Have you ever found yourself asking why bad habits are so easy to fall into, and so freakin’ hard to break? As the back-to-school season invites change, and a resetting of habits, in this series I share 3 top tips to help you replace those “nasty” habits, with life-enriching ones with greater ease and effortlessness. 


1- Find the purpose and check in as an observer to your habit.

Understand that no matter how “bad” it is, we never do anything that doesn’t serve us, even a little bit. Knowing the purpose is crucial to effective habit change. Even though you don’t like it, and want to stop or change it, you’re getting something from it.

This inquiry is absolutely critical, as we never do anything we’re not somewhat served by. Without getting clear on exactly the purpose of your habit, you’ll likely fail at replacing it efficiently and continue spinning your wheels, trying so hard, but never “breaking” it.

  • Ask yourself: What is the benefit? For what reason, experience, or desired result am I doing it?

2- Find a replacement habit. 

According to habit-change research, we can’t simply STOP a habit. Habits can only be replaced.

Once you know why you’re doing it (step 1), brainstorm a list of solutions that would help you meet that need. Next, narrow down the possibilities to just ONE that feels most doable and worth trying. This will be your replacement habit.

For instance, if you want to cut down on sugar, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to just stop. It’s helpful to find a way to meet the need that sugar is meeting, but without sugar.

Example: Stephanie eats sugar to boost her energy. Gail eats sugar to ease her loneliness. Mike eats sugar because he’s bored.

From outside perspective, all are eating cookies at 10am; however, each has a different reason for it, so will require a different solution and replacement habit in order to meet their deeper need. (This is why programs need to be individualized, and why what works for Steph won’t necessarily work for Gail or Tony. Sound familiar???)

If you take this action and choose a replacement habit, don’t worry about getting it “right” first time. Expect to trial-and-error this for a while. Everyone is different, and each time you’ll get wiser through feedback and results.

  • Ask yourself: what replacement habit would you like to work on?

3- Reduce your reliance on willpower.
Studies show that unless willpower is being refueled throughout the day, it diminishes with every little decision, frustration, drop in blood sugar, bad piece of news, and so much more. This is why we can make great choices more easily in the morning, again in the afternoon (with a little more effort), and then cave when we get home despite the best of intentions. 

Reducing reliance on willpower is an absolute winning strategy, and separates “those who are” from “those who want to”.

  • Ask yourself: With respect to the habit I want to change, what decisions could I eliminate, automate or put support around to ease the willpower requirement?