The new year is a time to break bad habits and replace them with healthy ones, but we all know that is often easier said than done. It’s never easy to get rid of a bad habit, but it’s almost always worth the effort. Fortunately, there are plenty of techniques that can help make it easier. Breaking those bad habits will still take effort, but a little bit of strategy can make it much easier to succeed.
Set Clear Goals
The most important thing is having a clear understanding of your goals before you start the process. These goals should be very specific. Broad goals don’t provide any guidance or clear objectives that can help you plan, so they are not very useful.
Instead, try to break the broad goal into smaller, more specific objectives. If possible, try to break those goals up into even smaller objectives. Completing a small objective will give you a sense of achievement and prove that you are making progress, so they can make it easier to work toward your final objective. For example, many people want to improve their general health. Instead of simply resolving to get healthy, you might come up with a list of objectives like this:
- Exercise three times each week.
- Stop drinking soda.
- Eat five servings of fruit and vegetables per day.
Your goals should also have clear terms of success and failure. We all try to rationalize things to ourselves, but that can get in the way of progress. The best way to fight that urge is to make your goals explicitly clear so that you can’t rationalize your way out of completing it.
One At A Time
We often see people who try to break all of their bad habits at the same time. Some people try to quit smoking, improve their diets and save money all at once. While it’s true that some goals support each other and make the entire process easier, it’s usually best to work on one thing at a time.
The human brain only has so much willpower to go around. When a person does one thing that is mentally or emotionally draining, they have a harder time with the next challenge unless they have a chance to recover first. Trying to break a bad habit is exactly the sort of challenge that drains the brain, so trying to break more than one at a time usually reduces your chances of breaking any of the habits.
Instead, prioritize all of your habits and work on fixing them gradually. Once you have gotten one of them under control to the point where you don’t need to think about fixing it, move on to the next. Not only does this conserve your mental strength, it makes it easier to see your own progress and stay motivated as you work to better yourself.
A habit is a thing that you regularly do without thinking about it. When we hear about people who couldn’t break their bad habits, we often hear them say that they did things without realizing it until after they were done. The insidious fact that people forget about their goals until after they fail to make progress is why habits are so hard to break.
Fortunately, people who are aware of that problem have an easy time fixing it. If you find that you are forgetting about your goals, you should consider placing regular reminders around your home. If you are trying to improve your diet, consider adding a section to your shopping list that has all of the things that you want to avoid buying. Compare the list to your cart before you head to the checkout line, and get rid of anything that you aren’t supposed to have. If you are forgetting to exercise, set your phone to remind you five minutes before your scheduled workout. The reminder should be obvious, impossible to ignore and needs to show up right before you have a chance to fall back into your old habits.
Make It Inconvenient
We all do lazy things sometimes, and we can all turn our laziness into a tool to help break our habits. We often do things that we know are bad for us because it’s much easier than doing a healthy alternative. Breaking that kind of habit is easy since all it takes is making bad choices so inconvenient that we pick the good option instead.
There are a lot of different ways to do this, but they all require cooperation from the other people in your life. After all, it doesn’t do any good to move the unhealthy food to the back of the pantry if your friends are constantly offering it to you. As long as they support you, there are plenty of useful techniques:
- Move unhealthy food to a place where you can’t reach it without finding a stepstool or other tool. Put healthy alternatives within easy reach.
- If you spend too much time on your phone, download an app to lock it every twenty minutes. Even if unlocking it is relatively quick, the interruption gives you a chance to do something else.
- If you want to cut your calories, force yourself to wait through a short timer before you start eating. This won’t matter if you’re hungry, but you probably won’t wait if you’re only eating due to boredom or habit.
Replace Your Habits
You’re always going to have some habits, some we recommend replacing your bad ones with healthier alternatives. Find a healthy activity that you enjoy, such as exercising, and make a point of doing it whenever you feel the urge to fall into your bad habit. The activity will distract your from your bad habit, and eventually, the urge to do it will replace your unhealthy urges. Any activity will work, as long as it’s something healthy that you can start doing quickly and easily.
As you set your own New Year’s resolutions for 2017, use these tips and tricks to help you create a list of SMART goals — specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based. With SMART goals, you’re more likely to be successful in achieving your resolutions and breaking at least one of those bad habits.