When I think about changing bad habits, I think about teeth. Hear me out for a second. My daughter is extremely excited these days. Her milk teeth are falling out. She’s lost two so far and stronger ones have started growing in their place. Every time another starts shaking, she comes to us full of excitement.
She knows that means she’s growing.
Getting rid of the old to replace the new.
And of course, getting some pocket change from the tooth fairy in the process.
Imagine if we were still using our milk teeth. We’d have difficulty eating. We’d look pretty weird. Those teeth served their purpose. They fell out and stronger, permanent ones took their place.
Some of our habits are the same. Useful for a time, but need to fall out for stronger, better goals to take their place. The difference is we have a little more control over habits than we do teeth. So we hold onto them. Even when we try new habits, they have to force their way past the old ones. These new habits end up falling on the wayside because we’re so comfy with our old ones.
Why bad habits suck and we need new habits
New habits are the only way to get lasting change in our lives. New habits are necessary if our doctor says we need to lose 15 pounds. We need new habits to start saving for the downpayment on a house. If we’re underperforming at work and at risk of being fired, we need to make habit changes.
It’s impossible to achieve these things with old behaviors and old information. Like my milk teeth analogy, there’s only room for one. If we implement one while still entertaining the other, we end up losing time and digging a deeper hole than necessary.
So how can you replace the old with the new?
Use what’s good, to be better
I was once trying to start a journaling habit and it just was not sticking. So I asked a coach who happened to write an article at the time about journaling. His suggestion? Link your new habit to a current good habit. So I started writing a few lines after I brushed my teeth. That month, I wrote more in my journals than the rest of the year combined. Your good habit needs some good company. Find a habit you’re proud of and complete your new routine right after to increase the chances of success.
In case of emergency, break glass
Old habits die hard.
They go out swinging.
And you will fall back into them, whether you want to believe it, or not.
Willpower is like milk; it has an expiry date.
So we need a contingency plan for when we do slide; an IF function if you will. (for my Excel peeps)
So if you decide to resort to an old habit, then you pay a penalty or it triggers some way for you to be accountable.
Putting in a system of how the habit will be done, when, and what happens if you miss it can give you more consistent days than inconsistent ones.
Remember your WHY
Every day, remind yourself of the reason for the new habit. Getting deep into the why can help keep you on the mission. We have to keep it top of mind almost daily — The what, how and why.
When we forget to remind ourselves, we fall behind or give up when we get stressed, fail, or even happy.
What about this new habit is important to you? How will it change your life and the life of those around you?
Write that down every day so you burn it into your brain and your good habits will soon become second nature.
Replacing a bad habit with a good one is life-changing. This can also be one of the most difficult things to accomplish. There are so many factors impacting our current and future habits.
All we can do is take it one day at a time. One new habit one day at a time. Remembering our why and trusting the systems and process.
New habits will compound as the bad ones did.
Two other helpful hints: First, find a tribe of persons working on the same goals. Next, track when you fall off so you can find any potential gaps and resolve them.
With these steps in place, you’ll love the person you see on the other side.