2 Secret Weapons to Breaking Any Bad Habit

We all have bad habits. Some of us have a bad habit of smoking, drinking, or using substances. Those are the obvious ones. But what about the less obvious ones.

Do you push snooze? Do you take too big of helpings at dinner? Do you skip your workout? Do you drink too much coffee? Do you go for a snack instead of water? Do you watch too much tv? Do you spend too much time on your phone?

Or do you feel sorry for yourself? Do you give up too easily? Do you criticize, blame or judge others? Do you jump to conclusions? Do you take things too personally? Do you have a short fuse? Do you become overwhelmed or anxious easily?

All of these are bad habits.

You might think that some are worse for you than others. And that can be argued. But if you drink a little bit of poison, or a lot of poison, you’re going to feel sick. Do that over a long period of time (like habits go) and all that is going to add up.

So whether you have an obvious bad habit, or a subtler one, it is time to do something about it. Because taking the wait-and-see approach for any bad habit, from smoking to stressing, has never once in the history of the world worked. It only makes it worse.

The way I see it, there are two secret weapons that are absolutely necessary to break out of any bad habit.

  1. Self-compassion.
  2. Tough love.

Self compassion is the ability to say to yourself, “You know what? You got this. You can take baby steps. Two steps forward, one step back is still progress. You're ok.”

Tough love is a tad different. This is where you say to yourself, “Ok, that’s enough. You’ve done this long enough and you just can’t afford it any more. Buck up and make it happen.”

Self-compassion and tough love can get all mixed up in these ways.

  1. Self-compassion becomes complacency. Self-compassion is being gentle on yourself as you recognize with appreciation how far you’ve come, the challenges you’ve overcome, the progress you’ve made. Complacency is being too soft on yourself. Letting yourself get away with your bad habits and pretty much giving up in the name of being nice to yourself. This could look like, “I was messed up as a kid, that’s why I smoke.” Or maybe, “I have a rough job, that’s why I watch so much tv after work.”
  2. Tough love becomes just tough. Tough love is self-discipline. Making the right choices instead of the easy ones. It’s about pushing yourself, being firm with yourself, and not taking your own crap. When this self-discipline turns into self-criticism, you lose the “love” in tough “love”. Essentially, self-discipline is where you bring out your best, while self-criticism is where you beat yourself up, with comments like, “You’re such an idiot, you’ll never get over this.”

Complacency and self-criticism have never solved any problems, broken any bad habits, or healed any wounds. Self-compassion and tough love on the other hand, do all this and more.

Breaking those bad habits is about finding the balance in self-compassion and tough love. Too much of one or the other is devastating. It’s not like one or the other is the answer. It’s the relationship between the two that will be key in breaking your habits. Some moments, you might need more self-compassion, some moments you might need more tough love. But always you need both. It’s a balance.

Right in this very moment, do you need more self-compassion? Or do you need more tough love?

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