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The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken Samuel  Johnson

All of us have a habit, or two, that we want to get rid of, but can’t. The bad habit stays with us and soon we accept it as an integral part of our being. Every now and then the realisation dawns upon us that our life would become much better if we got rid of the bad habit. Kicking a bad habit out of our life, however, is easier said than done.

Here is what I think we should do when we are trying to quit a bad habit.

1. Accept. The first and the most important step is to identify a bad habit, and label it as bad. When we find it difficult to get rid of a bad habit, we try to rationalize the habit. We look for the silver lining in the cloud so that we can use that as an excuse to continue with the habit. For example, a smoker might tell himself, “I smoke only with friends, and that too only because smoking help us gel as a group.” So, even though he knows that he is slowly killing himself with his smoking habit, he gives himself  a good reason for doing so.

2. Tell the world. Once we have identified a habit as bad, and decided to get rid of it, we should announce our decision to our close friends and relatives. Many people have told me that they don’t like to tell others about their decision to get rid of a habit until they have got rid of the habit. They feel that a failure to get rid of the habit may lead to embarrassment. In fact this fear is precisely the reason that we should tell others about our resolution to quit a bad habit. The fear of embarrassment can, and should, be used positively as a motivator to help us stick to our resolve.

Moreover, telling others about our decision might get us some good advice from someone who has already done what we are planning to do.

3.Keep track. Once we have started the journey of getting ready of the bad habit, it is a good idea to keep a track of our journey. Keeping track of the number of days we have managed to avoid the habit provides a sense of achievement which, in turn, can act as a powerful motivator for  staying on course. These days there are many tools that can help us track our progress. Joe’s Goals is one good tool that I feel could be very useful for anyone trying  to get rid of some bad habits, and develop some good ones.

4. Be wary of those weak moments. After we have successfully managed to stay off the habit for a few days, one day we might suddenly feel  a strong urge to do the thing that we are trying to avoid. A part of our brain quietly says, “It is just one time, and then we will be back on the quitting regime”.

Don’t fall for that; stay strong and keep off the habit.  Think of all the hardships that we have gone through to get to where we are, and also think of all the benefits that will accrue over a period of time on account of kicking the bad habit.

5. Replace it with another, good habit. Once we have got rid of the bad habit, we might have some free time on our hands. It is best if we use this time to do something good and healthy. In fact, an effort should be made to replace the bad habit with a good one. It is often quoted that it takes about 21 days for a person to develop a good habit. While I cannot vouch for the authenticity of that statement, I think it is a good idea to make a plan to develop a good habit over a period of 21 days.

In spite of  the above, there will be times when we fail to quit a bad habit the first time we try to do so. That does not mean that the above tips don’t work, or the habit is unbreakable. It just means that we are going to have to try again, and harder to break free of the  bad habit.

What is the one bad habit that you have been trying to get rid of? What are your tips to quit a bad habit?

Image: mzacha from sxc.hu

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