead you to engage in them. Otherwise you are just an unconscious machine reacting to the stimulus of the environment with very simple programming.
Another great book on habits is Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit. This book clearly explains how habit loops are learned behaviors that determine our behavior. Habit loops involve 3 parts.
- The Trigger: this could be for example feeling stressed, hearing a certain song, or seeing a certain person.
- The Routine: The routine is a reaction to the trigger. Such as smoking when stressed or bored.
- The Reward: The reward is what your routine is intended to give you. Such as a stressed out person smokes to get the reward of a relaxed feeling which he associates with smoking.
Whenever you encounter your various triggers, you suddenly feel a craving for a certain reward. The reward is the satisfaction you feel for following this routine.
The human mind really wants to complete this process. We hate it when something is incomplete. If you drew most of a circle and left just a little gap a monkey would pick up a pencil to finish the circle because that incompleteness is unsettling!
That’s what happens when the routine is interrupted and there is no reward.
What we must do is train ourselves to:
- Recognize the Trigger
- Change the routine
- Associate the reward with the new routine
By doing this we still feel the same satisfaction as completing the routine. Just as I replaced my stressed routine of time wasting with meditation.
Building new habits takes time. With the knowledge of the habit forming process you can consciously decide which habits to reinforce and which to eliminate.
First you will focus your attention on recognizing your triggers. There are possible multiple triggers for each routine so be aware of that.
You will gradually change the routine and associate it with the reward you originally got from the old routine with the new routine.
This may sound simple but there are important factors involved that you should consider.
There will be temptations to give up on your new routines. If those habits are actually killing you then you should make the right choice. Substitute those bad habits with habits that will actually benefit your life.
As mentioned, you are your habits. All your behaviors, thoughts, and life conditions are determined by the habits you develop and reinforce. That’s great if your habits actually get you the life you want, but often they are just reinforced by your emotional reactions.
Your emotional reactions are often left to determine your behavior. Do you want to be in control of your emotions and life or not?
The answer to that question is easy.
Though some people like to claim they can’t control their emotions, the truth is, your emotions are always in your control. Most people just haven’t yet developed the capacity to realize that. It is simply part of the configuration of habits you might need to work on to better yourself.
The following sections go through each of these 3 steps.
External stimulus and your own thoughts are constantly throwing cues at you to react to.
Such as seeing a pan of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies will trigger a craving to eat one or even them all. Your routine will be to immediately indulge yourself in the cookies until you are satisfied.
Triggers can be anything. So you will need to pay close attention to figure out what is triggering your various behaviors.
To permanently change you need to fully understand your triggers and the reasons you have them.
Whenever you feel the craving to engage in a bad habit, record your location, your mood, the time of day, the people around you, and any other behaviors you were doing at the time. Also pay attention to any thoughts you were having.
Being mindful of these elements will help you uncover your unconscious habit forming processes.
Doing this consistently will help you a lot.
Maybe you want to eat less doughnuts every day. You enjoy your sugary snacks, but it is impairing your health, quality of sleep and even ability to think and move with energy during the day. Unless you balance it this bad habit out with a much healthier lifestyle or completely eliminate it, you could be facing some serious health issues.
After keeping records of your situation whenever you get a craving for these sugary snacks, you realize that you often eat them during your lunch break at work at about the same time, whenever you are stressed or worried about something.
You quickly realize that you usually eat dough-nuts as a response to stress at work and your desired reward is reduced stress. You may also notice you prefer to do this by yourself, or with other people who have the same habit.
To fix your bad habit YOU need to replace your usual routine with a new one that you perceive as giving you the same reward.
Sounds easy right? Just pop in a new routine and convince yourself this is just as good as or even better than the old routine as the reward is exactly what you were getting before.
