Axios Finish Line
September 20, 2022
- Smart Brevity™ count: 427 words ... 2 mins.
1 big thing: How to break a bad habit
Our lives are ruled by our habits — the good and the bad. And it can be even tougher to ditch a bad habit than it is to pick up a good one.
- Why it matters: Bad habits start small but can quickly become hard-wired into our brains, making them harder and harder to break.
The backdrop: Last week, we culled for you the top hacks on how to form good habits. Today, we're bringing you advice — from expert interviews and research studies — on how to shed the bad ones.
- "Don't believe in the crap that has been put into the world about how to break bad habits," says BJ Fogg, a Stanford psychologist who studies habit formation. "If it were that simple, we wouldn't have so many problems in the world."
- "Breaking bad habits is a far more complicated process than making new ones."
Here are our top tips to get started:
- Make it hard. It's easier to curb a bad habit if you make it difficult to do the bad thing, Fogg says. If you're sick of using your phone before bed, put it in another room.
- Design the bad habit out of your life. It's hard to break out of a habit if you keep your environment exactly the same. If your goal is to lose weight, stock your fridge and pantry with foods you'll feel good about snacking on.
- Be patient with yourself. These changes take time. But we're quick to blame ourselves or give up after a slip-up or two. Treat yourself with grace, and don't expect perfection.
- Call in the experts. There are minor bad habits you can tackle yourself, like nail-biting or late-night snacking — and others that are far more serious, including substance abuse, Fogg notes. Make sure you seek professional help if you need it.
- Celebrate! It's important to mark small milestones on the road to shedding a bad habit. Journal about it, tell your friends or post pictures — anything to reinforce those happy feelings in your brain.
92-year-old billionaire and investment legend Warren Buffett had this piece of advice for younger folks regarding bad habits:
- "You can get rid of it a lot easier at your age than at my age because most behaviors are habitual. The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken."