Small changes make big differences.

Tuesdays with MOJO / How to break a naughty habit

Marjorie Spitz RentoComment


Naughty Habits!  How do they form? Who made them?  Who can we blame for them? 

Well look in the mirror folks.

Who created that habit to snack at night?  You did

To check email or watch disturbing shows before bed?  Um, you.

To sit at the desk typing away for hours without moving?  Yup, you.

To veg-out in front of the TV?  Still you.

Even the good ones, like brushing your teeth?


Now here's the good news:  Who's in charge of changing those habits? You as well!

A habit (according to Wikipedia) is defined as “a routine of behavior that is repeated regularly and tends to occur unconsciously. Habit formation is the process by which a behavior, through regular repetition, becomes automatic or habitual.”

I was inspired this morning by a Deepak Chopre led meditation where he said “habits become so natural, we could forget who created them, making it very challenging to break them.”

The meditation encouraged awareness around habits stating, “awareness has the real power. At any given moment, if you notice how you really feel and what you really want, old habits begin to dissolve. People can break as many habits as they want by giving themselves freedom of choice.”

You CAN break free from your undesirable habits!

The first step is to notice when a particular habit most ingrained in your day.   Are you an afternoon snacker?  Morning procrastinator?  Evening media junkie?   Take notice, be aware and adjust.  

Deepak says “You make a breakthrough every time you break out of a habitual response.”  Which translates to numerous opportunities for victory!

Once you understand the situation where the “naughty” habit feels natural, you can alter it.   Wikipedia calls this the “cue” stage.  

As the habit is forming, it can be analyzed in three parts: the cue, the behavior, and the reward. The cue is the thing that causes the habit to come about, the trigger of the habitual behavior. This could be anything that one's mind associates with that habit and one will automatically let a habit come to the surface. The behavior is the actual habit that one exhibits, and the reward, a positive feeling, therefore continues the ‘habit loop’.

Thus, the “key to changing habits is to identify your cue and modify your routine and reward.” 

Another way would be to replace it with another.  Visualization exercises might help. 

According to The Motion Machine, “recent neuroscience has revealed that when we imagine ourselves doing a particular habit it activates many of the same regions in our brain as when we are physically doing that same habit. This is strong evidence that mental visualization can be a useful way to condition ourselves toward new and more desirable behaviors.”

So what can you do?

  • Become aware of the habit you want to break.  When do you repeat it?  Where?  What is the result?  What would it feel like to be rid of it?
  • Make a plan and write it down. With a pen and paper!  Studies show that when you handwrite something (as opposed to type it), you’re more likely to internalize, remember and embrace it.  Include your motivations, triggers, barriers, rewards and measurements for success.
  • Stay committed.  It may feel awkward to give up something you’ve been doing naturally for a long time.  You may not even remember when or why you developed the habit in the first place! Keep your plan close and commit to it daily.  If you fall off one day, no worries just pick it up again the next.
  • Tell those around you you’re working on a change. Once you make it public, ask for help.  You’ll have more support and more likely to stick with it.
  • Reward yourself along the way.  Note:  NOT with the bad habit. 
  • Replace it with a new, better habit.  So whenever you’re triggered to go back to your old ways, you’ll have a new shiny activity to do. 
  • Visualize yourself doing the new activity. “The more we visualize ourselves doing an activity, the stronger the neural connections are which are associated with that habit." 
  • Only work on one habit change at a time – baby steps, right? 

Challenge yourself to tackle it within 30 days and celebrate the breakthroughs.  Even brag about them and give yourself a pat on the back!

Breaking habits can be hard, but through small steps it will be within reach.  You have the freedom to choose.

Habitually yours, 

Chief MOJO Maker™