How to ACTUALLY Break Your Bad Habits

How to ACTUALLY Break Your Bad Habits

I want to show you guys a picture. This was my fridge in
my freshman dorm room. It looks terrible, I know. For most of college and
for a lot of high school I had a terrible addiction
to energy drinks and sodas. Monsters, Red Bulls, Nos’s and I knew it was unhealthy for me. In fact at one point I
remember tweeting out something about needing
help quitting these things and somebody replied, “Have
fun with that irregular heartbeat in 10 years dude”. That stuck with me. But not enough for me to quit. For a long time I would try
and fail again and again. It was always this just
one more time excuse that would come up. Maybe there was a homework assignment that I had to do late at night so I would head to the library cafe and pick one up and settle in for a study session. Or maybe sometimes I’d just go to the convenience store with my friends and now they’re six inches away and my willpower failed me. So long story short, this was one of my worst habits and it took me years to finally beat it. But eventually I did and now it has been about five years since I have had any kind of energy drink whatsoever. I rarely drink regular
soda at all as well. Today guys what I want to talk about is how to break those bad habits. Regardless of whatever the habit is, whether it’s drinking one
too many sody pops like me or playing too many video games when you should be studying
or just compulsively biting your nails, you have the ability to break those bad habits as long as you take the challenge seriously. As Aristotle said over 2,000 years ago with some admittedly weird grammar in the English translation, “What it lies in our power to do, it lies
in our power not to do”. But before we dive into the actual tactics and strategies here, it’s useful to ask the question, what
exactly is a bad habit. In Charles Duhigg’s
book, The Power of Habit, he defines a habit in general as an ingrained pattern of
behavior that has three stages. There is the cue, whatever
triggers the habit in your mind. The routine, the pattern of behavior, the actions that you
take to get the reward, the final part. He also mentions that once a habit becomes truly, deeply
rooted and ingrained, you’ve gone through it several times, a fourth component also
comes into the equation and that’s craving. When the cue is triggered in your mind there is an intense
craving for that reward. It’s important to understand this. Every habit has a reward. Otherwise you wouldn’t do it. Essentially a bad habit is really any habit that stands in opposition to your long term goals, be it living a healthy life, or maintaining
good relationships, or earning straight A’s. The reason that these
bad habits stick around for so long is because they are ingrained but almost always they are habits that lead to short term rewards. Your brain is hard wired to care a lot more about the short term
than your long term goals even though logically you
know those long term goals are more important. Essentially you’re acting against your own self interests. In fact there’s a term that originates in ancient Greece for
this called akraisia. If you want to be able
to beat that akraisia, if you want to be able to
beat that short term focused programming deep inside your brain, you need to have a clear, well-defined and compelling reason for
breaking that bad habit. In one of his private
journals Bruce Lee once wrote, “I realize the dominating
thoughts of my mind will eventually reproduce themselves in outward, physical action,
and gradually transform themselves into physical reality, therefore I will concentrate my thoughts for 30 minutes daily upon the task of thinking of the person
I intend to become, thereby creating in my mind
a clear mental picture”. For Bruce Lee that compelling reason, that motivation came
through intense meditation and visualization. But you can also create
a real physical reminder of why you’re trying to
break that habit as well. That’s actually what I did. Out of all the reasons I had
for stopping my addiction to energy drinks, the
main one was my face. Because for most of high school and for a lot of college
I had horrible acne. My complexion was basically
the dark side of the moon and it wrecked my self confidence. It was bad enough that I
would wake up pretty much every day with blood stains on
my pillow case and my sheets. I really wanted to fix this problem. I would spend hours researching online, trying to find remedies and fixes and trying to figure
out what the causes were but eventually I realized what I had basically known all along, which is that sugar,
especially sugary energy drinks and soda, were a huge cause of break outs. One day I decided to
crystallize this reason in physical form. I actually went into Photoshop. I took a picture of myself and I used the clone tool to create a Photoshopped version of that picture. Basically an idealized version of what I wanted to look like some day. I put that on my phone and every time I would get a craving to go buy a Monster or buy a Red Bull, I
would look at that picture and I knew if I gave into that craving I was pushing that reality
further and further into the future. That did help immensely, but of course it was still tough to
resist those cravings. One additional thing that really helped me to stave them off was actually replacing energy drinks and soda
with something different that still gave me a very similar reward. That’s actually the second tip here. If you can find a different routine that replaces the reward
with something similar then you can replace the habit with something more productive. This is actually something Charles Duhigg talks about in the Power of Habit. For me, I replaced my
energy drink addiction and my soda addiction in
part with sparkling drinks La Croix, Topo Chico, San Pellegreno, because I realized it wasn’t necessarily the taste of the drinks
that I was addicted to, it wasn’t even necessarily the caffeine, it was just the novelty of having that cool can on the desk and having some good tasting drink while I did my boring homework. I asked myself, is there something else where I can get a similar,
if not exact same benefit. When my girlfriend actually introduced me to La Croix, which is