Such as in the previous example, whenever feeling stressed at work, instead of going out for some doughnuts at lunch, you could have a fun conversation with a coworker. Social interaction is great stress relief. With repetition, eventually your response to stress and the desire to reduce that stress will be to chat with your coworker. You will still get the desired reward of stress relief without the damage to your health from a daily box of doughnuts.
And an interesting thing is you could replace that old routine with nearly any routine as long as you perceive to be one that gives you the same reward. Procrastination doesn’t need to be your daily routine. You can overcome procrastination but building the right habits, and creating an environment that supports your goals.
Whenever you feel stressed you could also start reacting by ripping some paper, doodling in a notebook, drinking some water or pretty much anything you can think of as long as you make a commitment to using this new reaction to replace your old one it will eventually become your new habit.
So whenever you encounter your trigger, you should plan alternative reactions.
You could go for a walk, avoid the places you usually engage in the bad habit, engage in some other social activity or some meditation or light reading.
Of course your solution may depend on your situation and I only provide these examples to provide you a template of what you can do in response to your triggers.
If you notice you have several different triggers for your bad habit, it may be appropriate for you to think of separate routines for each one.
Even though I have pointed out that nearly any new routine can be an adequate substitute for your previous bad habit, I’d like you to seriously consider what new routines will have the most positive impact on your life.
Yes ripping some paper, and punching a punching bag are alternatives to smoking a cigarette after a stressful day of work.
But are either of those activities that would really enhance your life?
If you are very athletic, love sports, or practice martial arts, of course some extra punch bag practice would likely be both enjoyable and beneficial to you.
And even though ripping paper, or chewing some gum can also provide as much relief as you believe they do, perhaps other options would provide you a much greater experience of life.
So yes you do have the opportunity to eliminate your bad habit with something benign and somewhat enjoyable, but at the same time you have an enormous opportunity to completely reprogram your behavior!
I don’t know about you, but that really excites me.
If you are satisfied with finally eliminating a habit that has been debilitating you in multiple ways then of course I fully support your effort to change and I hope this book helps you.
However, I also believe that the more motivation you have to change the more likely you are to succeed. And by choosing new routines you can get passionate about I have always felt more motivated and likely to succeed.
I used to sometimes be late for work, and usually almost late for work. On one level, I didn’t care so much because it was just “work.” It wasn’t something I was passionate about. But at the same time, that attitude and being late to work was stressing me out just a little.
My usual trigger to the need to go to work was to postpone leaving home to the last possible minute. I didn’t enjoy the commute, I felt it was a waste of my time.
So instead of responding to this need with procrastination, I decided to respond by leaving for work earlier, and when I did so I would listen to language courses on my IPod on the way there. I improved my Spanish and French a little every day by doing this and also convinced myself that the commute to work could be an investment of my time rather than a waste. I convinced myself it was at least somewhat enjoyable, eliminated my stress and wasn’t late again.
So think for a moment about what you would really prefer to replace your bad habit with.
Of course it often depends on your particular habit, but perhaps instead of staying up late you want more time to go to the gym in the morning, or take some kind of class you are interested.
Maybe your new response can involve learning some new skill, such as practicing guitar, painting, singing, or making something with your hands. And as many people who practice regular meditation will try to convince you, it can really change your life and it literally changes your brain.
You really have endless possibilities for what you can change. You could develop nearly any new routine you want and with practice will just become a natural part of you.
I’m not giving you pressure to become a superman. I am only encouraging you to think beyond merely changing your bad habit to thinking about what you can really accomplish with this new skill of habit reprogramming.
As we were just talking about in the previous chapter, nearly any replacement habit can be adequate as long as you believe it provides the same reward and your old had habit.
This doesn’t mean all routines are equal in efficiency. By Efficient I mean they satisfy your craving to respond to the trigger.
Personally, I believe my most motivating routines are those that I believe improve my life in some way. However, the type of routines that are most efficient for me might not be the most efficient for you.
Maybe you are more motivated by anything that relaxes you like a walk outside in the sun on a beach, a warm bath, or listening to a beautiful piece of music you love.
