Five Secrets for Self-Control and How to Change a Bad Habit: Step One

Scrabble tiles spelling out Time for Change

Being Inspired in the First Secret to Self-Control and Changing Bad Habits

As we can all attest, life is not always easy. We are faced with continual challenges throughout our lives and have many hurdles to get over as the years go by. One of the most difficult challenges that we face, however, is the battle we have with our own minds. Self-control is an obstacle that is not easy to overcome, particularly once we form bad habits. Whether it’s a food craving, a drug addiction, anxiety and obsessive thoughts, or something else, our own minds can be our greatest enemies and make life difficult. My name is Dr. Jonathan Bricker, and this is step one in my five step series on how to manage self-control and change your habits.

What Verbs Inspire You to Change Your Habits?

When it comes to changing your habits, it helps to first consider one question: why are you changing that habit? As you answer that question with your reasons why, you will find that you are putting verbs in your sentences. For example: spending (more time with family), building (better relationships), engaging (in your hobbies), or giving (back to your community). Whatever your reasons are for wanting to change a habit, try to consider what verbs are in your sentences that are inspiring you to make these changes for the better.

To Help with Self-Control, Use These Verbs as Anchors

As you pinpoint the verbs that inspire you, use them like an anchor to keep you grounded. As life gets tough and the storm rolls in, let these verbs ground you until the storm passes. This way, as temptation comes over you and you feel the desire to resort to your addiction or bad habit, you can instead think about your reasons for changing. Perhaps your anchor is to live a healthy life, show love to others, or even make a positive impact on the world. The storm will pass, and when it does your ship will still be on course to your destination, your end goal, thanks to your anchor. Think about this question: how would your life be different if you were able to reach this goal?

Writing Down Your Goals Helps You Break Bad Habits

Do you want to know how to break a bad habit? Contrary to what you might expect, the answer is not to “find motivation”. There will be days that you don’t have any motivation, but you still need to be able to put the work in on those days to change your habit. This is where your goals will come into play.

You can start by writing down verbs that excite you as we mentioned above, and you can use those verbs to help you determine three anchors for your life. Say them aloud. These anchors will take you to your goals. It is also helpful to set different kinds of goals, such as long-term, medium-term, and short-term as checkpoints along the way.

Goals are outcomes of habit change. Let’s say your bad habit is overeating, and your self-control struggle is with eating small portions and making healthy choices when it comes to food. Therefore:

  • Your goal is to lose 25lbs.
  • Your verbs and anchors are competing in local sports, living a healthier life, and looking good to boost your confidence. 
  • Your long-term goal is losing 25lbs. Your medium-term goal is to lose 5lbs this week. Your short-term goal is to eat less than 2,000 calories today.

Actions that are guided by your anchors will move you forward, little by little, but combined they will result in a big change and help you to reach your goals.

Motivation is Optional, but the Work is Mandatory

As we mentioned in the last section, you will still need to be able to put in work on the days that you don’t have any motivation. This is possible due to the fact that motivation, while beneficial and at times very helpful, is still optional. But think about that: what does it mean exactly?

Motivation is an unreliable predictor of habit change because there will always be moments when you don’t have any motivation. Rather, willingness is a better predictor of change. Even if you have no motivation, as long as you have a willingness to do the work and change the behavior you will find success. For example, think of changing a habit like training for a 5k. There will be days when you will have no motivation and you won’t want to run because you are sore or it is cold out, but as long as you have the willingness to still go for a run and power through the inspiration for quitting, you will improve your running ability and reach the 5k distance.

It is normal and okay to have urges. Practice the art of riding out these urges and choosing not to act on them. Not only will this empower you and help you to take control back from your cravings or addiction, but it will make it easier to understand this unique concept of motivation being optional. As you work to change your habits and experience the highs and lows of motivation, remember that motivation isn’t required; the work is.

Unlock All of the Secrets to Self-Control 

Be sure to check back for the rest of the steps in this five-step series about self-control! Click here to check out Step Two