like a lemon flavored one, I was like this doesn’t taste the same, but it’s carbonated, it’s in a can, it’s got a bit of novelty to it, so it kind of replaced soda in that habit. My experience is actually pretty similar to the author The Power
of Habit, Charles Duhigg, because at one point he found himself in a bad habit where he
would go every single day and buy a cookie. He asked himself, this
is not healthy for me, why am I doing this. Is it because it tastes good? Is it because I need the sugar because it’s the afternoon? Or is it something else? Eventually he realized the real reason that he was getting up every single day, leaving his desk and
going to buy a cookie, is that it gave him an excuse to take a bit of a break and
socialize with his coworkers. That was really the reward. Sometimes you have to dig in to figure out what’s the actual reward I’m getting from this habit and are
there several rewards and if so, is there a primary one that I can find a way to replace with a healthier behavior. Another crucial step you need to take from breaking a bad habit is to remove as much access to that
habit as you possibly can. In The Odyssey when Odysseus and his men are sailing past the island of the sirens he actually has his men
bind him to the ship’s mast with ropes and then put
bees wax in their own ears, that way they can’t hear the sirens song at all and he can still
hear to navigate the ship, but he won’t be able to
give in to the temptation. Because Odysseus knew when he was removed from that temptation, he
was able to think rationally and logically and he had enough willpower to set up a pre commitment
which made it so that when his willpower failed
in the face of temptation, he was unable to give in to it anyway. Use this tactic when you’re trying to break your own bad habits. I do this as well. I actually have a pretty bad habit of looking at analytics on Youtube or social media sites
like Twitter or Facebook when I should be writing. I actually have a program
that completely blocks all access to those
sites basically binding me to doing my writing and making it completely impossible for me to go distract myself. Essentially if I have no access to that habit, I’m not going to be able to give in to it. Lastly, if you find the
prospect of going completely cold turkey and quitting your
bad habit forever daunting, try a 30 day challenge. I find this to be useful because a lot of people can’t moderate their bad habits. They can’t say I’m just gonna do this every once in awhile as a treat. They have to give it up. But, thinking about giving it up forever, especially when it’s a fun
habit like playing video games or having the occasional
soda is kind of daunting, it kind of sucks. But, anybody and I mean anybody, can do a 30 day challenge. Abstaining from that
thing for just 30 days. The way that I do this is
I create a Google sheet and I give the URL to my friend Martin. Everyday I will go in,
I will log my progress and I tell him, check on my progress and if I fail even once,
I’m gonna give you $100. I don’t want to fail,
it will hurt my pride, it will hurt my wallet and I know I’ve got somebody invested in my success who is gonna keep me accountable. Hey, it’s just for 30 days. Again, anybody can do it. All right, so quick recap here. If you want to break a bad habit, number one, have a
compelling, crystallized, well defined reason in your mind for why you want to break it and try to create a physical
reminder of that reason. Number two, what was
number two? (laughing) I don’t know what it was. Number two, identify the reward and try to replace the routine with something that gives
you a similar reward. Also remove as much access to that habit as you possibly can. Finally start out with a
simple 30 day challenge instead of trying to go
cold turkey permanently. Now a lot of the tips from this video come from my own personal experience. But several of the other ones also come from the book, The Power
of Habit by Charles Duhigg. This is one of my absolute favorite books and it has a pretty high position on my essential books list for students which you can find over on
my website College Info Geek. Whether you’re a student in high school, in college, or you’re beyond
traditional education, I think that you should read this book because habits define
so much of our behavior. When you understand how
to break the bad ones, build more productive ones, and understand the structure of habits in general and how they make your brain tick, you’re going to be a lot more successful. Now if you have the
time you can definitely sit down and read this
book in its paper form or pick it up on your Kindle. But you could also read this book with your ears. You guys know what I’m
talking about, audio books. Audio books are a great way to get through books while you’re cooking or while you’re in the
gym or going to work. The best place to find audio books and my personal source
for them is Audible. Audible has an unmatched
library of audio book titles in a ton of different genres. They also have a great app
for managing all those. One of my favorite features of the app is the ability to make notes at specific time stamps in the book. Say you’re cooking up
a paella or something and something really insightful comes up in the book you’re listening to, you can just pause it, add your note and go on with your day. If you would like to give Audible a try you can get a free 30 day trial over at That trial also comes
with a free audiobook of your choosing, be it Power of Habit or really anything you want. The nice thing is you can
keep that book forever whether or not you decide to become an Audible subscriber,
which is pretty nice. Head on down to the link
in the description below if you want to give it a try and thanks so much to Audible
for sponsoring this video. Thank you for watching. If you haven’t subscribed yet, definitely click that subscription button right there to get videos every week when I upload. You can also get a free copy of my book on earning better grades right there. Eventually I’m hoping to get
an audio book version done. Hey, maybe at some point you’ll see an Audible ad with my own book in it. That’s pretty conceited. Anyway, if you want to listen to our latest podcast
episode on procrastination check it out right there. If you want another video on this channel there’s gonna be one right there. Thank you so much for watching. I will see ya next week.


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