In both business and in life, often one of the major obstacles to success is the fact that bad habits, unproductive fixations and pastimes, and outright addictions, can combine to rob us of our vitality, creativity, energy and drive — not to mention money, time and other vital resources.
It’s axiomatically true that regardless of whether your job involves you focusing on barcode scanner repair, or financial management, you will be more effective at your job if you cut out these negative habits and free up the positive resources that they deprive you of.
The same is equally true for your personal life. You can expect to be a better friend, parent, and partner, as you shed your self-destructive, routine behaviours, and improve your mood and attention as a result.
Of course, getting rid of self-destructive patterns of behaviour is typically not very easy, and it’s often not clear where best to begin. Here are some purely mental steps you can take to dissolve your reliance on those negative behaviours from the inside out.
Understand that it’s the “benefits” that keep you hooked, not the negatives
When trying to detach themselves from some negative behaviour, it’s very common to see people beating themselves up and reminding themselves over and over of all of the negative ways in which their behaviours affect their lives.
For someone with a bad relationship with alcohol, for example, the internal mental argument may run something like “you complete idiot, you know that this is damaging your liver, dehydrating you, harming your brain, making you depressed, why won’t you stop?”
The problem is that people engage in negative habits because they believe — often unconsciously — that there are some benefits to the behaviour that outweigh the negatives. In the case of alcohol, these “benefits” may include things like “it helps me relax and socialise.”
Focus on questioning the “benefits” that keep you anchored to your habits
As it’s the perceived benefits of a behaviour that keep you engaging in it, breaking the behavioural pattern is, at its core, a matter of attacking and undermining those perceived “benefits”.
Think of it like this — where there is no perceived benefit to doing a thing; there is little willpower required to abstain from it. When you perceive there to be a major benefit, on the other hand, abstaining in the long-term will require constant large doses of willpower and a feeling of deprivation.
Begin questioning the “benefits” in-depth. Does alcohol really give you confidence, or just dull your senses, and prevent you from developing real confidence?
Address your underlying feelings and impulses to keep yourself on the right track
Often, when you break free of a negative habit or routine, you’ll find that you experience some initial uncertainty and unease as a result. Suddenly, you’re in new territory, and you have to become comfortable with navigating your way through that territory.
When you find yourself in this position, it’s essential that you pay attention to whatever underlying feelings and impulses you’re experiencing, and do your best to address them.
Maybe you’re feeling sad. Is it really because you’ve kicked the habit, or because you’ve fallen into a pattern of negative thinking? Or because you need more sleep? Or because you’re hungry?