Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.
My alarm goes off at 5:30am every morning. I fumble around to hit the oval button on the top of the clock that tells me it’s time to get up. My pre-programmed coffee maker has already started working for the day, and the delicious aroma wafts into my bedroom, doing a much better job of motivating me to get out of bed than the blasting beep of my ear-piercing alarm. I pull on a robe, head to the kitchen, and pour coffee into my favorite mug. And thus, my day begins.
As it turns out, this routine of mine is a bad habit. According to experts, drinking water first thing in the morning, before coffee, has tons of benefits: it’s the best way to hydrate, aids digestion, releases toxins, and curbs our appetites (just to name a few).
I slightly changed my routine to turn a bad habit into a good one. Now, my alarm goes off at 5:30am. I turn it off, and pull on a robe while my coffee maker is already brewing. I grab my already filled with ice-water YETI bottle and swig it down before leaving my bedroom. Then, I go grab my cup of coffee.
This small change has become a good habit that makes me feel better during the day. I drink less coffee since I’m already filled with water, which in turn makes me less jittery since I’m getting less caffeine.
This is a basic example of a bad and good habit that you can probably relate to if you are a coffee drinker, or struggle to drink enough water each day. The ugly truth is that bad habits can be growth-stunters, relationship-breakers, business-killers, and health-destroyers. If we let bad habits call the shots in our lives, the results can range from minor inconveniences to devastating consequences.
Personally, I’ve experienced how breaking free from bad habits has gained me the freedom to achieve my goals. I want to help you do the same, whatever your bad habits might be.
Download the Breaking Free from Bad Habits worksheet to help you create enduring success. The steps and tips below are all included in the worksheet, so you can follow along while taking practical steps to break free.
Breaking Free Starts With Awareness
What are your bad habits? If you are reading this, you must know you have at least one. Everyone does! You can’t break free from chains that you don’t acknowledge. I encourage you to take some time today to think about the bad habits you may have.
To help get your mind primed to shine light on your habits, here are a few examples of bad habits:
- Other tasks take priority over exercising, which means working out often gets skipped.
- Your day begins with checking your email or phone notifications instead of starting the day with something energizing and uplifting, such as meditating, praying, journaling, or reading.
- You procrastinate making those important client relationship building phone calls by working on the put-out-fire activities in your workday.
- Your day ends with mindlessly scrolling through social media.
- “Just one TV show” turns into three episodes and now it’s an hour past your bedtime.
- When you put your kids to bed, it’s time for an indulgent dessert as a reward for getting through the day.
Oftentimes, bad habits develop because we lose sight of the things we need to do and the goals and dreams we hope to achieve. Good habits go away and bad habits creep in. Sometimes breaking free is as simple as stopping and becoming aware of the good that is missing or the bad that is present. Then, making an intentional choice to minimize the bad and enhance the good.
Practical Ways To Break Free From Bad Habits
Once you are aware of your bad habits and have made the choice to stop, it’s time to take control and break free! It can be overwhelming to think about overcoming a bad habit that has a hold in your life, but there are a few practical steps you can take to find success without the overwhelm.
- Adjust the cue of your habit loop. I highly suggest The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and Atomic Habits by James Clear. They are both inspiring and motivational books that will help you to build awareness of your habits – both good and bad – and learn how to change them using a habit loop. The idea is that every habit is made up of three components of a repeated process: cue, routine, and reward.
Going back to my “water before coffee” example, my cue to get up and drink coffee was my alarm clock. My routine was my robe, smelling the coffee, and pouring a cup. My reward was the coffee. I ever so slightly adjusted the cue by placing my already full water bottle in plain sight. My new cue is the alarm, paired with the sight of my water. The routine begins with the water, continues with the coffee, and is rewarded with both a little coffee and feeling better during the day.
Whatever the cue is for you, figure out how to adjust it to meet your goal and develop a good habit in place of the bad.
