We all have bad habits.
Some bad habits can impede your career progress.
Or prevent you from forming long-term relationships.
Bad personal finance habits can cause debt.
And bad health and fitness habits can cause limited results and lost motivation.
But fear not.
Today you’re going to learn how to stop bad habits and become successful in all areas of your life.
What is a Habit?
Habits are repetitive actions or behaviors.
A habit can be something as small as washing your face after waking up.
Or as big as spending 6 hours every day learning a new language to become fluent within 6 months.
It can be life-threatening like drinking alcohol every day.
Or life-saving like attending AA meetings every day to stop drinking alcohol.
Habits are in all areas of life:
- Career and personal finance
- Health and fitness
We all operate in hierarchical structures within those areas.
And bad habits negatively affect your chances of success within them.
Create Your Own Luck
One of my favorite sayings is “you create your own luck”.
I’m sure you’ve heard of Howard Schultz and Oprah Winfrey, yes?
Howard is the founder of Starbucks and Oprah is… well, she’s Oprah.
Howard is worth $4 billion and Oprah is worth $2.5 billion… so they must have been born with a silver spoon, right?
Both Howard and Oprah grew up in poverty but made it to the top through good habits and hard work.
They created their own “luck”.
You can create your own luck too by replacing your bad habits.
What is a Bad Habit and What Causes Them?
To answer these questions, we need to get psychological for a second and take a look at Thorndike’s Law of Effect.
Edward Thorndike was a behavioral psychologist in the 19th century.
In one of his studies, he placed cats into a puzzle box and left a fish outside as an incentive for them to escape.
Each cat eventually figured out that they needed to press a lever inside the box to escape and claim their prize.
Edward put the cats back in the box and noted that they would go straight to the lever again to escape (quicker than the first time).
On the back of similar studies, Edward Thorndike put forward the following notion:
“Responses that produce a satisfying effect in a particular situation become more likely to occur again in that situation. And responses that produce a discomforting effect become less likely to occur again in that situation.”
So we’re likely to repeat actions and behaviors that invoke satisfying responses.
Thus, forming habits.
Good Habits vs Bad Habits
But I could get a feeling of satisfaction from banging my head against a wall every day.
Would that feeling of satisfaction make it a good thing?
Of course not.
This is the ongoing battle we all face in our war to become successful.
Experiencing feelings of satisfaction doesn’t automatically make experiences productive and worth repeating.
Your goal is going to be to make sure that your habits ARE worth repeating.
Here’s how you’re going to separate good habits and bad habits:
- Good habits are productive and/or positive (worth repeating)
- Bad habits are degressive and/or negative (not worth repeating)
3 Ways to Identify Bad Habits (So You Can Change Them)
Let’s do a quick exercise so you can learn how to change bad habits. Grab a pen and paper or open up a word document on your computer.
#1 Plan Your Life Goals
Plan your personal life goals so you can identify bad habits that negatively impact them.
What makes you happy?
What would make you successful?
Write down any bad habits that impede your success and/or happiness.
#2 Make a List of Bad Habits That Upset Other People
Identify bad habits that affect other people so you can improve your relationships.
You splash water on the kitchen table every time you dry your hands after washing them. Your partner lets you know it bothers them. As you want to keep your partner happy, you decide to replace the bad habit.
After a couple of days, you successfully replace your bad habit. Now you splash water into the sink instead of on the table.
Your partner notices straight away and tells you that they appreciate your efforts.
Go ahead and write down any bad habits that might upset other people.
#3 Turf Out Your Subconscious Bad Habits
Some of your bad habits will be subconscious so you might not be aware of them.
Don’t be afraid to have honest conversations with your partner and close friends to turf out bad habits.
Just ask them what, if anything, annoys them (in a tactful way of course).
It might make for awkward conversations but it will be for everyone’s benefit.
You’ll form closer relationships built on trust and you’ll be able to find out and replace your bad habits!
How Long Does it Take to Break a Habit?
Based on a 2009 study produced by Dr. Philippa Lally, it can take anywhere between 18–254 days to form good and bad habits.
Timothy Pychyl PH. D, the author of the best selling book ‘Solving the Procrastinating Puzzle’, stated that:
“Breaking a habit really means establishing a new habit, a new pre-potent response. The old habit or pattern of responding is still there (a pattern of neuron responses in the brain), but it is less dominant (less potent).”
