How to Break a Bad Habit

Several years ago, I was chatting with a witness in one of my cases. Let’s call this woman, “Lisa.” Lisa had temporary custody of her three-year-old niece. Lisa told me that she had tried to quit smoking for years. One day, Lisa was in the backyard smoking. Her precious niece came outside and ran straight into a cloud of cigarette smoke. Lisa told me that she put out her cigarette and never smoked again. Habits are easy to form and hard to break. What’s the best way to break a bad habit? Let’s look at a few.

1. Force yourself to think of the damage you’re doing to yourself or to someone you love. For example, if you have problems with overspending, imagine yourself at 80 years old and dependent on one of your children for food and shelter. Pastor Andy Stanley says that your irresponsibility will become someone else’s responsibility. Will your bad habit create work for someone else in the future? How do you feel about that?

2. See yourself on the other side of the habit. How about this example? Maybe you spend too much time on social media. Imagine that you have limited your social media time, and now you have an extra five hours a week. What would you do with that time? How would it feel to be free of your habit?

3. Consider your example. What are you showing your loved ones, employees and friends with your bad habit? People pay more attention to what we do than what we say. My mother never told me that I should read, but I always had two sets of library books at home. I had one set from the public library and another set from my mother’s school library. She was a librarian. Currently, I read two books a month because my mother surrounded me with books, and she was always reading a book, a newspaper or a magazine. I copied her reading habit.

If you have a secret habit, what will your friends and loved ones think when they find out? Are you prepared to deal with those consequences?

Once you break a bad habit, you may need to replace it with something else. For instance, when you gain control of your spending, maybe you will need to start gardening or journaling to fill the time and mental space. As you decide what habit you must break, decide what you will do instead. For instance, if you reduce your social media consumption from seven hours a week to one hour a week, perhaps you could do volunteer work, write a book or organize your home during the extra hours that you gain.

What habit have you broken? How did you do it? How did it change your life?


  1. Sunil Raheja on December 12, 2017 at 5:38 pm

    Thank you Connie!
    Great wisdom. One habit I stopped many years ago was watching the daily news or looking at news sites before going to bed. Most of it is negative and there is very little I can do about it (except maybe pray or give to charity). I get The Economist once a week and that provides more than enough of the overview I need each week. It also frees up time to focus on the things I can change in my life.

    • Connie Clay on December 12, 2017 at 8:10 pm

      I know exactly what you mean about the news. I too stopped watching it a few years ago. Admittedly, I take a peek in airports and offices when it’s on. It can be so engrossing!

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