Ralph E. Moore Jr.

By Ralph E. Moore Jr.,
Special to the AFRO

Many of us have at least one bad habit. Whether it be overeating, oversleeping, overspending, drinking too much or gossiping, we all have that one thing we need to stop or start doing.

The question challenging so many of us is, “How do you break a bad habit?”  And once you break one, “How do you make it stick?”

The conventional wisdom is that bad habits should be broken down into small parts to tackle them including triggers, practice, and rewards.  And there should be a step-by-step process to eliminating a bad habit.

The process of behavior modification (yes, that’s what it is) begins with clarifying to oneself what it is you want to focus on. 

  1. Define the bad habit.  Do you struggle with too much snacking, never calling loved ones or friends back, not exercising or spending beyond your means? The first step to taking control of a bad habit is calling the bad behavior out! Don’t beat around the bush about your bad habit– address it head on.
  2. Be concrete. The question is “what causes a bad habit?” Are there triggers? For example, do you eat a lot of snacks because you buy too many and bring them home from the supermarket? Do you watch too much television because you don’t have any good books around? Is boredom the trigger? Is loneliness?  Is laziness? Define what exactly is the issue and figure it out, so you can fix it! 
  3. Identify solutions! Watching television too much may be fixed by buying books, board games or puzzles. Take some hard looks and give yourself some serious self-examination of what’s happening in that aspect of your life where bad habits show up. In our example of too much television watching, finding some other way to entertain oneself is the answer. Replacing one habit with another, more productive one, is the answer.
  4. Name the consequences of your bad habit and list the positive outcomes that would result from a change in behavior. Have you sat down and thought about all of the ways your life is negatively affected by overspending or eating too much? No matter the specific issue, write down all the ways your bad habit is affecting your life. Does a lack of sleep make you irritable around family, friends and coworkers? Think of how much you could benefit by making a change for the better. Write down all of the positive ways your life could flourish if you cut out the behaviors that are keeping you from truly thriving. 
  5. Use reminders to stay on track. Use the alarm on your cell phone to remind you to go to bed and when to wake up.  Staying up too late can be a bad habit. Set your alarm, turn in when it goes off and stick to your plan!

If you can find a buddy to join your effort to improve– someone you can call or text when you feel vulnerable– then your chances to overcome the bad habit will improve. Misery may love company but so does self-improvement. Use the buddy system to encourage one another, to remind each other and to challenge your buddy to keep going or to do better.

  1. Reward yourself as you go along. Positive reinforcement reputedly works better than negative reactions.
  1.  Consult a professional. If all else fails, call in the experts! Carolyn Opher Mozell is a leadership development coach who has worked for recent Baltimore City Mayors Sheila Dixon and Jack Young.  She has served as chief of staff and other senior positions. Mozell currently runs her two-year-old business, Leaders Who Connect and Inspire, LLC. She trains clients on self-improvement. 

Mozell advises that “self-awareness is the foundation of emotional maturity” and is needed on the road to breaking bad habits for the sake of self-improvement.  

“Emotional intelligence, particularly as it pertains to the individual, is needed to make progress,” she said. Mozell feels “self confidence, while working on oneself is also significant to achieving success.”

The time is now to make a plan! Seek advice today on how to break your bad habit. If needed, or consult a professional along the way. Lean on your support group as you strive for successful results. The bottom line is, don’t stop trying.

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