Each one of us is guilty of picking up a bad habit or two in our lifetime, so it is really not something to lose sleep over. As long as you charge yourself with the task of breaking them and developing better habits in their stead – ergo, actually doing something about it – then you are on the right track.
However, before you can break a bad habit, you need to understand it, first and foremost. This entails breaking it down to the nitty-gritty, so you will know its anatomy and how you and your bad habit got to be so inseparable. Basically, you need to take a step back in order to move forward, and in this case, get to know how your bad habits came to be.
Luckily, this is easy an easy enough concept. After all, every habit, regardless of how bad or good it might be, follows a pattern. This pattern comprises of just 3 simple steps, as identified by researchers and experts of behavioral psychology.
So without much further ado, this is what a habit looks like when broken down:
Basically, this is the trigger that initiates the behavior, the cue that makes you behave the way you do.
Let’s say for example that you have a bad habit of biting your nails. You take one look at your fingertips and find that the telltale half moon is already quite prominent, or your fingers are clicking louder than usual on your computer keyboard. To you, these are clear indications that your fingernails have grown a millimeter or two in the few days since you’ve attended to it. This is then the reminder – your cue – to commence with the biting.
This is the behavior in its actuality, i.e. your body’s response to the cues that triggered it. Still using the same example above, the moment your teeth touch your fingertips until you’ve run out of nails and are only gnawing on your cuticles – that already constitutes the routine.
The ‘reward’ is the benefit you get for indulging the bad habit. By simply performing the behavior, you will be gratified in one way or another. This pretty much is the very thing that makes habits – both good and bad – so hard to break.
Still on the nail-biting scenario, the reward you get for giving in to the reminder and performing your routine is basically the feeling of freedom from having shorter, cleaner nails. Your hands may even feel lighter and less cumbersome.
Of course, you will not develop a habit in one go. You will need to repeat the cycle at least three times in order for it to become a full-blown habit. It is basically a loop of sorts, and if you go around and around that loop enough times, only then will you have a developed a bad habit.
Indeed, by simply understanding what truly makes up a bad habit, you will already have a rough idea of how to kick it for good.