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Why Is It So Hard To Break A Bad Habit?

Apr 15, 2008
Habitual activity is yet another item on the long list of constants among all people. This, of course, includes good habits as well as bad habits - such as smoking, drinking, overeating, nail biting, procrastination. It's often difficult to understand why we create habits for activities that are bad for us either physically, emotionally, or socially, especially when we consider the consequences, but somehow we do. Luckily, many hours of research have been put into finding out the basic causes of bad habits.

Certainly a lot of progress has been made in that area, but that doesn't mean much to the masses of us who have bad habits and want to get rid of them. Basically, what we want is an answer. Preferably a quick answer. Something in the way of a miracle cure, if possible.

Unfortunately, there are no miracle cures when it comes to breaking a bad habit. It's true what they say, that it takes some work and commitment. But it can be done. There's at least enough anecdotal evidence to give us hope. For example, most of us know someone who's been able to quit smoking for good, or stop overeating and lose weight. But how did they do it?

The truth is that most people break their bad habit through the use of a mentor, or expert in their field. So some people hire or read books by nutrition experts to help them improve their diet. Some people watch exercise videos or get a physical trainer to lose weight. Some people join Alcoholics Anonymous. And so on.

It's the exceptionally rare person who is able to quit a habit without outside help and through sheer force of will. I know a lot of us like to think that we have strong enough will power to stop whenever we want, but the fact of the matter is that few of us do. Which is why few of us ever break our bad habits.

You see, simply forcing yourself to stop a habit leaves you with a void, one that you used to fill with that habit. So if you are the type of person who snacks on chocolate while you watch TV, and you want to stop snacking and lose weight, then if you simply stop snacking, every time you watch TV, you'll continue to have a strong urge to snack some more because that's what you've always done. It's more the habit that you're addicted to than the chocolate. And eventually, you'll go back to it.

So the trick, simplistically put, is to replace your snacking habit with a different, positive habit - even if it's simply snacking on something healthy, like fruits and nuts. So rather than participating in your negative habit, you're now participating in a positive habit that is good for you and helps you feel better about yourself.

Look at it this way: what are the positives of breaking your bad habit? Will you feel better physically? Will you save money by not spending it on your habit? Will you lose weight? Will your chewed up fingernails look better? Will you get your work done earlier?

Then think about the rewards that come from these positives: If I don't spend money on cigarettes for a few months, I'll have enough money for a weekend getaway. If I get my work done earlier, I won't have to stay late, and I'll have more time with my family. If I lose weight, I'll have enough energy to go back to playing football on the weekends with my friends. What will the rewards be for you?

Of course, it isn't just that easy to do. It will take some time and effort, and the right coaching. I do believe that an expert coach is a must for most of us when it comes to breaking bad habits. And it has to be the type of coach who approaches your habit from a positive point of view. One who encourages you, makes you feel good about yourself, and makes you want to participate in your positive habits.

So my suggestion to you is to find an expert in the right field, who has the right credentials, and who wants you to succeed more than they want to make a quick buck off of your pain. The right coach is out there. You can find one.

Good luck with your habit breaking efforts.
About the Author
Mark Yarrobino is the president of Maroon Enterprises. One of their websites, BreakYourBadHabits.com offers a 3 1/2 hour audio course and a 5-day email course that can help their visitors break bad habits for good.
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