Playing fetch with a dog is tremendous fun. After a few times throwing and retrieving the ball you can fool the dog by faking throwing the ball and most dogs will still run after it. So strong is the power of habit. Funny that when we want to give up a bad habit we think our behavior will be different. Yet even if we remove the offending thing, we will still go chasing after it or a substitute.
When living intentionally, to get rid of a bad habit you have to design a replacement behavior to fill the hole you are creating in your life. Otherwise, the old behavior, or another one that may not be quite as bad, becomes like the pits the coyote dug when trying to trap the roadrunner. Notice how he always fell in them himself?
When I decided to give up overeating I knew I had to find an alternative to watching television in the evenings since that was when I was most prone to consume junk. I had read somewhere that avid readers finished at least 50 books a year so I made that my goal. Over the last eight years, I substituted reading over 500 books for eating too much. It is true. I love to eat.
Here are the steps to rid yourself of a bad habit:
- Decide on a positive replacement behavior. Work on bad habits one at a time. Give a lot of thought to what you will do instead of the negative behavior. Do you really want to be a gum chewer instead of a smoker?
- Commit in writing. When it is in your mind it is a dream, not a goal.
- Set 30 days for your first trial. It takes at least a month to get rid of a bad habit. But that is just the first hurdle. Scott Young in his Pick the Brain blog post says that 90 and 365 days are also significant milestones.
- Ask for reinforcement from family members, friends, and colleagues. Zig Ziglar notes that when giving something up you should tell as many people as possible since they will be happy to hold you accountable when you backslide.
There are many other techniques you can use to bolster your effort to free yourself from a negative behavior but these four steps form the foundation for an intentional plan to direct your life where you want it to go.
Question – What have you used as a replacement for a bad habit?
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