How to Break Bad Habits

Don’t you wish breaking bad habits would be as easy as digging in your heel to stop and never doing it again? Aristotle had this to share about habits: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit. I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies, for the hardest victory is over self.”

Thank you Taryn and Bethany for the photo!

Yes, we are what we repeatedly do and the hardest victory is over self.  I wish it were simple, don’t you? Just stop doing whatever has repeatedly become a bad habit and victory over self is accomplished. Ta Da!

In our family, you will often hear us say to each other, “Stop It!”  You’ll appreciate this comical skit from MadTV with Bob Newhart as Dr. Switzer, a psychologist with a simple theory on human behavior.  The skit is hilarious and worth watching through the end!

For me, overcoming a bad habit is more complex than hearing the words, “Stop It!”  I must make the deliberate effort towards changing a wrong behavior or I will forever be stuck with a burdensome yoke around my neck as, “The Bad Habit.”

Changing behavior must be intentional. It will require you to be introspective regarding your behavior and lifestyle. Study yourself  in the fashion of looking through a binocular lens…but this lens is looking into your inner most being, studying what makes you tick, what brings you low or lifts you high. You want to get into your head and to know yourself really well!

Here are 4 ways I’ve found helpful to breaking a bad habit:

1. Identify the habit you want to change. (over eating, spending too much money, substance abuse, not exercising, etc.)

2.Use the binocular lens to identify the cue that triggers the behavior. (hungry, angry, lonely, tired, stress, insignificance, etc.)

3. Know yourself really well and understand the need the habit meets. (comfort, creativity, social stimulus, the high from spending cash, etc.)

4. Without changing the cue and reward, replace the routine with a new behavior.

Here are 3 ways I replace the routine with a new behavior:

1. A daily time with God. A lack of personal time with God will result in casualty! There are many options for you to use. I personally am using this method for a consistent time with God. (Four ways to make daily time with God a habit.) Currently, I am reading through the book of Nehemiah, a fascinating book detailing leadership, resolve, overcoming obstacles, trusting God, prayer…God’s Word is perfect at every stage of life and will meet the need at that moment.

2. Spending time with friends. I cannot possibly go for days without being with friends. The adage, “Laughter is the best medicine” is true. I need to laugh and I crave laughter! I need friends to keep me accountable. A good friend will encourage my soul to grow deeper into God’s truth while cheering me on to become the best at what  God created me to be. A good friend will stay with me in the messy places.

3. Exercise. When boredom strikes or if I become agitated or fidgety, I slip on my running shoes and go for a fast walk around the block or in the parking lot where I work. Taking regular and routine 5 minute breaks throughout the day helps me regain focus. I work at staying in the habit of daily exercise, whether it be walking, running, lifting weights or jumping rope.

Real change and real transformation will take work. You can’t do it on your own, and you shouldn’t try to.

You may enjoy reading:

Boasting in Weakness

The Unmaking of a Worship Disorder

Two Ways You can Become a Cheerful Person


The following are some resources that I’ve found helpful:

How to Change a Bad Habit Into a Good One

The worship of the living God gives us peace and equilibrium to face the troubles of life. -Tim Keller

How to break bad habits from biting your nails to running late. -Real Simple

What have you learned about breaking bad habits?  Does saying, “Stop It” make it easier?  What do you think?