Human beings are creatures of habit: We tend to fall into a routine if given a chance. While routine itself isn’t dangerous, the habits that we find ourselves cultivating could end up being detrimental to our long-term success. For young entrepreneurs especially, knowing what practices benefit our goals and which ones hold us back is a crucial part of working to become a better business owner.
Since replacing habits can be a lot easier than breaking them completely, our goal should be to take those bad habits and exchange them for better ones. To find out more about what kinds of approaches you can try, we asked members of Young Entrepreneur Council the following:
Habits take time to change. What is your preferred method for ending a bad habit and replacing it with something better? What is one thing to watch out for while using this approach?
Habits are deeply ingrained in human psychology. “I can’t” mindset is inhibitory and has a negative connotation associated with it, while “I don’t” mindset is empowering. For example, if you are trying to quit smoking and someone offers you one, say “I don’t” and you will find breaking away from the habit has become an easier task. It gives you a psychological edge and freedom of making a better choice.
It is best to create a plan with specific benchmarks in place before trying to change a habit. The plan should help you monitor progress and keep you on track to end the bad habit. It is important to also implement rewards for specific benchmarks throughout the plan. The rewards will help keep you motivated and maintain confidence throughout the journey.
I first label the habit and learn the small steps to correct it so I can take action on these steps to form a new habit. For example, hitting the snooze button was a habit I vowed to break. To quit this habit, I created “to-dos” in my to-do list app of the precise action items needed to start my day without snooze. However, remember that with this method, perfectionism isn’t the goal, action is.
Most people believe that when you make changes you have to follow the “cold turkey” method and turn off the habit all at once. I’ve found that small, gradual changes makes it more likely that you’ll be able to overcome the bad habits in your life. For example, if you want to stop drinking 10 cans of soda a day, you would cut down to eight, and then five, and so on.
Every time I’m implementing a new habit or cutting out a bad one, I get an accountability partner. This has to be someone who you have a lot of respect for. I do this with one of my mentors and set up negative consequences for every time I slip up. There was a time I was dieting hard and the deal was that I could eat junk food but every time I did so, I would have to donate $25 to an anti-charity.
To end a bad habit, reward yourself each time you don’t fall into that bad habit. For instance, if you’re trying to be more active, every time you finish work and choose to exercise instead of sitting on the couch, reward yourself with something enjoyable. It may take a while to figure out which reward works best for you, but it will help you associate breaking your habits with positive feelings.
One of the best ways to rid yourself of a bad habit is simply to shine a light on it. Mark down in a small notebook every time you do what you’re trying to stop. You’ll be surprised that you get results almost immediately when you do this — just by being more conscious of your behavior. Do it right away, though! If you wait until the end of the day, this method isn’t as effective!
A big mistake people make when trying to change their habits is focusing on the fact that they’re trying to change their habits. If you keep saying to yourself, “I’m going to quit coffee,” you’ll keep thinking about coffee. Put your focus onto other, more productive things. For example, instead of “quitting coffee,” try becoming an “avid tea drinker.” Don’t avoid a bad habit, create a good one.
When I’m breaking a bad habit, I have to put reminders in place to keep me abreast of what I’m after. If I’m trying to read more before bed, I leave a book on my pillow. If I’m trying to eat out less, I meal-plan and put reminders of what I’m having that day into my phone. I have to have these in-my-face reminders or it is too easy to forget and revert back to my old ways.
Any habit can be made or broken in 30 days, so I give myself that slot of time to have the most willpower so I can make or break new ones. It’s important to always keep your habits in check and take inventory of which ones hinder you and which ones help you, because this greatly affects your day-to-day.
Often, we engage in bad habits compulsively: What may have started due to positive feedback becomes routine despite the absence of any positivity. As a result, an effective mental trick to help you “snap out” of this mindset is to convince yourself that it’s boring and a waste of your time. Once you start thinking of less boring and more productive habits, it’s easier to adopt them instead.
The key to replacing bad habits is to understand your habit’s cue. When I do (blank), it’s after (blank). When you can identify your cue, then you can decide what you want to choose to do instead. In this way, you are being proactive instead of reactive. Be sure to watch out for replacing a bad habit with another bad habit. Be intentional with what you choose!
There’s so much content on YouTube about people breaking bad habits and achieving their goals. Just watching them gives me enough inspiration to do the things I want to do even if they’re difficult. For example, if you’re trying to cut sugar out of your diet, there are tons of videos you can watch of people doing the same thing so it seems less daunting and more doable.
One of the best ways to overcome a bad habit is to actively replace it with a good one. For example, when I’m trying to learn a new keyboard shortcut, when I catch myself manually doing the action, I’ll undo the work and then go back and do the same work again with the keyboard shortcut. This is an excellent way to help rewrite the muscle memory for a particular habit.