Timothy is basically saying that to break a habit you have to replace it with a new one.
So we have the answer to our question.
Combine what we know from Dr. Philippa Lally’s study with Timothy Pychyl’s quote, and:
Changing a bad habit and replacing it with a good one takes anywhere between 18–254 days.
How to Break Bad Habits
#1 Have a Plan
It’s very easy to fall into old habits if you don’t have a solid plan of action. You’ll still feel the urge to go on Twitter if you have spare time, so plan how you could better spend that time.
Bookmark websites that talk about how to become happy and successful when you have spare time (like this one for example!). Plan your gym workouts for the week ahead instead of your next TV marathon.
#2 Remove Temptations
It’s not the best idea to stock your fridge with beer if you want to stop drinking alcohol. Or to keep your Ben and Jerry’s Half Baked in the freezer. Remove temptations to quit bad habits.
#3 Build a Support Group
Build a support group of people who support your positive goals. Don’t keep going back to the same friends who peer-pressure you to stick to bad habits!
#4 Embrace Failure
Successful people fail the most because they leave their comfort zones the most. Treat every failure as a learning experience and become comfortable in the uncomfortable.
#5 Stress and Boredom
Write down the things that cause you the most stress and boredom. What are the root causes? What bad habits can you change? Do you head straight to the shop after a stressful day at work to buy chocolate?
Prepare a healthy post-work meal snack every day to boost your energy after work. Do you spend 1 hour every day flicking through Netflix to cure your boredom? Or scrolling endlessly through social media?
Join a club to get more active and make friends!
#6 Choose Alternatives
I can’t say “stop gambling” and expect you to wake up tomorrow without the urge to take a trip to the bookies. You need to think about ways to fill the void left behind.
Join a support group or find a healthier addiction like going to the gym. The same goes for minor bad habits. Think about alternative positive and productive habits.
#7 Positive Reinforcement
If you believe something is going to fail, it will fail. If you believe something is going to succeed, it will succeed. Reinforce your bad habit changes with positivity at every opportunity. Visualize how much more successful you’re going to be after you’ve formed good daily habits.
112 Examples of Bad Habits (And How to Break Them)
Let’s move on and learn how to kick a bad habit.
12 Bad Habits That Negatively Impact Your Mindset (and what to replace them with)
#1 Reacting negatively to failure: react positively to failure. Learn from your mistakes and make improvements.
#2 Complaining: look for positives in people and make a habit of praising them.
#3 Associating with negative people: choose your friends wisely. Spend more time with positive and supportive people. And spend less time with negative people.
#4 Doubting yourself: set and achieve small daily goals to build self-belief.
#5 Criticizing yourself in a non-productive way: constructively criticize yourself. Identify ways to improve instead of beating yourself up after making mistakes.
#6 Focusing on problems instead of solutions: think about the big picture. Work on fixing problems instead of becoming frustrated.
#7 Making excuses: account for your mistakes by being conscientious and honest. Make sure you don’t make the same mistake twice.
#8 Visualizing failure: visualize success. Set aside 15 minutes every day to visualize your goals and how you’re going to achieve them.
#9 Seeking validation from other people: validate yourself. Set your own standards and meet them every day.
#10 Comparing yourself negatively to others: compare yourself with your own previous versions. Aim to be a better version of yourself every day by making small improvements.
#11 Believing that other people are better than you: self-belief. Identify your best attributes and work on improving them every day. Focus on being the best version of yourself instead of focusing on other people.
#12 Being indecisive: don’t worry about things that you can’t control. Get into the habit of simplifying problems and making quick, confident decisions.
20 Bad Habits That Negatively Impact Your Career (and what to replace them with)
#1 Procrastination: start tasks straight away so you can finish quickly and move on to the next task (here’s more on how to stop procrastinating).
#2 Being a perfectionist: set realistic work standards. Don’t waste valuable time trying to perfect small tasks.
#3 Unable to delegate: delegate smaller tasks so you can focus on the more important ones.
#4 Lack of schedule: plan your schedule weekly and/or daily so you can optimize your time (here are the time management techniques of the insanely busy).
