We’re still in January and there are some of you trying desperately to hold onto your New Year’s resolutions. If one of your goals this year is to let go of some bad habits, then this article is finally going to help you drop bad habits once and for all.
The way to drop a bad habit really depends on the TYPE of habit you’re trying to drop. How you attack one habit may be different than how you would attack another. For example, with excess credit card use, the solution is simple: shred the credit card and you can’t use it anymore. However, quitting a crystal meth habit is a lot harder because the drugs have physiologically changed your body chemistry, making it a bit impossible to quit without medical help.
For the sake of this article, I’m going to keep it simple.
I split bad habits into two categories: the smaller bad habits (which I call the surface habits) and the difficult, deeply rooted bad habits (which are the ingrained habits). The surface habits can be dealt with using a simple sublimation method. The ingrained habits, however, can be dropped using the more involved PEACE method.
Dropping “Surface” Habits Using Sublimation
Without getting too technically psychological on you, the idea here is that bad habits will fade away on their own if you take your attention off of them and put it instead on the exact opposite habit. For example, let’s say you want to drop the junk food eating habit. Instead of avoiding junk food all at once, the best thing to do is simply start adding a new fruit or vegetable to your junk food eating. Craving a cheeseburger? Great order the cheeseburger and add a salad to the order. Want to eat Oreo cookies right now? Go ahead and get the cookies but eat an apple first. The act of eating more fruit or vegetables in your life will do two things. First, you will develop a taste for the fruits and vegetables. And second, you will begin to associate snacking with those fruits and vegetables. Eventually, eating these fruits and vegetables will manage the junk food craving. If you want to drop the bad habit of mindless TV watching, the simplest thing to do is to find a friend and ask him to pull you outside each evening.
So the bottom line is that if you want to drop a surface habit, practice adding the opposite habit.
Dropping “Deeply Ingrained” Habits Using the P.E.A.C.E. Method
For those deeply rooted, well established bad habits, something more elaborate has to be done. I mean really, would sublimation work on a cocaine habit? I don’t think so. (Besides…what’s the opposite of cocaine?)
No. For the ingrained habits, try the PEACE method. PEACE is an acronym for:
Here’s the idea. If the bad habit is deeply ingrained, then either your body or your subconscious self will start to fight you when you try to drop that bad habit. Most likely, you won’t be able to drop it by yourself. That’s why you need the help of other PEOPLE. You want to drop the bad habit of profanity? Let all of your friends know. Believe me, they’ll all chip in to remind you on a constant basis.
Al projects need a deadline. Instead of thinking of it as a process, consider it a goal that must have a definite ENDING. Pick a date by which the habit will be dropped (or at least under manageable control) and tell other people about it.
By choosing a deadline, and informing other people, they are going to start holding you ACCOUNTABLE. This means that people are going to monitor you and call you out on your bullshit when it happens (and yes…your bullshit always comes out when you’re trying to fight a bad habit.) If the habit is difficult to drop and you find yourself backsliding too much, allow the people in your circle to give you CONSEQUENCES for screwing up.
Finally, one of the most important steps in dropping an ingrained bad habit is finding something positive to EXCHANGE for your bad habit. Think about it. Every habit is a habit for a reason, and your body is getting some kind of “reward” out of it. Whether it’s alcohol or drugs or cigarettes or reality TV or junk food or even nose picking…your body gets something in return for that habit. If you suddenly lose that bad habit, how is your body going to receive the “reward” that was being provided by the bad habit?
For junk food eaters, the crap they consumed was giving their body salt, fat, and sugar. Dropping the junk food habit cold turkey could shock your body too much without exchanging the crap for moderate amounts of salts (pistachios, seasoned vegetables), moderate amounts of sugars (strawberries, apples), and healthier fats (avocados, Greek yogurt).
This week, I challenge you to put a plan together for dropping one of your bad habits.