How to Break Any Habit in 30 Days
As many of you know, I’ve battled trying to quit drinking soft drinks for years. No matter how often I’ve quit (and it’s been often), I always found myself sneaking a soda here and there and before I knew it, I was back to 2-3 per day.
I finally hit upon a method that enabled me to finally break the habit for good. You can use this method for any “bad” habit you want to get rid of (like reducing your caffeine or sugar intake) or for any “good” habit you want to make permanent (like exercising).
Here’s how it works:
First, raid your piggy-bank and get a handful of coins (or get a roll of coins from your bank). It really doesn’t matter if they’re nickels, dimes, or quarters. You’ll need at least 30 of them. As you can see from the picture, I went with dimes so I got $3.00 worth.
Second, get yourself some kind of empty container to put them in. Since I was trying to quit drinking soft drinks, it was natural for me to use an empty soda bottle. This was pretty symbolic of the habit I was trying to break. It also helps if the container is clear so you can gauge your progress by seeing the coins inside.
Third, number the first couple of coins. I used a Magic-Marker to number the coins in sequence. There’s no need to number all 30 at once since you’ll have a hard time finding the coin with the next number once you put them all together. I’d usually number 2 or 3 at a time and had them sitting on my dresser ready for use.
Fourth, get started working on your habit. For each complete day that you successfully work on what you want to do (either stopping a bad behavior or increasing a good behavior), drop a coin in your container. In my case, each day that I went without drinking any kind of soda, I’d drop a numbered coin in my “symbolic” container. Each coin in your container represents a successful day where you achieved your goal.
Fifth, celebrate each day of victory. In the beginning, I really struggled to make it through the entire day without a soft drink. Drinking a Dr. Pepper or a Mr. Pibb was my daily afternoon ritual (I don’t drink coffee – I always drank soft drinks). However, I really wanted to shed the 200-300 empty calories per day these drinks represented, not to mention the “high fructose corn syrup” they were pumping into my body. So each day that I completed, I dropped in my numbered coin, shook the coins up and down to make them rattle, stared at the container and said, “That’s another day without a soft drink. You don’t have control over me any more!” Make sure you celebrate each time you drop in a numbered coin.
Sixth, no backsliding. If you backslide, and most of us do at some point or another, start over. Take your container and hold it up so you can see it clearly. Take a close look at all the coins inside representing your progress. Now dump out all the coins and start over. If you backslide, go back and find coin #1 and start over. There’s no need to beat yourself up over “falling off the wagon.” Believe me, hearing all your progress and hard work come rattling out of the container and spill out on the table top is painful enough — but it will also make you more determined. So if you backslide, simply resolve to go a little bit further next time and start again.
Seventh, continue until you have at least 30 coins in your container. It takes at least 30 days of consistently doing something before it becomes a habit that you no longer have to think about. To break an existing habit, it takes at least 30 days of not doing it in order to break its hold on you. Make sure you continue this ritual every single day until at least 30 coins are in your container.
Finally, “cash in.” Once you’ve either established a good habit or broken a bad one, take your “winnings” out of your container and buy yourself something to celebrate your victory. Whether you buy something large or small doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you experience that wonderful feeling that comes from having “gone the distance.” You’ve earned it and believe me, listening to those coins jingle out of the container after 30 days is going to sound like a jackpot in Las Vegas! Does this method work using marbles or pebbles instead of coins? Sure it does – but you can’t spend marbles or pebbles!
Here are a couple of other tips that will help you break a bad habit:
- Once you quit, quit for good. My failing was that I was always able to convince myself that I could “have just one” or that “just one won’t hurt.” That’s total BS. There’s no such thing as “just one” and yes, just having one really does hurt. I had to keep saying “I do NOT drink soda” and then keep working and dropping coins into my container until that statement really became true. Afterward, you wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve been tempted. However, every time I am, the phrase “I do NOT drink soda” automatically pops into my head and I’m able to move on past the soda dispensers and grab a bottle of water instead.
- Don’t substitute. I used to substitute drinking Sprite or 7Up for Dr. Pepper. Although Spite and 7Up don’t have the caffeine, they have just as many empty calories. Go back to tip # 1. If you’re going to quit, quit for good. I know this goes against most advice but I didn’t want a “step-down” approach and using substitutes had never worked for me before. Besides, I always saw it as substituting one bad habit for another. Even though the substitute might be “less bad” than the original habit, it was still bad. If you’re going to quit something, get yourself determined to quit it completely and for good.
- Use rituals. It sounds corny but I turned breaking my soda habit into an epic battle between good and evil, a fight between me and that empty soda bottle in the picture. I carried that bottle in my car for over a month stuck down between the seat and the door so that it poked me in the butt every time I got in or out. I turned it into a constant reminder that I was in a real fight for my health. Each time I dropped in a coin and heard it clink, I felt like I was striking another blow for my freedom. Before I’d get out of my car at the end of the day, I’d stare at the Mr. Pibb label and literally say “You don’t have control over me anymore” out loud. I’d shake the bottle of coins up and down in order to hear how full it was. More and more it represented my increasing success and momentum. I literally got my entire body into the ritual by using visual cues, sounds, and body movements to reinforce my determination.
Got a habit you’re trying to break? Whether it’s sugar, caffeine, or anything else, give this method a try. Make it fun. Get all your senses involved each time you drop in a coin. Before you know it, you’ll be at coin # 30 and your bad habit will be history!
Certified Fitness Nutrition Coach and
Personal Fitness Trainer (NESTA)
P.S. Be sure to get my latest Fitness Blueprint called “Little Things That Improve Your Health.” This ebook is packed with loads of helpful information on how to build a better body and you can get it FREE – for a limited time. Just click on the title to be taken to the download page. Enjoy!
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