#5 Unpunctual: always be punctual. You will showcase professionalism and respect to your employers.
#6 Not being able to say no: say no when your workload is full. You’ll be able to work efficiently and produce higher standards of work
#7 Inefficient workflow: streamline your workflow and allocate most of your time to important tasks.
#10 Taking too many breaks: take breaks only when needed so you can maximize your working time.
#11 Not taking breaks: make sure you take breaks when needed to sustain energy and motivation.
#12 Being self-centered: show an interest in your work colleagues. Make an effort to ask questions and build rapport. You’ll form stronger working relationships.
#13 Gossiping: focus on your work instead of participating in negative office gossip. Maximize your working time and maintain positivity.
#14 Never learning new skills: proactively approach your boss about potential learning opportunities. Or take it upon yourself to take online courses in your spare time.
#15 Multitasking: focus on one task at a time instead of trying to juggle several balls at once. And streamline your workflow by looking for ways to automate simple tasks.
#16 Thinking too far ahead: concentrate on things that you can control. Don’t get distracted by a potential promotion. Just get your head down and focus on producing high-level work. Your promotion will come in time.
#17 Overcomplicating tasks: simplify tasks by being organized and creating an efficient workflow.
#18 Indecision: be decisive. Simplify problems and think about solutions instead of problems.
#19 Comparing yourself to other employees: focus on yourself. The only person you should be aiming to beat is yourself. Set small personal goals and aim to beat them every day. Focus on being the best version of yourself because that’s the one thing you can control.
#20 Depending on your colleagues: be self-dependant. Focus during meetings and keep on top of your emails so you won’t need to ask your colleagues for help.
20 Bad Habits That Negatively Impact Your Personal Finance (and what to replace them with)
#1 Living outside your means: live within your means. Spending $500 on clothes might make you feel great until you have to live on pot noodles for the rest of the month. Live within your means by budgeting and only spending money on things you really need.
#2 Always going for the cheap option: cheap isn’t always best. Oftentimes people buy low-quality goods that need replacing when they break. Go for value for money and you will probably save money in the long-term.
#3 Borrowing money with interest payments: patiently save money. You can buy a $12,000 car on a 1-year finance plan and end up paying $16,00 due to interest payments. Or you can save $1,000 per month instead (saving an extra $4,000 at the end of the year). Patiently save money instead of taking out high-interest loans.
#4 Paying bills late: paying bills at the last minute can make you think you have more money than you actually do. Pay bills straight away and you will know how much money you have left for the rest of the month.
#5 Throwing receipts away: keep receipts. Spending $10 here and there can very quickly take you $100+ over your monthly budget if you don’t keep track. Keep receipts and you will be able to identify areas where you can conserve money.
#6 Watching TV adverts: advertisers are incredibly savvy in getting you to impulse buy. Skip TV adverts and you will save yourself from impulse buying.
#7 Always paying with your credit card: It’s harder to track your money when you always pay with a credit card. Withdraw a set amount of money each week and you will be able to easily track your budget and avoid exceeding it.
#8 Stalling on your business ideas: don’t stall. Many people lack confidence or will power to hustle on the side or start a business. But there are hundreds of ways to make money on the side! If you think you’d enjoy writing a blog, selling products on Amazon, creating graphics, or have any other passion… don’t stall! Get hustling and you will be able to make extra money on the side or even create a fully viable business.
#9 Shopping without intent: write shopping lists. Only buy what you need for the week. You will save time and money!
#10 Buying your kids whatever they ask for: learn to say no to your kids. Kids are cheeky and will always ask for the first thing they see… and saying no can be really hard! But spending $5 here and there (or more) on sweets and toys very quickly adds up on the balance sheet! Learn to say no to your kids and you will save money.
#11 Short-term financial planning: Do monthly budget plans. Buying a nice and shiny flat-screen TV for $1000 seems like a reasonable idea when you have money in the bank. But what if your boiler breaks the next month or you need to take your car into the garage? Long-term financial planning means that you won’t get caught out by unforeseen costs. There are also things like your retirement to think about. We all have to retire at some point… do you want to rely on the government when you do or do you want to control your own fate?
#12 Impulse spending: only buy things you really want or need. It’s natural to buy something that you like and feel regret a few days later after the novelty has worn off. Save your money for specific goals.
