Whether it’s chewing relentlessly on your nails when you’re stressed or letting your organized work-space transform into an overwhelming mess of papers and grease-smudged fast food wrappers, most people, if they’re being honest, have at least one bad habit.
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Do you really need to kick this habit to the curb? The answer depends upon the degree to which the habit negatively impacts your life. If your chewing results in sore and nubby nails or your perpetually cluttered work-space leaves co-workers thinking less of you, then the answer is probably yes.
While getting rid of a habit is often difficult, it is something you can accomplish with concerted effort and the application of a few helpful tips.
Identify The Trigger
Most habits have a trigger. If you can identify the trigger, you help yourself become more conscious of the habit, which makes it easier to extinguish.
The next time you find yourself indulging in your habit of choice, stop and think back to what immediately led up to you starting the behavior. If you do this a few times, you may effectively narrow in on your trigger.
Write Down Your Goal
There is magic in writing it down. When you keep a goal or plan in your head, you allow it to remain an amorphous idea that lacks grounding. When you write it down, however, it becomes tangible.
If you keep a journal or maintain a day planner, write your goal of extinguishing this habit in it. You need to write it on a piece of paper or post it and put it somewhere you will see it often, for example, on your bathroom mirror.
It’s easier not to engage in your habit behavior if you have something else to do instead. Select something that is less distasteful than the habit you are trying to extinguish to do in place of this behavior. Ideally, the thing you select should be related to the behavior you engage in when you perform the habit.
For example, if you pull out pieces of hair when you become stressed, pick up a spikey, soft ball and pull on the spike tips instead. Even if you break a few of these off, it’s better than the alternative.
Experiment With Options
What works for some doesn’t work for others. Some smokers, for example, find success in stopping by munching on grapes every time the impulse to light up strikes. For others, this practice will result in nothing but the development of a serious aversion to grapes.
Pick a technique that you think will work for you and give it a try. Commit to the technique you selected as switching tactics repeatedly will almost surely result in failure.
If, after a period of time, you find that your technique isn’t working, don’t give up on your quest altogether. Instead, try a different approach. Just because one method didn’t prove fruitful doesn’t mean you won’t have more success with something else.
Focus On One Habit At A Time
If you’ve got tons of bad habits that you want to extinguish, it’s going to take you a bit longer to fully wean yourself off these behaviors. Always focus on only one habit at a time, however, as you will certainly undermine your efforts if you divide your focus between two or more habits.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, or so they say, and you can’t empty your entire catalog of annoying habits in one round of effort.
Add Extra Motivation
If you experience the most success when you have something on the line, put this personality characteristic to good use. Tell a trusted friend or family member of your goal and give them $20 to hold for you.
Tell this confidant only to give it back to you when you’ve succeeded in getting rid of the habit after a set period of time. If you do succeed in the allotted time, you get your $20 back. If you fail, your friend is $20 richer and can help you find a new approach.
Stick To It
Getting rid of your habit won’t be easy. There is nothing that you can do to make the process effortless. If you really want to get rid of your habit, you’re going to have to stick with it despite any setbacks or failures you may experience.
Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Such is the case with extinguishing habits. You don’t fail until you quit. As long as you keep trying and exerting focused effort, you will find something that works and you will be annoying-habit free in no time.