Breaking Deep-Rooted Habits
It wouldn’t be a habit if it weren’t something you’ve done over and over and over again without ever thinking about it. Habits become ingrained. We repeat them mindlessly. Sometimes we call our habits routines – really? Our routines become habitual.
We get up each day – some of us pop right into the shower, others pull on their sweats and work out, others race to the coffee pot. It’s rare we vary our routine except for holidays. Our favorite foods, our beverages, our daily activities – all the ones we repeat each and every day, these are habitual.
Habits and their routine are not bad things – in fact, they’re super helpful in this crazy, busy world we live in. Otherwise, we’ d spend lots of time planning the same things over and over again. So, habits are good and helpful. Except when they’re not. Here’s where we run ourselves into a challenge – repetitive can sometimes run us into hard to break habits.
If you are thinking about breaking a habit, start by thinking about what you are doing when you put that habit into action. Is there a particular time of day or a particular social situation that means it’s time for your habit? Pull the entire experience apart to find what drives you to the habit. For example, when I wanted to quit smoking, I realized that I identified myself as a smoker and that I didn’t like the idea of saying I could never smoke again. What did I do? I decided to put smoking off; twenty years later, I continue to think of myself as a smoker though I haven't had a cigarette for over twenty years. You can read more about how this worked at 15-minute wins.
Habit guru, Charles Duhigg, tells about his afternoon cookie habit that he wanted to change. With thought, he figured out that his purpose for going to the cafeteria for a cookie was to chat with others – he needed a break and human contact! His result, instead of stopping to chat with a friend in the cafeteria, they do it in a meeting room not laden with food. And, he brings an apple!
This, of course, is just the first step. And, it isn’t as easy as these two examples might imply. Still, if you begin to pull apart what reminds you to practice your habit, you’ll likely find some clues that will help you to break that habit.