#13 Accepting face value costs: negotiate better deals. many people make the mistake of buying things without negotiating. Some of you spend hundreds or thousands more than you need to do each year. Ever called your internet company before and told them you’re going to leave them? Before you know it you’re offered a magical deal for being such a “loyal customer”. Most companies will give you a better deal if you ask them for one. Get into the habit of negotiating better deals to save money!
#14 Paying the same mortgage interest rates every year: renegotiate or look elsewhere. The mortgage market is extremely competitive so you’re spoilt for choice. Shop around when your mortgage term comes up and look for a better rate (you’ll more often than not get one!)
#15 Leaving your savings in a low-interest rate bank account: shop around or invest. Many people just leave their money in a 0% interest rate bank account and miss out on extra savings. Shop around for best high-interest rate savings account. Or you could even look into investing your money (but do your research first).
#16 Fast purchases: look for competitive deals and promotional codes. Many online shopping sites feature a ‘promo code’ box at checkout for a reason. Don’t race to the checkout and pay straight away. Take 5 minutes to search for promo vouchers and save yourself some extra money (one of the easiest ways to save money).
#17 Buying lottery tickets and scratch cards: save the $10 you would have spent on scratch cards in a piggy bank every week. $40 per month ($480 per year) could pay for a holiday at the end of the year.
#18 Keeping the same financial goals: adjust and set new goals. When you get into good financial habits you’re going to hit your goals… so make new ones when you do! Try to save even more money or hustle on the side even harder.
#19 Excessive smoking/drinking: bad drinking habits can be a huge financial burden. Think about how much money you could save if you stopped drinking or smoking. Put $5 into your piggy bank every day instead of buying cigarettes or alcohol.
#20 Leaving it late to open letters (bills): it’s really easy to throw your letters into a pile when you get home from work. Get into the habit of opening your mail straight away and you’ll be able to keep on top of your finances.
15 Bad Habits That Negatively Impact Your Education (and what to replace them with)
#1 Bad organization: have good organizational skills. Always write things down and plan your schedule on an hour-by-hour basis.
#2 Not preparing: fully prepare. Don’t briefly look over your curriculum for the semester thinking you’re just going to wing it. Read through it and prepare yourself for the next couple of months so you can optimize your time.
#3 Studying with friends: studying with friends can make it harder to concentrate and revise. Create a productive space that optimizes your ability to concentrate and revise effectively. You will experience better results.
#4 Losing focus during lectures: it’s very easy to switch off during lectures. Maintain focus and make a concerted effort to learn as much as you can. Grab a coffee if you need to and avoid sitting next to chatty friends. You’ll thank yourself when exams start.
#5 Lacking the confidence to ask questions: have the confidence to ask questions during lectures. You will be able to learn actively and better understand the topics. Write your questions down to help you if you feel nervous to start with. But you’ll get into the comfortable habit of asking questions before you know it.
#6 Skim reading: get into the habit of thorough reading. It will enable you to revise better for exams and produce higher standards of coursework. If you naturally read fast then go back and read the page again. Or you can get into the habit of slowing down your reading. Make sure you fully understand what you’re reading before moving on.
#7 Not taking notes during lectures: take notes during lectures. You’ll be able to retain more information and better prepare for exams.
#8 Being narrow-minded: many courses incorporate different ideologies and subjective thinking exercises. Listen to all talking points instead of dismissing them straight away. Be open-minded and you’ll be able to better apply critical thinking.
#9 Being a know-it-all: be open to learning and you’ll be able to soak information in like a sponge. Turn up to every lecture with the enthusiastic attitude: ‘I can’t wait to learn!’. You will likely experience better results.
#10 Thinking anecdotally: conduct thorough research. You’ll be able to provide credible sources, adding credibility to your coursework.
#11 Procrastinating: start assignments straight away. You’ll be able to finish them quicker and work on improvements to boost your grades.
#12 Being an introvert: get into the habit of being extroverted and you’ll connect with people better. Proactively go out and talk in front of people instead of waiting to be put on the spot. Constantly visualize yourself being confident and you will eventually become just that.
