How To Break a Bad Habit

In Vintage Church’s series, “Dependent,” we recently discussed the power of habits and even how to intentionally develop healthy habits. If you missed the kick off to this series—Redefine Yourself—visit vcnola.com/dependent to find that sermon as well as all other series resources. 

In Atomic Habits, James Clear outlines the “Habit Loop,” the process by which you and I develop habits. Here’s how he describes the Habit Loop:

  • Make It Obvious (Cue)—The cue triggers your brain to initiate a behavior

  • Make it Attractive (Craving)—The motivational force behind every habit

  • Make It Easy (Response)—The actual habit you perform

  • Make It Satisfying (Reward)—The end goal of every habit

Now, here’s the thing—many of us definitely want to learn how to cultivate good habits in our lives, but how do we break the bad ones? For as many good habits we need to cultivate, we have as many bad habits to break. Look no further than James Clear’s Atomic Habits. Clear suggests to break bad habits we simply invert the four laws of habits. 

Make It Invisible

If we need a cue, something obvious, to make us do something good, then to break bad habits, we need to do everything we can to make something less obvious. We need to reduce that bad habit’s exposure. Whether it’s changing our environment or removing the thing from around us, we need to make it invisible. Think about eating candy. If you need to stop, the best thing you can do is to remove it from your house. 

Make It Unattractive

Good habits need to be attractive. They need to motivate us to want to do something. So bad habits need to be unattractive. In order to do this, you’re going to have to reframe your mindset. You might need to educate yourself on exactly why that bad habit is not good for you. Then mentally highlight why you need to avoid that bad habit. If you want to quit smoking, you’re going to have to emphasize to yourself why this isn’t good for you. Make it unattractive. 

Make It Difficult

If it’s easy to doing something bad for you, chances are you’ll do it. Therefore you have to make it difficult for you. Increase the number of steps between you and your bad habit. Work to restrict future choices to only those that benefit you. For instance, if you struggle with internet pornography, you need to make it difficult to view it. Put accountability software on your devices. Maybe make it even more difficult by removing computers from your home or going back to a flip phone. These are all ways to make a bad habit difficult. 

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Make It Unsatisfying

How can you make your bad habits unsatisfying? For some bad habits, the immediate consequences are unsatisfying. If you stop exercising and begin eating unhealthily, it’s going to become unsatisfying when you can’t fit in your clothes. But sometimes we need help in making bad habits unsatisfying. Here’s where accountability comes in. One of the best ways to make a bad habit unsatisfying is to have someone hold you accountable and maybe even give you consequences for your actions. Perhaps you and your accountability partner agree upon the consequences. An example: You’re trying to cut down how much time you spend on social media. After viewing your report, you and your accountability partner sees you spend more time than you allotted. The agreed consequence is time off of social media. That’s unsatisfying because you like social media. 

This week, I hope you’ll take steps to form good, healthy habits. But I also hope you’ll consider which bad habits you need to drop. Take next steps and kick those bad habits!