“Your net worth to the world is usually determined by what remains after your bad habits are subtracted from your good ones.” – Benjamin Franklin
Do you have a bad habit that is impeding you from making progress and enjoying your life to the fullest? If you answered yes, the good news is that you’re not alone. My guess is that the majority of individuals have at least one habit they would like to get rid of.
Bad habits differ from person to person. It could be something as minor as staying up too late on a regular basis, or it might even be severe like drug addiction. Whether your bad habit is small or large, the following four practical steps can help you break it for good if you work at it…
1. Rewire your Brain
Everything humans do is either to avoid pain or to gain pleasure. Think about some of the things you’ve done today. What did you do to avoid feeling pain? What did you do to gain pleasure? What I find interesting is that different people can associate pain and pleasure to different things.
For example, let’s pretend a woman named Kelly spends 20 minutes putting makeup on every morning. She absolutely loves the process of beautification, and it really brings her joy. Therefore, we can say that Kelly wears makeup primarily to gain pleasure.
Kelly has a sister named Devon, and they couldn’t be more different. Devon still puts on makeup every morning, but she hates the process. She often screams “I hate putting on makeup! Why don’t MEN have to do this!?” Devon tells people she wears makeup so she doesn’t arrive at work and hear people say “what happened to your face?” I think it’s safe to say that she is engaging in this behavior primarily to avoid pain.
Now let’s talk about that bad habit of yours. The only reason you haven’t kicked it yet is because you associate more pain to quitting than you do to continuing it. This might not even be in your conscious awareness. The unconscious mind is a million times more powerful than the conscious mind, and it’s running the show approximately 95-99% of the time!
Also, you should know that we humans will do far more to avoid pain than we will to gain pleasure. Think about it. Would you work harder to earn $1,000, or to keep someone from taking away $1,000 that you’ve already earned?
The purpose of the following exercise is to help you start rewiring your brain. First get a pen and a sheet of paper. At the top, write the name of the bad habit you want to eliminate. Then draw a line down the middle of the paper. On the left side will be all of the things that bring you pleasure from continuing the habit. The right side will be everything that brings you pain.
On a scale of 0-10, rate how much pleasure you’re gaining from engaging in the bad habit. How much pain are you avoiding? How much pain are you enduring? Doing this exercise will give you a conscious awareness of why you haven’t been able to quit your bad habit. Step 2 will work on the more powerful unconscious mind.
2. Use Visualization Techniques
Using the power of visualization, you will be reprogramming your unconscious mind to link massive pain to continuing the habit, and extreme pleasure to quitting. If you visualize something with extreme intensity and focus, your brain literally cannot tell the difference between the visualization and a real event. There have been many studies confirming this. The following technique will need to be practiced for fifteen minutes per day until the bad habit is broken.
Sit in a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted. Close your eyes. Imagine that you’re engaging in the bad habit. Visualize all the negative impacts it has on your life. Make the picture in your head big and bright. Feel the negative emotions associated with the bad habit, then magnify them. Make yourself feel as bad as possible while you’re imagining that you’re engaging in the habit. Do this for about seven or eight minutes.
Next, visualize yourself quitting the habit. Smile. Notice how good you feel. See yourself a month in the future. Feel the wonderful emotions that come with knowing that you did it. You broke that nasty old habit! Now imagine that it’s been six months. See yourself living and enjoying life. You’re amazing! Give yourself a pat on the back and allow yourself to take credit for the wonderful person that you are!
3. Make a Contract
In his best-selling book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini refers to six different “weapons of influence” that humans are naturally susceptible to. They are called “weapons of influence” because compliance professionals can often use them to get an individual to do what they want. On these last two exercises, you’re going to harness the power of the following weapon of influence: commitment/consistency.
People have a general desire to appear consistent in their behavior. People generally also value consistency in others. Furthermore, we have a strong desire to stand by commitments made by providing further justification and reasons for supporting them.
To start influencing yourself, write or type up a contract. Start the contract with “I, _______, promise to quit _______ by the following date, _______. Fill in the details of why you must quit the bad habit, as well as the action steps you will take to achieve your goal. Sign it in blue or black ink at the bottom.
4. Share it on Social Media
Post your contract on Facebook. Make a YouTube video and share it on social media. Do whatever you think will have the biggest impact on you. Tell you friends and family about your contract. Send it out in an email blast. The desire to remain consistent and keep your commitment will influence you and give you determination to see your goal through to the end.