#13 Submitting 1st drafts: submit revisions. Improve your work instead of submitting 1st drafts and you will attain better grades. Keep sending your revisions to your lecturers and they will suggest improvements. That’s what they’re there for!
#14 Being easily discouraged: embrace failure. Accept that you got a D because you didn’t do everything in your power to achieve an A. Did you revise at every opportunity? Attend every lecture? Send drafts to your lecturer? Make sure you tick every box and you will achieve a better result next time.
#15 Revising at the last minute: revise every day leading up to exams and you will attain better grades.
15 Bad Habits That Negatively Impact Your Relationships (and what to replace them with)
#1 Disrespecting your partner: respect your partner and they will feel valued. Don’t take your bad mood out on them. Be nice and polite no matter what mood you’re in.
#2 Being reactive: if you always react to your partner they will start to think you that you don’t care. Be the first one to start a conversation or suggest something fun to do, and your partner will appreciate it.
#3 Being passive: be active. Passively watching TV with your partner every evening is a bad relationship habit. Go for walks or nice meals together and you will avoid a stagnant relationship.
#4 Being exclusive: be inclusive. Heading straight to your games room after work makes your partner feel excluded. Include your partner in your passions and hobbies and you will both feel more connected.
#5 Being critical: compliment your partner at every opportunity. Make them feel special. Perhaps they’ll make you feel special in return…
#6 Being selfish: your partner will soon notice if you’re constantly selfish. Get into the habit of being selfless and you will connect better with your partner. Help around the house and offer help whenever needed.
#7 Being unromantic: breaking wind next to your partner is going to get you a night on the sofa. Flowers and a bottle of wine usually yield more satisfying results. Or keep it simple and give them small kisses and hugs throughout the day.
#8 Trying to change your partner: accept your partner for who they are. Many relationships fail because one person tries to make the other “perfect”. They might get stressed more easily than you over small things. But that’s okay. Just be patient and think positively about their good attributes (I’m sure there’s plenty!).
#9 Being emotionally closed: be emotionally open. It will bring you closer together. Don’t just head straight to your man-cave (or woman-cave) when you’ve had a hard day at work. Sit down and talk about your day with your partner. They will appreciate being given the chance to support you.
#10 Being argumentative: there are times when your partner is going to annoy you… but learn to be patient. Ask for some space for 5 minutes so you can talk again when things have calmed down. Write an angry text message but wait until the next day to send it. (99% of the time you will delete it and be glad you didn’t send it!).
#11 Being dishonest: we all know that successful relationships are built on trust. Be honest with your partner and you will build trust over time. Tell them if your work colleague is trying to flirt with you over Facebook. And tell them that you ate their chocolate bar. They don’t care about the chocolate bar, they care whether you lie or not.
#12 Spending too much money: most people want a partner that they can have a future with. Save money and show your partner that you’re someone they could have a long-term future with. (Refer to good personal finance habits from earlier!).
#13 Not planning the future: plan for the future. Fun is great for a few months but your partner will probably start thinking about the bigger picture. Indicate to them that you’re worth sticking around for. Discuss things like buying a house, getting married, and raising a family (if you’re at that stage).
#14 Being unappreciative: we all like to feel appreciated on some level. Make your partner feel appreciated and you’ll only get positive vibes in return. Compliment them on the way they look and maybe buy them something nice every week or so. But sometimes a simple “thank you” is enough to make someone feel appreciated.
#15 Being unoriginal: I get that you like wining and dining your partner at KFC every week… but try to think outside the box every now and treat them to something original! Buy a cookbook and make them a nice meal from scratch. Your efforts will mean a lot to them!
15 Bad Habits That Negatively Impact Your Health and Fitness Goals (and what to replace them with)
#1 Taking long rests between sets: take short 1–2 minute rests between sets. It releases more anabolic hormones than longer rests. Great for muscle growth.
#2 Training without a plan: plan your workouts. You will give yourself a better chance of achieving the results you want
#3 Over-training: over-training can have negative impacts on motivation and long-term health. Train smart and you will be able to maintain motivation. Don’t train any more than 5 days per week and cut workouts short if you’re feeling fatigued. Your body and motivation will be more sustainable over long periods.
#4 Not setting goals: you will struggle to maintain motivation if you don’t set fitness goals. Set fitness goals and you’ll be more motivated to progress to specific targets.
