A mentor and his student take a walk through a forest together and stop in front of a small tree. The mentor tells the student, “Pull up that sapling.” The student goes towards the sapling and pulls it up with ease out of the dirt. The mentor says, “Now pull up that one” pointing to one that was knee high to the student. The student squats and yanks it up with some effort. Then he was instructed to pull up one that was as tall as he was, and so with all his weight and strength, he pulls up it up with beads of sweat dripping down his forehead.
“Now,” the mentor says, “pull that one.” The student looks into the direction in which the mentor was pointing and saw a mighty oak tree that was so tall the student could barely see the top. Knowing how much effort it took for the last one, the student says, “I’m sorry, I can’t.”
“My son, you have just discovered the power that habits have over your life!” the mentor exclaims. “The older they are, the bigger they get, the deeper the roots grow, and the harder they are to uproot. Some get so big, with roots so deep, you might hesitate to even try.”
Darren Hardy’s The Compound Effect teaches the concept of how we are creatures of habit. Habits are created initially by doing one action over a period of time until it occurs without active awareness. Getting rid of a bad habit is just as challenging as creating a new one, but the first step is making the decision to stop the bad habit. Here are five tips from the book to help you get rid of your bad habits whether it’s eating junk food late at night or excessively drinking every weekend.
1. Identify Your Triggers
Figure out the “who”, “what”, “where”, and “when” that is the basis for these bad habits. For example, it could be the group of friends you hang out with on the weekends or what emotions trigger your desire to eat sweets. Becoming aware of what triggers your bad habit is a great start to getting rid of it.
2. Clean House
Literally, clean the house. Get rid of all the junk food in your house. Get rid of every single drop of alcohol. Uninstall whatever addicting app off of your phone. When you remove everything and don’t give yourself the option to indulge in your bad habits, it makes it a lot easier to break it.
3. Replace It
You can swap out your bad habit for a better one. For example, if you’re addicted to Diet Coke (I’m talking to you, mom), then instead of drinking Diet Coke, drink a sparkling water with lime. And then you can ease it into just plain water.
4. Ease In/Out
This is most likely your best option for those deep-rooted habits. A clear bad habit, smoking cigarettes, is something that is very difficult to stop abruptly. Every week or two reduce your daily consumption by 1 until the habit is gone. If you’re still having a hard time kicking the habit, try and combine it with the replacement strategy with an alternative to cigarettes.
5. Jump In
Sometimes dipping your toes into the water won’t do you any good. Not too long ago, I made a firm decision to quit drinking alcohol for 90 days straight. Although my initial plans were only for 90 days, it has completely transformed me and now alcohol is no longer a part of my life. I know a few friends who said they wanted to stop drinking, but didn’t want to completely give it up. Occasionally, they would say, “Just one drink tonight, that’s it.” As soon as they had that one drink, it turned to one more, and one more, and one more. If you’re serious, give it all you’ve got and completely stop whatever bad habit you’re trying to get rid of.