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Breaking Bad Habits

We all have habits. The question is, do we like our habits?

Most of the time, we have some bad habits and we want to substitute them with good habits, and this is what we are going to explore today.

Letting go is hard, but holding on is even harder

Letting go is hard for everyone, but holding on a negative habit and situation is even harder in the long run. This is why we need to learn how to break bad habits.

We all have habits, conditioning, temptations, vices, that have a hold of us! For so many of us, we are holding onto a habit without even realizing it.

What is one habit you would like to break? Be intentional!

As far as I am concerned, when I did this exercise, I decided I wanted to stop complaining.

I used to complain quite a lot in the past, I think it was a learned habit. I used complaining as a way to connect with strangers, but a few years ago I decided I did not want to be the fool of my stories, I did not want to be a victim anymore, I wanted to come from a place of power in my life and my decisions.

The 5 horses and the horse charioteer

To understand how our brain creates habits, here is an analogy: the analogy of the 5 horses and the horse charioteer. We all know the five senses:

  • Touch

  • Smell

  • Taste

  • Hearing

  • Sight

Our senses have been exposing us to objects since we were born and we became addicted to eating certain foods, listening to certain songs, saying some things about other people, etc.

You see, a habit is not only “staying up late at night”. A habit is anything we do which is connected to the five senses! For instance, I remember being at the Changi airport in Singapore with my friend Kaz. He smelled the food from the open restaurants and said: “Omg I missed this delicious smell”. At the same time, I was thinking “What the hell is this smell?”. The reason is that he was used to that smell, while for me it was unfamiliar. He had a habit for that smell, I did not have it.

If you always eat chocolate, the taste horse builds up an attachment to chocolate and it is difficult to control it! Imagine what happens if you, charioteer, cannot control the horses! 

We’re usually in charge of ourselves, but sometimes things can get a little tricky. The working of the mind is like a chariot being driven by five horses. The chariot is our body, the horses are our five senses that let us experience the world, the reins are the mind, and our intellect is the charioteer who is steering it all.

The charioteer, the driver, is the intelligence, the intellect. The intelligence trains the mind (the rains) to control the horses! And here is an important thing; your mind can either be influenced by the five senses, the horses, or by the intelligence, the charioteer!

For instance, sometimes you want to eat at McDonald’s, but then you think about it and say “Wait I am a healthy human being, I do not eat at McDonald’s”. This is the intelligence controlling the sense of taste, the taste horse, which otherwise would lead you to McDonald’s!

Of course sometimes you want to let the horses enjoy, once in a while! But in general, without proper direction, our senses can override our mind and intellect. This is what it’s like to let a bad habit rule you. This is what happens to compulsive smokers for instance. They cannot control it.

A bad habit forms when something attracts us, becomes addictive, and creates a destructive attachment. You might be thinking, and you would be right in thinking so, that sometimes love can become an addiction, and a powerful one because all senses are involved!

What is the solution to break bad habits?
Here is a three-step process:

1. Out of sight, out of mind.

How to not eat chocolate? Out of sight out of mind. You remove the temptation from your senses until the charioteer is strong enough to control the senses! You need to stop your senses being triggered purposefully.

Ex. You take the chocolate out of the fridge, the cupboard, etc.

Ex. You do not want to watch Netflix? Unsubscribe! Delete social media.

Ex. Until you are strong enough to be detached from a relationship, out of sight out of mind!

2. What are the places, the people and the projects that trigger that habit?

If you gossip when you are in a group of people, stop going out with them. This is why I do not hang out with some friends anymore, they always talk about people, rather than ideas!

If you feel bad about a certain place, stop going there. Avoid the places, people, and projects that trigger this bad habit.

Awareness is the first key in breaking a habit.

Who is watering the weed of your bad habits? Find the people who water the seed of your good habits! Distance yourself from the ones who reinforce your bad habits.

You will behave, probably, as the people you hang out with; so if they drink, you drink too.

If you are very strong, there is no problem. You just say “No, I do not want a drink”. “No” is a full sentence! You don’t have to explain yourself, you just say no.

But until you are strong, out of sight out of mind, and avoid the places that trigger this bad habit of yours.

3. Intelligence, you the charioteer, the intellect.

Intelligence is like a God. Every time you have an idea, that thought goes into your mind and your mind says “Oh yes we did it before let’s do it again”.