#5 Repeating the same exercises (over a short period): incorporate various exercises. Training the same muscle repeatedly can harm muscle growth and cause muscle imbalances. Train different muscle groups throughout the week. You will attain a more balanced and aesthetically pleasing physique.
#6 Not researching technique: research technique. Correct technique is key in avoiding injuries and maximizing muscle hypertrophy.
#7 Skipping leg day: many people skip leg day at the gym and end up with a disproportionate physique. Get into the habit of doing leg day and you will have a more balanced physique.
#8 Not sleeping enough: lack of sleep causes fatigue and other issues. Sleep 7–8 hours per day and you will be able to function at full capacity.
#9 Not pushing yourself hard enough: push yourself. You’ll more than likely experience bigger improvements week-on-week. Listening to motivational music at the gym is a great help for this.
#10 Not recording progress: take a pen and notepad to the gym with you. Record your workout progress and you will increase motivation and boost progression.
#11 Not planning macronutrient ratios: plan your macronutrient ratios. They play a key role in supporting your health and fitness goals
#12 Not drinking enough water: drink plenty of water. Drinking 2 or more liters per day promotes cardiovascular health. It also supports your muscles and joints.
#13 Eating sugary foods: replace with healthy foods like fruit and vegetables. Your general health will benefit.
#14 Drinking excessive alcohol: find healthier alternatives. It goes without saying that drinking excessive amounts of alcohol carries health dangers. Check out this article to discover what you could replace alcohol with.
#15 Smoking excessive amounts of cigarettes: switch to e-cigarettes.
15 Bad Habits That Negatively Impact Your Social Status (and what to replace them with)
#1 Bad manners: respectful people notice when you don’t say “please” and “thank you”. Have good manners and people will respect you.
#2 Poor hygiene: bad hygiene makes people uncomfortable. Maintain good personal grooming habits and people will appreciate you for it.
#3 Avoiding eye contact: maintain eye contact. People will think you’re confident and comfortable.
#4 Always talking about yourself: ask people questions. They will appreciate your interest in them and reciprocate.
#5 Interrupting people: constantly interrupting people makes you seem insecure and domineering. Give other people a chance to shine in the conversation and they will value your friendship for it.
#6 Looking unhappy: smile and people will think you’re friendly and approachable.
#7 Talking too much: relax and let conversations naturally flow. Constantly talking gives the impression that you’re self-centered or uncomfortable with silences. Most people will enjoy your conversations more when they’re a two-way street.
#8 Forgetting names: make a habit of remembering names and people will feel like you’re interested in them.
#9 Complaining: being negative attracts negative people. Try to praise people when you can and you will attract like-minded positive people.
#10 Low energy: maintain positive energy and you will have a positive effect on the people around you. It will make them want to spend more time with you. Make sure you get 7–8 sleep and plan a healthy diet.
#11 Space invading: everyone has that one friend or family member that likes to talk within kissing distance. It’s quite off-putting! Give people some space when talking to them and they will appreciate it.
#12 Constantly correcting people: give people leeway. Constantly correcting people for incorrect pronunciation or mistakes won’t win you many friends. We both know it’s ‘you’re’ not ‘your’… but give people a bit of leeway and you’ll come across as easy-going and non-judgemental.
#13 Checking your phone mid-conversation: keep your phone in your pocket. Checking your phone mid-conversation is a turn-off for most people. Keep your phone in your pocket and people will think you’re invested in the conversation.
#14 Bragging about money or possessions: stay humble. Bragging about money or possessions only shows people how insecure you are. Stay humble and people will like you for your personality.
#15 Being judgemental: don’t negatively judge people. Judging people negatively only makes it harder for you to like people. Get into the habit of not being judgemental and you’ll find that you like a lot more people.
Bad habits can result in broken relationships, a stagnated career, poor finances, educational failure, poor health, and limited social life.
Good habits can result in happy relationships, a successful career, wealth, educational success, a healthy and fit lifestyle, and a great circle of friends.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit”. — Aristotle
Go back to our earlier exercise: identify and replace as many bad habits as you can think of.
Remember, it only takes between 18–254 to replace a habit.
Replace your bad habits with good habits and start experiencing success within 18–254 days.