After you have successfully practiced responding to the trigger with several different new routines, pay attention to how you feel after each response.
Some routines may not be efficient and leave you craving your old habit just as much. This means either it’s not the best routine, or you haven’t practiced it enough. It might be a good idea to experiment with other new routines. Eventually you’ll find the right one to complete your habit loop.
If we go back to the example of eating doughnuts every lunch break as a response to stress, perhaps you tried chatting with coworkers, but it didn’t satisfy you because your coworkers are a bunch of idiots with nothing entertaining to say. So you still went to eat some doughnuts afterwards. Well, that attempt at a new routine doesn’t seem to be going so well so you decide to try a new one.
Every time you feel stressed you go practice billiards for half an hour, it reminds you of many fun times playing it in college and you feel relaxed and even focused.
It may take a few weeks to find your appropriate replacement habit. Remember to try each new routine several times until you are convinced it is not the most appropriate one for you and your specific trigger.
Eventually you will find that routine that provides you the same reward and this can more easily become a permanent new habit.
When you find it you should focus on repeating this new behavior. Let it become your life.
As you have already become familiar with your triggers by this point, it should be simple to craft a plan for dealing with them.
For lasting change please write them down:
When ( your trigger ) then I will (your new routine).
Such as, “when I get home after a stressful day of work, I will practice guitar.” This could be an alternative to drinking or any bad habit you might engage in as a response to stress.
When I was trying to improve my sleeping habits, I was initially focused on avoiding staying up late. It might be subtle, but I was focused on avoiding something negative. However when I shifted my focus towards the positive I found much greater results.
Instead of thinking, I should go to bed early tonight and inevitably not doing so, I made a plan. I wrote that, “Every night, at 11:00 I will meditate for a few minutes, then go to bed.” I was focused on developing this new routine, not avoiding the old one.
When you do fail, see it as an opportunity to learn something about yourself. Then it counts as a success. You will have a better idea of when you fail, and you can form a plan for dealing with it the next time you encounter that trigger.
When I first tried to start going to bed early instead of staying up late on the internet, I was surprised at how many thoughts I had of needing to check some fact I was curious about. Whenever I found myself giving in to my curiosity/addiction I would ask myself why I had done so. This eventually led me to realize it was a response to my stressful situation and I found alternative routines that proved even more stress relief, such as meditation, and planning for an early morning workout.
My response plan for “what if I want to check something” was, “If I feel the need to check some fact when I should be sleeping, I will write it down and commit to checking it the next day.”
You can make new plans for your triggers and you will be much more capable of responding to your weaknesses.
Have a strategy for handling each scenario.
At this point, your ego may be tempted to convince you to not dare attempt to change your habits.
Your ego is extremely afraid of dying, (in most cases), and that includes any changes you make to your behavior and personality.
Perhaps this selfish ego of yours will try to convince you its ok to break your plans and ignore this excellent advice to write down a response plan in the event you encounter a weak moment.
Did you write one down yet for your habit?
What excuse seemed reasonable for not writing it down?
Did it feel more comfortable to maintain a passive routine?
If anything like that happened just now then you are in for quite a struggle against your ego.
It may surprise you that your entire personality has a nearly infinite amount of potential configurations.
Imagine a pair of biologically identical twins. Their brains are identical, but they were separated at birth and one lived with a wealthy loving family and had a great life, learned all the skills he ever wanted to learn and became exactly what he thought he wanted to be.
The other twin had a very stressful life. After graduating high school had a very dismal view of his future.
The life experiences of these biologically identical people affect them in completely different ways.
The luckier twin may be more emotionally mature and willing to take risks as he had a solid base to grow upon.
Whereas the other twin feels that the smallest risk is too big.
We are obviously assuming nature has a huge impact on personality.
Twin studies often support this conclusion. You probably heard biologically identical twins separated from birth often end up having several intriguing personality similarities.
