We all struggle with certain vices — things that are incredibly hard to say “no” to. Most of my clients are working hard to change lifestyle and dietary habits so they can live longer, more energized and fulfilling lives. When we're motivated, change can be easy. Change is easiest when we’ve reached a point where our habits have become painful enough that we seek relief. Even if we're motivated, we still need to overcome certain habits that can be hard to kick.
Here are three techniques you can use to help you kick those nagging habits for good:
1. Create a negative association:
Is there anything that you would never do because it’s dangerous enough to make you stay away? Perhaps you could never imagine smoking. Or maybe you would never ride a motorcycle. Or, here’s a no-brainer: you would never drink poison. At least, I hope not. Whatever it is, think of that now. Think of the thing that you could never imagine doing because it would put you at risk or in danger.
Now think of the thing you're currently trying to change. For this example, we’ll use candy. What is candy doing to you? Is it making you fat? Is it putting you at risk for diabetes? Is it making your energy crash in the middle of the day? List all of the things your current behavior is costing you. Once you have that list, really focus on it. Think of all the ways it is taking you away from the life you want for yourself. In reality, it’s possible that candy is endangering your life. In many ways, it is like poison.
Once you’ve linked the thing you're trying to quit to something that could possibly kill you, keep reinforcing that connection. Start calling it by a new name. Instead of “candy,” call it “poison,” “diabetes,” “fat,” or something just as powerful for you — something that will wake you up and call attention to your goals. You’ll notice that your relationship to it will change. You’ll start to realize that the thing you went to for pleasure and comfort now has a new meaning. It will become something that takes you away from your goals, your visions and your dreams.
2. Have a backup plan:
Now that you’ve identified the habit you want to break, it’s time to create a backup plan. You might have been successful at creating a negative association with your trigger, but you're likely still going to be tempted. Pick something you're going to do instead of eating the candy, and be specific. For example, every time you're tempted by candy, decide to eat blueberries instead, go for a walk, do 10 pushups, or put on your favorite song and dance around your office (with the door closed). You get the idea. You can pick a few alternate options to choose from. Once you have a set of new behaviors, make sure to enact them when you get bitten by the temptation bug. Having a specific plan in place will help you when you might otherwise stumble.
3. Create a powerful motivator
This is one of the key factors in creating lasting change. Remember when I told you that people tend to make changes when they're in the most pain? Well, it’s time to capitalize on that pain. Write out a paragraph highlighting the reasons you're ready to kick your habits. How are they not serving you? What are they costing you? How is your current behavior negatively impacting those you love? Why is it absolutely necessary for you to create the life you want to be living? What will your life be like if you don’t step up and take charge?
This series of questions will give rise to the powerful reasons behind your desire to change. Once you’ve got your answer, keep it close. Call on it anytime you see yourself slipping or struggling. Get support through your own words to keep you on track.
I wish you all the best on your journey to your very best self.