- Find accountability. Everyone knows finding accountability skyrockets your chance of breaking free from a bad habit and finding success. That’s why programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and drug rehabilitation centers exist. We need each other.
In my small water/coffee example, I verbalized to my husband my morning water-drinking intention. So he and my YETI water bottle staring me in the face when I first wake up is a form of accountability. For more intense habits, finding someone you know and trust to check in, set boundaries, and encourage you when you mess up is vital to success. When I decided to finally sober up and break free from my life of drug and alcohol addiction, my sister was that safe place for me.
- Prepare. You need a plan for three different scenarios:
What can you do now to set yourself up for success in the future? Eliminating the cue and finding accountability are great starts, but what else can you do specific to the habit you are trying to break? Maybe you need to not eat out at restaurants that serve alcohol, or you need to stop watching TV at night so that you are rested enough to wake up and exercise in the morning. Think of anything and everything you can do to help yourself be successful. Then implement one . . . work on that, and then another!
What will you do when you are tempted to give in and return to your bad habit? You need a very specific plan here, or else giving in will be too easy. When I forget to fill up my water bottle the night before, my plan is to stop by the refrigerator before the coffee pot. It would be easy to say, “oh well, I’ll just skip it.” but that is taking one step towards retraining a bad habit. If your bad habit is to stop eating a mid-day sweet treat and you find yourself staring down a plate of chocolate chip cookies, you need a plan that will stop you from grabbing one (or two). Having gum in your pocket or purse is a great way to keep your mouth busy when temptation strikes.
What will you do when you mess up and need to get back on track? I can’t stress enough the importance of giving yourself grace. We all mess up. We all take steps backwards. And it’s OK! If you mess up and give in to your bad habit, revisit your plans above and start fresh. You may need to adjust your plans or routines to prevent another misstep. Focus on doing the little things great instead of trying to conquer a huge goal all at once.
- Practice. You have to practice a healthy habit loop (cue, routine, reward) over and over again for it to become a good habit. Just like the most amazing pianists of all time, you have to practice, practice, practice. Breaking free from bad habits can be a long process and won’t happen overnight. A research study from 2012 concludes that it can take 18 to 254 days to break free from a bad habit and replace it with a good one. Don’t let that discourage you, but embrace the process and choose to love yourself as you go through the ups and downs.
- Reflect. You are aware of the habit you want to break. You have a plan on how to stop. You know what you want to be doing instead. Reflection is what will actually build your strength in conquering a bad habit and replacing it with a good one. How am I doing? How do I feel? Is there anything I should change? What else needs to happen to find even more success? Revisiting your progress and thinking through how to improve is the final step to breaking free from bad habits!
You Can Break Free, I Know You Can.
You may be thinking, “It’s too hard to break this habit,” “I’ve been living with these bad habits for too long,” or, “There is no way I can do this.” I know that you can break free from your bad habits, no matter what they are, because I have done it. And if I can do it, so can you. Over my lifetime, my bad habits have included drug addiction, lying, stealing, compartmentalizing, procrastinating, and so much more. I climbed out of the pit of despair and created enduring success.
According to the American Psychological Association, 43% of everyday actions are enacted habitually while people are thinking about something else. I want to help your team boost your business by inspiring intentional thought and behavior change. Contact me today to learn more about my inspirational speech and team workshops offerings.
About Trish Kendall
As an expert on achieving enduring success and transforming the audience to see themselves in a different light, inspirational speaker, Trish Kendall brings candid stories, humor in the face of true hardship, simple lessons, compassion and love to all her speaking engagements. Follow her on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook and sign up for her newsletter for regular inspiration and wisdom regarding community building, belonging, choosing love, and enduring success.
If you’re ready to book Trish as your next keynote speaker or if you want to learn more about her story and her message, please reach out.
“Trish, I am so grateful that you’ve chosen to share your story and deeply honored that you trusted us to listen. I’m inspired by your passion to effect change and confident that you will. You were truly amazing tonight. Truly. Amazing. With love & admiration.”