How to Break a Bad Habit

By TrickMyMind | January 25th, 2021


There are several key things you can do to help yourself break a bad habit, but first you have to change your expectations.  You must first realize that it can be a long process and the habit will persist in the background the whole time that you are trying to break it.  So expect to have multiple setbacks throughout the process.  Your initial goal should be to reduce the habit over time, as opposed to completely stopping it.  With this in mind, below are several things you can do.

6 Tips for Breaking a Bad Habit

1) Start Thinking in Percentages:
Assuming you are normal human being, you will have lapses in both willpower and judgement, and therefore you'll revert back to doing your bad habit at times...and that is OK.  So, instead of an all-or-nothing mindset, you must think in terms of percentage of success.  Think of it as a subject you are studying in school, and you will be tested periodically.  On some tests you will do better than others.  You may even completely fail a test or two.  Just remember that your overall goal is to keep doing better and better until you master the subject.

Whatever you do, do NOT prohibit yourself from doing the habit.  Prohibition breeds addiction.  So, instead of prohibition, you should allow yourself to do the habit if you really want to, but your goal is to limit the amount you do.  Accept it, limit the damage done, and then get back on track.  Work on increasing your success percentage each time.

2) Understand Why You Want to Break The Habit:
If you do not have a good reason to break your bad habit, then no matter what you do, you will fail.  If you haven't completely convinced yourself that you need to break the habit, then that is the first step.  Generally there is an underlying goal that you are trying to achieve.  So, first you have to figure out that goal, or your "why", for breaking the habit.  Also, highlight to yourself the benefits that will come with breaking the bad habit.

3) Make it Harder to Do:
The next thing you can do is to make the habit harder to do, even if only by a tiny amount.  Baby steps will add up and multiply.  So, a simple thing such as putting a greater distance between you and the habit will add up over time.  Every tiny barrier that you can put in the way will help out.  Diet/food is a great example.  Not keeping certain foods at home works wonders, because eventually you'll get tired of going to the store solely to pickup dessert.  The barrier won't completely stop you, but it will definitely help.

4) Delay, Delay, Delay:
The next thing you can do is to delay doing the habit.  Allow yourself to do it, but make yourself wait a certain amount of time first.  If you still want to do it after the time is up, then feel free to, but again, make a conscious choice of how much damage you want to do to yourself.

5) Pause and Step Into the Moment:
When you do revert back to doing the bad habit, pause and really pay attention to how you feel in the moment (mindfulness).  Most of the time, you will realize that after that initial euphoric feeling, you will feel like garbage shortly after.  So, pay attention to how you feel, along with the overall environment while doing the habit.  The more you are able to catch yourself and pay attention while you're in the act of doing the habit, the more you will be able to reduce it.  Also, a good question to ask yourself is, "Will doing this now help me achieve my goal?"

6) Plan for Failure:
Last of all, plan for failure.  This ties in with several other points, but the focus here is planning ahead for when you do have setbacks.  Think about how you will handle setbacks by asking the questions below.

• What might you do to limit the damage done?
• How much will you allow yourself to do?
• When doing the habit, how might you stop yourself mid-way?
• How will you get back on track?
• Are there additional barriers that you can put up to help you succeed?

These are just a few questions to help you come up with a game plan ahead of time.


Breaking a habit is more about preparation and mindset, than it is about willpower and judgment.  Use as many of the tips above to help you break your bad habits, and remember that it is a process that takes time.  It took you 63 occurrences to form the habit, and likewise, it will take you at least as long to break it.  It will not happen overnight.  Expect setbacks, plan for failure, and think in terms of percentage of success.

Last Updated: October 30th, 2022