How To Break Bad Habits (Part 2)
In my previous post, How To Break Bad Habits (Part 1), I shared that within each of us is the desire to behave in a way that has a positive influence on those we love and serve. Unfortunately, often our actions do not match our desires. We find ourselves doing things we do not want to do and the result is frustration, strained relationships, and failure to achieve our potential as leaders in the home and at work. In How To Break Bad Habits (Part 1) I introduced steps 1 - 4 of a 10 step process to help you break the bad habits in your life. Today, I will share with you steps 5 -10 of this process. While steps 1 through 4 will help you understand and identify the source of bad habits, the last six steps of this process will equip you to take control of your behaviors, creating new healthy habits, and lead with greater intentionality and purpose.
- Create A Healthy Behavior Pathway - Forgiveness, grace, and ownership are powerful tools to help you break your bad habits, but it does take time before you can experience complete freedom. If certain thoughts and feelings have led to behavior you want to change then creating new pathways will be essential for your long term success. Start with the pathway you outlined in step two and replace the points where you made a decision to engage in unhealthy behavior with decisions to engage in healthy behavior. For example, if you find yourself eating when you are stressed then write down two or three alternative positive behaviors for you to engage in when you feel stressed. Instead of eating you could workout, pray, go for a walk, or journal. The key is to choose something positive that helps you to take control of how you respond to emotions and circumstances that in the past have fed your bad behavior. Outline a new pathway for expressing your thoughts and feelings for each habit you want to break. Consider creating a reward for yourself when you follow the new healthy behavior pathway.
- Set Boundaries in Your Life - Just as a home in a neighborhood has a fence that surrounds it's property line, you too must create boundaries in your life to protect you from negative influences that feed your behaviors and bad habits. This may require you to limit time with certain individuals in your life that perpetuate your bad habits. It may mean you need to remove certain programming on your television or install filtering software on your computer. It may require more serious life changes like a new job, moving to a new location, or even ending relationships altogether. Boundaries are needed because life is not perfect and neither are we. We are fallible humans with a nature that has elements of being destructive and unhealthy when we do not set boundaries. Without proper boundaries the likelihood of your bad habits returning increases greatly.
- Create Opportunities For Intentional Living - Once you have created boundaries to help limit the negative influences in your life you must look for opportunities to live with intentionality and purpose. This means intentionally creating opportunities for you to express your feelings, thoughts, and behaviors in new and positive ways. For example, blocking time in your calendar to go workout, to take a healthy cooking class, to serve your community, to go to church, to spend time with the people you love and serve. Focus on creating opportunities to live out your new healthy behavior pathways - in other words, set yourself up for success.
- Track Your Progress - As you begin this process I recommend you track your progress every day for the first ninety days. Journal daily your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors around each bad habit you want to break. Include your successes, challenges, and new positive behaviors which have helped you live with greater intentionality. Start by attempting to win each week by have at least 4 out of the 7 days where you do not engage in any bad habits. Continue to raise this number each week to a point where you are living all seven days with greater purpose and intentionality. Remember, perfection is not the goal. Living with excellence is. This means becoming more and more self-aware and regulating your response to your emotions and circumstances outside of your control. A wonderful tool to help you assess and track your progress in this area of your leadership would be an Emotional Intelligence (EQ) assessment.
- Identify An Accountability Partner or Group - The people I know that have broken bad habits and created new healthy behaviors have all shared with me that having an accountability partner or group is essential to long-term success. There will be times when you want to quit and return to your bad habits, and in those moments you need someone you trust, and that wants to see you be successful, by your side. Depending on the types of behaviors your want to change and habits you want to break there are many support groups available for you to consider. Organizations like Celebrate Recovery, Alcoholics Anonymous, and faith based communities all offer help for people struggling to break extremely harmful habits. If you need to break less severe bad habits in life and business, then an executive business and life coach may be right for you.
- Share Your Experience - The final step in the process of breaking bad habits is to share your experience with someone else. Feelings of shame and guilt will often keep people from sharing their experience and thus never allowing them to fully heal and experience freedom from the control of the bad habit. Sharing your experience not only helps you but also can inspire others to take action. Your courage to take action and change will help some believe that they too can break the destructive cycle of bad habits in their life.
Remember, we all have bad habits that need to be addressed. You are not alone on this journey. Use the ten step process I have outlined in Part 1 and Part 2 of this post to begin the process of change. It will take time - you will experience challenges - and you will have to make difficult decisions, but it can be done!
To your success!