How to Break Bad Habits

David Krueger MD

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Change is not an easy task. If it were, we'd all be out of debt, in perfect relationships and on top of the world. And that clearly isn't the case. We make poor decisions out of habit, and then when it doesn't work out the first time, we try the same thing hoping for different results. Does this seem a little odd to you?

Why can't we see that trying to exit an old story by simply writing a better ending in our minds, just doesn't work? It only recreates the same story again and again and ensures we remain in it? Sometimes, the solution to breaking bad habit begins with denying that we know the right answer. It's a tough battle and many people avoid it for as long as they can. But the sooner you replace your bad habits with good ones, the better off you'll be.

Focus on the System

The system is my term for the never-ending cycle of repeating bad decisions. When something is simply not working out for you, and you decide to keep doing it over and over, you're sticking with a system that is just not working.

Devote special attention to the things that seem frustrating, out of your control, and impossible to address. For you, this could be economics, politics, personal growth, etc. The first step in helping yourself is pinpointing what the problem is.

1. Focus on Theory

Remain theoretical about how to transform various systems and about what needs to be done. Avoid detail, singular aspects, and application. For example, if spending money is a problem for you, don't focus on specific instances when you were unhappy with how you spent money. Instead, focus on the broader scope. Are there certain factors that are always at play when you mis-spend your money? Perhaps it's only when you're depressed. Or maybe it's only when you're in a rush.

Chances are, you'll find a consistency here and you'll be able to break this bad habit by fixing the main problem.

2. Believe in Expert Opinions

When discussing your problems with a therapist or someone with authoritative knowledge on the subject, believe in their expertise. It is so easy to disregard what they say because it doesn't fit into what you have always done. You may be tempted to go out and seek another opinion in hopes the second one will better suit your desires.

So dismiss any notion that their expertise is wrong or not right for you. If you believed in this expert enough to have gone to them for advice, chances are they are correct in whatever they say.

4. Debate the Obvious

When the solution to a question seems so obvious, give it a second look. When you have done something so many times that it has become routine, you tend to make a decision based on that experience. Again, you tend to neglect the fact that result has always been negative.

The moments when you can debate your natural solution are the ones that count most. Think of a solution that would otherwise seem ridiculous to you and debate that in your head. It may be just the one for you.

Going with the ‘obvious’ solution could mean you're just carrying on with the same bad habits.

5. Do not Decide in Advance

The next time you're placed in a situation where you have to make one of these decisions, allow the urgency of a situation to decide for you. Rather than planning in advance and knowing exactly what your decision will be, don't think about it at all. The gravity of a last-minute emergency forces immediate action and let's your instincts take over.

One caution with this point is not to let your habit decide for you. Let your human instinct and common sense tell you whether you are about to make a smart move or a very poor one.

6. Focus on Failure

Failure is something that we don't focus on enough in our culture. And when we do talk about failure, it's only to console the person who has failed. But failure is a very powerful tool if we know how to use it.

When you are in the middle of the cycle of a bad habit, you know what the result is going to be, because it's happened so many times before. You're going to make the habitual decision - which is the wrong decision - and fail. So give failure the respect it deserves. Fear it. This will put a lot more weight into the decision.

Failing once at something is a learning experience. Failing twice at the same task for the same reason, makes you a fool.

****** As you can see, change is no easy task. It takes determination, skill and a solid strategy for getting there. But there is a bright side - the only thing harder than change is trying to stick with those bad habits.

David Krueger MD is an Executive and Mentor Coach, and CEO of MentorPath, an executive coaching practice focused on the needs of coaches, entrepreneurs, and healing professionals.

David Krueger, M. D. is CEO of MentorPath, an executive coaching practice tailored to the needs of coaches, entrepreneurs, and healing professionals. ; email at He is Mentor and Training Coach at Coach Training Alliance. Author of 11 books on success, money, work, and self-development, his 12th book, soon to be published, is LIVE A NEW LIFE STORY: The Essentials of Change, Reinvention, and Personal Success.


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