Breaking Bad Habits: Change Your Perception, Change Your Results

Apr 01, 2013
Bad habits squash our goals. But what if you could turn that bad habit into a helpful one?

Bad habits squash our goals. But what if you could turn that bad habit into a helpful one?


Have you ever set a goal and struggled to stick with it? Yeah, you, me, and everyone we know. Sticking to your goals can be tough! Let’s look at some helpful tips to get us where we want to be.


That Bad Habit

When we set goals, we usually have the best intentions. We’ve realized there is something holding us back from reaching our full potential and we set out to change ourselves for the better.

In the beginning, there is usually a honeymoon period. We’re on a bit of a high and feel like we can accomplish anything. This is a great feeling but unfortunatelyit doesn’t last. Our sneaky bad habits poke out their heads and are usually our undoing.

Habits unfortunately never truly go away.

There are pathways in the brain that, once created, can never be destroyed. For example, if you’ve always chewed your nails or cracked your knuckles, that habit is likely to be with you for life.

But don’t worry! There was ways we can create new, helpful habits that, with a little effort, will take the place of those old bad ones.


How to Make it Stick

There are a few things we can do to help us stick to our goals. The first is willpower. Willpower is your ability to continue to persevere. Now, willpower is like all muscles and needs exercising. You need to start small, like waiting to check your Facebook at work until lunch time.

Trying to quit smoking is a serious goal and requires a lot of willpower. A goal of this magnitude can easily wear you down and needs to be approached thoughtfully.

Ever felt burned out on something? Like all muscles, willpower can be over worked. It needs rest. The best way to do this is to choose when you tackle big goals. If you’re going through a stressful time at work, it’s probably a bad time to make any serious life changes.

When you start to feel like you’re getting burned out, take time to recharge. Consider thinking about some of your past achievements. It can give you a nice mental boost. What’s one of your greatest accomplishments?


Tweak Your Attitude

Sometimes willpower just isn’t enough to keep us heading in the right direction.

Ok? What else you got? Sometimes just the smallest mental shift can make all the difference in reaching our goal. Studies have shown that a simple shift from “I can’t” to “I don’t” can be all we need to get over a bad habit or reach a goal.

A study was done with a group of women working towards a health and fitness goal. Half the women in the study were encouraged to use “I don’t” when tempted to cheat on the diet or not go to gym, while the other half were encouraged to use “I can’t”.

The women would check in daily and would be allowed to leave the study if their strategy wasn’t working for them. By the end of the study 80% of the women using the “I don’t” strategy were still going strong while only 10% of the women on the “I can’t” strategy were left.

The reason why the “I don’t” women were able to stick with the diet and exercise program was simply because they had made it a choice.

The moment they started answering “I don’t” to things like not going to gym, having that candy bar, etc, they made a mental shift. “I can’t” takes that choice away from you. It makes it seem like the things you are doing or giving up are forced; a rule you need to abide by.

The moment you start using “I don’t”, you make a personal choice and it reflects in your attitude. You have taken the power back from the bad habit. By making this slight shift you begin to realize that the choice is yours. Use these resources and the power of choice the next time your struggling with a goal.


Leave us a comment below and let us know about a goal you’re currently struggling with.




  1. Bogdan Dobija says:

    Your article has resonated with me, particularly about quitting cigarettes… I quit about 24 years ago from 60 a day to zero the next… but, still kept drinking 15 mugs of instant coffee with a teaspoon of sugar in each mug.

    After six months of not smoking… made my first coffee for the morning with my teaspoon of sugar… took my first sip and spat it out… this tastes like S**T. So I made a cup of tea with sugar… spat that out… determined to have a cup of something to drink… ( part of my morning ritual ), made another tea no sugar with milk and still drinking tea with milk and no sugar to this day.

    I’d smoking when I was 16 now I’m 67 and quit when I was 43 and had smoked 60 a day for at least 20 years. Tried to quit smoking on 3 other occasions with the 4th being the best result.

    The point that I’m suggesting… that it is far easier to quit than most smokers would realize… and its not about exercising your will power to over come something you know is harming your body and your mind.

    To overcome a habit that is so ingrained into your psyche is more difficult than you realize A better way to get rid of an ingrained habit like smoking is to quit one day at a time… Quitting for life is too hard to handle at a critical time in your life.

    Break the habit of “lighting up a fag” first… one day at a time. Do that for 21 days by affirming every morning when you awake “Today I will not smoke” and particularly, when ever you get the urge to lite-up… say to your self “Today I will not smoke”… Do this every day for 21 days.

    There’s more to this… a lot more. I could go on and on about other issues that keep bubbling to the surface of your mind… Perhaps another time.

  2. This article left me wondering because you did not give examples of how to use “I don’t”. Above, it says: “The moment they started answering ‘I don’t’ to things like not going to the gym, having that candy bar, etc, they made a mental shift. ‘I can’t’ takes that choice away from you.”
    To me it is not completely clear. I guess you’d say “I don’t eat candy bars”, rather than “I can’t have that candy bar.” The first example is trickier: it would be awkward to say “I don’t not go to the gym”. I think what would be needed is to say, “I don’t skip going to the gym”.
    It seems this is all about semantics, and how they effect our motivation, and I feel some examples would have made this a stronger article. I will experiment with the framework you gave us, but a followup article might be a powerful tool.

    • Thanks for your suggestion Phil.. :)

      The power of the phrase “I don’t” is that it implies a choice compared to the phrase “I can’t”. This phrase doesn’t give you any power or choice on the matter. Hope this makes sense.

  3. Thank you for your insights. I quit smoking almost a year ago and (please don’t shoot the messenger) I didn’t use any of your suggestions – or many others I had read about. and…it was easy…yes,,,you heard was easy.

    What was the secret – I loved myself MORE! That’s it. Instead of concentrating on a specific issue or habit and calling even more attention to it – I concentrated on the whole – ME. I learned to forgive myself and realize I am perfectly-imperfectly just as I the moment. I affirmed – I AM Healthy every single day.

    My spiritual practices concentrated on loving and accepting myself, scars and all, and realizing I am a Divine masterpiece, meant to make mistakes and to use what I have learned to continue my journey. Do I Love myself wholly and completely every second of every day…no…but that’s okay… just loving myself more is enough. I AM enough,,…here and now. Not when I quit smoking, or loose weight or get a better job… For me, this was a revelation that changed my entire focus and the results have been nothing short of miraculous.

    Hope this wasn’t too woo-woo…. Much Joy!

    • Rishan says:

      Thanks Gia for sharing! I do believe that loving yourself more would definitely heal you and would help you be more healthy.

  4. Winston Grass says:

    Thanks for the auspicious writeup. It in fact was a enjoyment account it.

    Look complicated to far introduced agreeable from you!
    By the way, how could we keep up a correspondence?

  5. Maria Millsaps says:

    That makes sense to me…when you have a choice in a matter you are empowered but when a decision is imposed you might percieve it negativity and stress hormones come to defend the course.

    • LogitheYogi says:

      Couldn’t agree more Maria. I like the way you said stress hormones “defend”. They certainly do. Is this a new realization to you, or it something you’ve been practicing?

  6. I have been trying to lose weight and can’t get beyond a certain point. Seems like lm stuck. When I read, I don’t, something snapped. I’m going to use this to remind myself what my goal is and do I want this or not! I’ll let you know how it goes.

    • AllTooSimple says:

      Reyes, Excellent! Yes, keep us posted on your progress. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, come back and we’ll discuss your next step.

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