How many times have you been doing something you know you shouldn’t be doing, but you go and do it anyway just because? “Ah, it doesn’t matter, I may as well.” And that’s all well and good if it’s an indulgence that actually brings us some measure of happiness or contentment. We can’t be all work and no play all the time. But what happens when these things aren’t actually enjoyable, but they’re mistakes and you keep on making the same ones over and over and over again? What do you do about these self-destructive habits?
How Do You Get Rid of Your Self-Destructive Habits?
The answer to this question is of course by taking responsibility. But also by creating an environment in which it becomes harder to continue acting out your bad habits than it is to stick to new, more positive ones you want to replace them with. And so first, you need to be brutally honest with yourself about what is and isn’t working in your life. Make a list of all the things that just aren’t working. This will be where you focus all of your attention. By doing this, you’re making an agreement with yourself that you are going to change. You’re going to stop justifying all your missteps, inactions and self-sabotaging behaviour and start doing something to put it right. No more excuses.
Because as long as you’re advocating for your negative behavioural patterns, you’re never going to take the necessary steps to change them. And so, to make that a reality, you need to change the circumstances that are allowing these habits to thrive and that are making it almost impossible for you to do anything else but retread that same old path over and over again. What that means, in a nutshell, is that you need to change your environment.
Changing Your Environment to Change Your Behaviour
Let’s say you’re someone who’s struggling with a dysfunctional relationship with alcohol. You’re not exactly an alcoholic, but it’s a habit that’s keeping you stuck in a cycle. If you’re keeping alcohol in the house, how likely is it that you’re going to be able to resist the urge? Let’s be perfectly honest here… Not very. If your environment is one of temptation which provides the path of least resistance to those habits you’ve long outgrown, that’s exactly where you’ll end up time after time. If, on the other hand, you got rid of it all and every time you wanted to have a drink, you needed to make the trip to go and buy it, maybe you’d think twice? Because there’s effort involved in acquiring that alcohol, it creates friction and where there’s friction there’s resistance and hesitation.
And that’s the kind of barrier you want to place between yourself and the habits you’re trying to kick. Friction.
Stepping Out of Sabotage For Good
But then, that’s only half the battle. If you’re an avid drinker, no doubt you’ve got a pretty large social circle that reflects that interest. What now? Temptation is still only an invitation away. How do you say no?
The answer to this one might create some resistance in you. And that is… change your group of friends. And that’s a very real suggestion. Let’s say on top of your solo drinking, which you do to unwind every night after a hard day at work, you like to go with your friends on weekends to let off steam.
But the truth is you’re not happy in your job and you’re always dreamed of starting your own business. The thing is all that extra time and money you’re spending on drinking is a key piece that’s holding you back. Something has to give. You’ve tried to decline invites in the past but have always been pulled back into the fold. And so, you need to change your environment. You’re never going to achieve your goals while you’re being dragged back into your old habits. It sounds radical, but sometimes if you want to make real change in your life you’ve got to make some ruthless decisions. Remember, we mentioned being honest with yourself at the beginning? This is where the rubber really hits the road.
Change is the Life Blood of Progress
Now, there’s no getting away from the fact that change is scary. Especially if you’re letting go of something that represents relative stability and is all you’ve ever known. But what lies on the other side of making that decision to try something new, to ask for something more from life? If you approach these decisions from a fearful mindset, that’s the experience you’ll have…
But if you approach change with an attitude of what you’re gaining as opposed to what you’re giving up, you’ll find those ‘things/excuses’ holding you back were all in your imagination. You’ve got everything to gain and nothing to lose. We live in a perception-based reality and quite often those perceptions aren’t based in truth and can actually serve as our limitations. So those habits that you’re advocating for as being part of your identity and who you are…
Ask yourself… Are they really?
Are you really the sum total of your habits that have been created through environmental influences and a peer-group/collective mindset? Or, are you able to transcend these social and cultural bogs of conformity and say to yourself you are going to choose a life path that’s more in line with your true values, and passions? And not what represent the easy way.
Habits are something we do on autopilot. And the vast majority can be pretty limiting unless you’ve done some serious self-inquiry, witnessed your patterns and interrogated their validity on a deep level. It’s up to us to create a better environment for ourselves that will encourage us to form new habits that are of our own creation – and not simply adopted through our association with others. How long can we continue to live in this unconscious way of living?
- If you want to be a writer, lay everything out on your desk for when you get up and start straight away.
- If you want to lose weight, empty the fridge of all the junk food and replace it with healthy alternatives.
- If you want to get fit, pack your gym bag the night before so it’s one less excuse you can use against yourself.
The most effective way of eliminating self-destructive habits is in developing more beneficial ones to replace them. Create new cues in your environment that will make you stick to them so you develop a routine, which makes doing them their own reward. If you really want to fix your self-destructive patterns, write them down as questions you want to ask yourself and problems that need to be solved. And then, keep on trying different methods until you hit on the right one.