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Motivational Life Coaching Corner: Breaking Old Habits and Forming New Habits

I tried desperately to get up early each morning. I would set my alarm clock for 6 am and many mornings I would just reach over to my alarm clock on my cell phone and just turn it off, and then I would roll back into my comfy bed. No matter what I did, I could not get up consistently early, but I wanted to! Why was this so hard for me?

What is a habit

Habits are generally considered things that you do automatically when in a particular situation. A habit is something that has been learned through repeatedly acting.

Why is breaking an old habit hard?

To break a habit, you have to activate a different part of your brain to override those habitual tendencies. The problem is the part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex is easily distracted and does not work as well when you are stressed, this is where those bad habits that are hardwired into your brain take over automatically. The new habit that you are trying to make can with time overwrite the old habit.

Before you try and break an old habit and form a new one, the number one thing that you need is sheer determination. You have to set in your mind and see yourself achieving your desired outcome. Visualize yourself not performing your old habit but instead, see yourself performing your new habit.

How long does it take to break a habit?

Generally, it can take anywhere from 21 to 30 days to break a habit or make a new habit, there are times it can take longer but usually within 4 weeks you should be in the zone of your new habit. Researchers from University College London examined the new habits of 96 people over 12 weeks and found the average time it takes for a new habit to stick is 66 days. However, the process of breaking an unwanted habit depends on the person and the habit and can take some individuals up to 245 days. Don’t get discouraged by 245 days, this is to inform you that breaking “pleasurable and rewarding” habits is no easy task, but given enough time can be achieved. I suggest at least 60 days of repeatedly replacing your old habit with your new habit before you will be able to perform your new habit automatically.

After getting the vision for what you want to achieve, make a goal and write it down! Get a journal and write out the habit you want to break or make as well as the date that you started. You will want to track your progress as well as any mishaps you may have.

For the next 21 to 30 days realize that you probably will feel uncomfortable, may struggle to go back to your old habit, and want to quit together, all normal but the difference will be your determination. Understand your habit. Most habits are patterns that have evolved because they have been rewarded in some way. A “habit loop” forms from a cue or trigger that tells your brain to start the habitual behavior. The brain processes a reward from this behavior that reinforces the habit loop. Interrupting the behavior part of this loop is how to break a habit. This is why it can be challenging to break a habit, and why most people give up after a week. Determine ahead of time that you will have a bit of a struggle in breaking this habit loop, but by repeatedly replacing the automatic impulse to act out your habit, eventually you will succeed.

Ask yourself, do I want to break this habit or do I just like the idea of it, and am I prepared for the hard work that it will take to break a long-standing habit?

Know what “rewards” your brain is looking for. Many bad habits come about as a means of dealing with situations that cause stress or boredom.

What to expect when breaking a habit:

✅ The first couple of days of forming a new habit will be met with great expectation and you may even feel exhilarated at the thought of breaking an old, nasty habit. As the first week comes to an end, you very likely will be hit with strong resistance to go back to what you know is comfortable for you. As humans we like comfort, changing a pattern of behavior that you may have had almost an entire lifetime such as with alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes can be frightening. At the end of the first week, you most likely will be tempted to quit altogether.

✅ The “struggle” or the “in-between” phase kicks in about week 2. You have made it 2 whole weeks without your habit, but now what? You possibly will struggle with valid questions such as,” If I stop drinking or smoking then what will I do”? You will feel unsteady as you begin to navigate your “new life.” You very likely will have “withdrawal” symptoms during the first 2 weeks as your nervous system struggles to deal with a change in the chemicals triggering the reward center of your brain.  

✅ If you have the strength to push through week 3 or day 21, it will be very likely your old habit is beginning to break and your new habit is being established as a part of your life. Week 3 can still have its challenges; your habit may be broken but your new habit still seems foreign to you. If this is the case I would advise you to keep moving and get more firmly established in your new habit as you go into week 4, and remember it can longer to break an old habit.

Tips for breaking habits:

  • If you are trying to break the habit like overeating, drinking alcohol, or smoking, know triggers will come. Be on guard for triggers, especially during the first 30 days. In other words, do you enjoy a cigarette after a good meal? That is a trigger for you, so you will need to make a change such as enjoying a cup of tea instead.

  • Make sure you have a good substitution for your old habit, such as instead of overeating you will exercise 3x per week.

  • Surround yourself with people who will encourage you to break bad habits and decrease your time with those who will cheer you on to remain with your bad habit.

  • Reward yourself frequently, especially at the 21-day and 30-day markers.

  • Be extremely kind to yourself in the first 30 days of breaking your bad habit. If you need to pull back from additional stresses in your life, do so if possible.

  • If you make a mistake, do not deem that is total failure. Breaking a bad habit is extremely difficult, but focus on the fact that it can be done!

 🛑 Let's discuss:

🗣 What bad habit would you like to break and what new habit would you like to make? Write it down, send me an email, or comment on the blog post.


📣 Resources to help you to break old habits, and form healthy habits:


📌Try life coaching with me. I can encourage, teach, train, and support your journey.

📌 Not ready for life coaching yet, try my e-course on Disciplining the Mind which offers tips, tools, and practical applications.

📌 Order a copy of my book, "Disciplining your mind, 30 days to a better you!"


🆓 Resources:


✅ Mini e-course on forming healthy habits

✅ Subscribe to my YouTube Channel where I post weekly content on various life coaching topics.

✅ Subscribe to my blog where I post weekly content on various life coaching topics, and I also post words of encouragement to help build your faith.

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