But the intellect can stand on the door! Do not let your mind wonder too much because it is controlled by the five senses.

How do you make your intellect strong?
Thee things need to happen for the Intelligence to be strong:

a. Research. Become aware of the reasons why this should not become a habit.

Example: I want to stop overthinking because it causes me anxiety.

If we cannot stop drinking alcohol, it is because we have not done enough research. Same applies to smoking, drugs, etc.

Attracted, addicted, attached. If you start being attracted to something, focus on research! How bad will it be if I do not stop this habit? If I become addicted?

Visualize it: what will my life look like in 10 years if I do not change this habit? Will I be happier or more miserable?

The habit could also be a productive habit, so study, do your research and then draw your conclusions! 

Pain is always going to be there but challenges can be overcome more easily if you become strong enough and you do your research. Ex. “Oh I didn’t know smoking could cause lung cancer! Maybe I shouldn’t smoke that much”.

Anxiety is not a habit. Anxiety is a response to a presence of a bad habit and the lack of a good habit to replace it. 

b. Reward. Understand the reward that is going to be given to you from the absence of this habit.

Example: No longer overthinking will allow me to feel inner peace, calm, and ease.

You need to understand the reward you get if you follow a better habit. You need to deeply understand the reward! Most of the time we don’t do things, people don’t do things, because they don’t see why they should do something.

I remember a doctor once told my grandfather “You should lose some weight!” and my grandpa looked at the doctor and told him “To what purpose? I am very old, I am going to die anyway, at least let me eat something, I already quit smoking, this is the last pleasure I have!”. What he meant was that he did not see the benefits of eating less because he was very old.

If you want someone to do something, and if you want yourself to do something, understand the reward from the absence of the negative habit!

Ex. If I get rid of my old car, I can have the money to buy a new car.

You need to know the future to let go of the past! If you don’t know where you are going, you might as well stay in your past!

That’s why, for instance, visualization is important for people who have very destructive habits; imagine you take drugs and you try to visualize your future, what you realise is that you might not even be alive in 10 years if you keep going down that road! Living is a great reward to stop a negative habit! 

When you want to sleep in, your intelligence needs to say “No! I know that the reward of waking up early is going to make a big difference! I am not going to let myself sleep in today”.

Procrastination and overthinking are not habits; it is a response of a bad habit of not getting into action. Think “What will happen if I do not take action? Nothing will happen!” and if I do it, “Oh I will achieve so much!” and therefore you are pushed to take action because you see a reward. 

c. Replace. Allow a new, proactive habit to step in.

Example: Instead of overthinking, I will choose to make space for daily meditation.

You replace the old habit with a new habit.

Ex. If you eat sugar, replace it with Monk fruit sweeteners which is similar to sugar but contains zero calories (according to the FDA).

Important: when you cannot let go of a bad habit, it is because you have not found a replacement that satisfies you.

I will give an example that you might have experienced. Isn’t this what happens in some relationships? Some people break up, and then after 5 months they write back to their old crush because they didn’t find a better partner. If you follow the analogy, it is the same as falling back into a bad habit. Why do they call their ex? Because they did not find a better opportunity, and they tried to go back to what they used to have.

If you broke up and the following day you found the perfect relationship, you would let go very easily of the previous relationship, wouldn’t you? Same rationale applies to habits.

When you cannot interrupt a bad pattern, it is because the replacement is not satisfactory. If you want to break a bad habit, make sure the replacement brings you better rewards than the bad habit.

  • 3 Rs: Research, Reward, Replacement: these are the three steps to break bad habits.

  • 3 As: Attracted, Addicted, Attached: we need to be aware of how we are getting attached to bad habits. Of course here we could talk for ages about identity, standards, emotions, but that’s a topic for another article :)

  • 3 Cs: Coaching, Consistency, Community. All successful entrepreneurs follow the three Cs; without them, it is nearly impossible to break bad habits and replace them with better ones! Find a coach who keeps you accountable, build a consistent plan of action to replace a bad habit with a good habit, and find a community of people, friends, who have great habits and inspire you to implement better habits such as investing money in the stock market, not complaining, training and hitting the gym, eating healthy, and so on and so forth.

Take a few days to think about this because 5 days can impact 5 years! Habits last a lifetime.

Make your life a masterpiece, see you next week, I appreciate you and I hope you have an amazing day.

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