That isn’t a mystery. It actually makes sense that people with the same bodies and brains have the same responses to the same stimuli.
The point however, is that overall there is a huge field of influences that determine your personality.
Now imagine if you were born in a different country, had a completely different childhood and opportunities, where would you be now and what kind of person would you be now?
If you are a normal person, I’m guessing you’ve daydreamed about such ideas before.
And here is the most vital point:
Your environment is not the most vital factor in determining what kind of person you become.
Your own decisions and beliefs about yourself actually play a huge role in determining who you become.
So now you can become whoever you want.
You can design the life you want.
I think a lot of people don’t want to handle that level of responsibility. It’s easy to blame the environment and bad luck for your crap life.
And I don’t know your situation, maybe you have some legitimate excuse, but in most cases you won’t. Laziness and low standards are as deadly of a bad habit as smoking and hard drug addiction.
When you were born you had an infinite amount of directions you could have gone to develop your own character.
The problem is we often get used to letting the environment determine appropriate behavior.
Now this is actually great, because you get to learn all the behaviors to avoid because they’ll get you killed.
That’s survival 101.
Unfortunately, you end up picking up a lot of junk habits that don’t necessarily do you any good.
People believe in religions, racism, bigotry, narcissism and other nastier nonsense simply because of the accident of where they happen to be born.
They pick up these habits without thinking if they are actually correct or add to their lives.
Perhaps centuries ago, considering nonconformity with social norms could have easily gotten you killed.
But for the most part we live in a more developed world where we have more freedom to question our beliefs and habits.
You have more freedom to construct your own personality than humans on Earth have ever had before in our history.
I wouldn’t take that for granted.
I’m fully committed to maximizing my potential. I want to design my habits and choose for myself which ones are beneficial and which are unnecessary.
Take advantage of your freedom to choose exactly who and what you want to be.
It can be helpful to remind yourself of your desired new habits. Adding some alerts to your phone giving you a message can be helpful if you are serious about change.
When I wanted to start going to bed early each night I simply set my alarm to go off at 11 pm and I knew that was my cue to get ready for bed. However, I eventually found the alarm annoying and unnecessary as going to bed at the time I wanted became natural.
You might also choose to put a written reminder somewhere helpful, depending on your habit. I wrote down my desired evening routine and morning routine and put it next to my bed where I could review it often. I found it very helpful.
As we’ve already mentioned, it’s important to keep track of your progress. Not just in your vague, imperfect memory, but write it down. This really helps you keep accountability of your progress.
You know you want to change.
You know you want to eliminate this bad habit, or these bad habits.
And of course it might take some extra will power to write down your progress if one your bad habits involves laziness and doing the bare minimum to see any progress.
But sometimes you need to exercise your will power and commit to writing a few things down.
In your record, include all your triggers, cravings, and your progress.
The more information you include the easier it will be to understand your habit and how to resolve it.
Keep track of how often you do it, how you feel, and any other challenges you are facing.
If you wanted to start drinking less alcohol, you could record how much you drink each day as well as your feelings and triggers associated with this activity. Be completely honest with yourself no matter how little progress you think you may be seeing in the beginning.
Get a notebook and keep all this information inside it.
Keep the notebook with you at all times in case you need to make a quick note about your progress.
The point is to remember the triggers for your bad habits and which replacement routines are the most effective.
There are online support groups in which you can post your results. You can write about your progress in changing your bad habits and get advice from others. That’s worth a lot if you really want to change.
When you are being observed you naturally perform better as you know you are being watched and judged.
This concept is called the Hawthorne Effect and is based on a series of experiments conducted in the 1920’s. The study wanted to see if either low or bright lighting positively impacted workers productivity. The result was that workers in both groups increased in productivity. The conclusion was that because they KNEW they were being observed they intentionally performed better.
