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How to Eliminate Ineffective Habits

If you are planning on making some major (OR minor) changes in your life by eliminating one or more of your ineffective habits, one thing to keep in mind is that it’s rarely possible to “just” eliminate a self-destructive or otherwise ineffective habit.  This process is effective and will stick if you replace that ineffective habit with a “power-habit” – one that serves you well and moves you towards your goals.

Here are some examples that’ll help you see exactly what this means for practical purposes. This is a list of some of the bad habits that you might want to change:

·       Stop eating fast food

·       Stop binge-watching Netflix and get more work done

·       Quit procrastinating so much

·       Stop staying up so late

·       Quit being so messy

Excellent! You identified the habits you want to change. Let’s get to work, right? 

Not so fast!

Unfortunately identifying ineffective habits is not enough…! It’s a great start, but it’s only the start.

The problem is, if you start on the road to change with this list you are going to psych yourself out before you even begin, because you are going to be taking things away from yourself. The way this list looks to your brain is something like this.

·       Never eat those delicious burgers, fries and milkshakes ever again

·       Stop having the enormous pleasure of binge-watching Netflix TV shows

·       Work all the time and don’t spend time on fun stuff

·       Quit doing the fun stuff you love that kept you up late

·       Become a cleaning-freak and spend too much time on organizing stuff

When you are listing habits that you want to eliminate, you are making your brain think that it’s losing some of the most pleasurable parts of your life. This will result in sabotaging your progress as you try to make these changes. Instead, decide on what new habits you’ll adopt that’ll serve you in more positive ways.

Here are some examples of some habits that will do exactly the same thing as the ones identified above, but will trick your brain into thinking you are getting a reward instead of being punished and having something taken away:

·       Eat healthy for at least one meal per day

·       Watch Netflix on the weekends

·       Complete at least 5 tasks each week before they are due

·       Start getting more sleep on weeknights

·       Become more organized in certain areas (home, office)

As you can see, even though these give you the same exact result as the tougher more restrictive habits would, they are not taking anything away from your life – especially something pleasurable.

Sure, if you read between the lines, you can see that watching Netflix on the weekends means that you don’t watch it on the weekdays, but your plan isn’t to fool yourself completely; you just need to trick your brain a little to get it to quit fighting you when you try to implement a new habit. 

Focus on Your New Positive Empowering Habits

When you gradually replace your negative habits with positive ones, you will start seeing positive changes stacking up in your life.

If you are focusing on the negative habits then you are setting up yourself for frustration and overwhelmed because you see just how many negative habits you have that you need to change. This starts an all-or-nothing cycle that results in nothing but frustration and failure.

On the other hand, if you focus on your effective habits, you don’t end up with the the all-or-nothing ultimatum. You feel good when you act on these habits, even if you aren’t perfect at them, and it makes an environment much more conducive to change.


In the next post we’ll go over a few power-tips to help you anchor new effective habits.



Vertis Williams is a Positive Habits Life Coach and a Mindfulness Trainer. He is a regular presenter at employee and team-development events. Contact him to request more info on his Workshops or on his Coaching Services!

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