The Hawthorne effect is often mentioned in self-help material meant to help you achieve goals. These well-meaning authors will advise you to tell all your friends about your goal in the belief that telling people makes you know your progress is being observed and thus you should perform well.
However, there is a difference between achieving goals and performing well at some task in your job. The workers in that factory didn’t necessarily start out with the goal of being the best worker possible. They just knew that they would be observed during a temporary experiment so they wanted to perform well as they knew the boss would be watching.
Maybe they reluctantly performed well for the duration of the experiment, but then when it was over they went right back to being the lazy or average workers they had been before.
Actually, much more research indicates that telling people your GOALS may actually hinder your ability to achieve them. By announcing your goals you may be convincing yourself you have made more progress than you actually have as it provides you a premature sense of completeness.
Let’s say you announce on social media that you want to kick the habit of eating unhealthy food all day every day. Well don’t you feel better now that you get some hollow validation from people who say they support your decision and desire to better yourself? Well, with that validation you feel less motivated to make improvements.
You should be changing your bad habit mostly for yourself, not for other people.
So now that we don’t understand that point, you should understand your motivation for revealing your habit changing goal should you choose to do so.
If you have someone available who you can trust to motivate you when you fail it can be helpful.
They should be honest and supportive. Often a simple reminder from them is all you need to avoid your bad habit.
If you can, team up with someone who shares your bad habit and would like to change.
I know quite a few people who started working out together regularly and it helped them stay committed to their health goals.
As support is very helpful to your overall success, it’s obviously important to keep good influences in your life.
Conversely, you may also consider kicking out negative influences, at least temporarily.
Such as if you have some pessimistic friends who discourage your progress and doubt you could ever change.
You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life, so find some better friends. Or at least turn your life around without them and then make them feel insanely jealous about your results.
Avoiding triggers as much as you can.
But it’s not always negative stimuli that trigger bad habits. You may have some drinking buddies that you consider great friends but all you ever do with them is drink or smoke. I don’t know your exact situation of course, but it might be a good idea to avoid them and your usual drinking locations until you feel you can successfully manage you bad habits.
Maybe you just need to avoid the location in which you engage in the bad habit. Always smoking when you are in a certain location. Maybe you always eat cake when you go to that certain café during lunch. You know the locations of your triggers, so you know what you should be avoiding.
When you try something new you are exercising your brain and also making it easier to develop new habits.
We’ve mentioned this already, but let’s talk about it a little more.
When you fail it is a learning opportunity. Think about why you failed. Formulate a plan for reacting to the same trigger next time.
Many people use a single failure as an excuse to give up on the new habit. Even after weeks of successfully resisting temptation.
Negative thoughts are counterproductive.
If you constantly berate yourself for your failures you just feel worse. use up energy, and reinforce another bad habit of negativity.
You don’t need that negativity in your life.
But at the same time, consider how to improve your behavior. There is always room for improvement.
Focus on what you are doing. Don’t constantly be worrying that you haven’t yet achieved your goal.
People often get discouraged about achieving a goal and give up because the destination seems so far away. But instead of worrying about where you want to be spend more time enjoying the journey.
If you want to learn guitar, you wouldn’t pick it up the first time and whine about why you aren’t as good as a professional guitarist yet. Well, actually some people with zero patience might do that. But obviously it’s completely ridiculous. Learning any new habit takes time and effort to achieve.
Keep your goal in mind. Don’t be disappointed when you aren’t able to spontaneously be that superman you envision yourself to be every day.
Look out for your triggers and formulate your plan for dealing with them.
If this is the first time you have successfully broken a bad habit then congratulations. You are starting on a path of improving yourself. Your whole life can change. You don’t need to be perfect, but it is possible to develop yourself into someone you are satisfied being.
If you want more help fixing bad habits then get my free productivity toolkit. It includes the best apps I’ve found for managing productivity and habits.
Do you have any more advice on developing self-discipline? Share it in the comments.