4 Powerful Tips for Breaking Bad Habits

Bad habits are among the worst enemies of living life to the fullest. Why? Because habit is something we do over and over again. While we do other kinds of mistakes occasionally, bad habit is something we do consistently over time. If even one mistake can drag your life down, you can imagine what kind of damage bad habits can do.

Bad habit To make matters worse, often we don’t realize that we have bad habits. We think that we just live our life as usual while we are actually making mistakes again and again. It’s like having leaks in our ship without realizing it.

So breaking bad habits should be among your top priorities to get the most out of your life. If you do it right, and you are on your way to make significant improvements in your life.

The first step to breaking the bad habits is to identify them. Only after identifying them can you decide to do something about them. Here are two tips for identifying the bad habits you might have:

  1. Compare your life with your value system
    Do you live according to your value system? Or do you deviate from it here and there? Your value system acts like a compass that guides your life. When you do things that are not according to your life compass, you know that you have a problem. So look for things you consistently do that deviate from your value system. Those are your bad habits.
  2. Compare your life with a role model
    Sometimes it’s easier to compare your life with someone else’s life than to compare it with an abstract value system. So find people whose life you want to emulate and find the details of how they live their life. Is there anything they don’t do that you consistently do? For instance, perhaps they are never late. You, on the other hand, are perpetually late. That’s a bad habit you should stop.

The next step after identifying the bad habits is to break them. I’m glad I found some good tips for it in the book Become a Better You by Joel Osteen. While the book is based on Christian principles, many lessons in it are universally applicable including its suggestions on breaking bad habits. Here are four tips to stop bad habits based on the book:

1. Quit feeding the bad habit

There are two “wolves” inside us that fight each other. One wolf represents good habits while the other represents bad habits. Which wolf will win the fight? The answer is the one you feed. So breaking bad habit is actually simple: just stop feeding it. Leave the bad habit starve and you are on your way to get it away from your life.

2. Replace it with a good habit

Quit feeding the bad habit is essential but it’s not enough. You must also replace it with a good habit. Otherwise there is an empty space in your life where the bad habit could go back to anytime.

So develop a good habit to replace the bad habit. For instance, if you have the habit of thinking negative thoughts, you should replace it with the habit of thinking positive thoughts. Whenever negative thoughts come, use it as a trigger to start thinking positive thoughts. Or if you have the habit of eating unhealthy food, you can start developing the habit of eating healthy food. Just don’t leave the space empty.

3. Press past the initial pain and discomfort

When breaking a bad habit, the beginning of the process is the most difficult. Just like getting a space shuttle lifted off the Earth takes enormous amount of power, it also takes enormous amount of willpower to break a bad habit. And just like moving a space shuttle that has escaped the Earth’s gravitational pull takes little energy, it also takes only little amount of willpower to continue doing your new habit.

The initial phase is the most difficult, but it will become easier and easier over time. So whenever you think that it’s too difficult to stay on course, just remember that it won’t be so for long. You just have to keep moving forward.

4. Make “no exceptions” policy

Once you decide to break a bad habit, stick with your decision. Make no exceptions to come back to it for whatever reason. I know it’s not easy (at least for me), but this step is essential if you want the process to get easier over time. Making exceptions is like taking a space shuttle back to Earth; you need another enormous amount of power to lift it off again. So be careful not to make exceptions when you are dealing with bad habits.


These four tips are simple but powerful. Using the feeding analogy, the tips to break a bad habit boil down to this:

Quit feeding the bad habit. Feed a good one instead.

What do you think?

Photo by One_From_RM


  1. Can you please give some examples on what you mean with “not feeding the bad habit”? I am not sure if I can interpret correctly what you mean.


    • martin, listen. if you go to the grocery store and buy twinkies and eat them day and night, then stop going to the store or dont go down the twinkie aisle. stop the purchasing.

    • Not feeding the bad habit wolf simply means “not to do that bad habit”…

  2. Hey Martin, i think that a good example of not feeding bad habbits is for instance if you are trying to quit smoking, then you should not go to places where everybody else is smoking…

  3. Martin,
    I think Tiago’s example is a good one. Going to places where everybody else is smoking will only make us want to smoke. It feeds the bad habit of smoking.
    Another example I can think of is if we want to quit thinking negative thoughts (like hate) then we should stop our self-talk that strengthen those negative thoughts (like “I hate that person”, “He should never do something like that”, and so on).

    Thanks for the example!

  4. Thanks for the tips. I am trying to incorporate these thoughts with my decision to quit smoking.
    I need better habits and better ways to handle with stress and problems of life. The key is to remember constantly about the importance of growing good habits.
    Hugs from Brasil!

  5. Bode,

    The key is to remember constantly about the importance of growing good habits.

    I agree. It’s easy to forget that we need to grow good habits since the bad habits may already feel like second nature to us. This awareness alone will help us a lot in breaking bad habits.
    Good luck to you in quitting smoking. Someday I would love to go to Brasil 🙂

  6. […] are lots of other bad habits I also wished I’d broken when I was […]

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  8. i think it helps to avoid doing bad things from the beginning because they might turn into a bad habit

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  10. Its hard for me to stop such abad habit in my life so I would like you to suggest me that how to stop doing these. still I am continuing doing these since from childhood even this day.

  11. […] can break the bad habits that are robbing you of your best health.  Do you need to lose weight, quit smoking or begin […]

  12. there is a way to break bad habits….tell all your friends and collegues that u quit doing that and give your word..then even if u want to do it again then you may feel shy to do it infront of them…this is my advice …this work to people who keep their words …………others dont mind frnds…..

  13. So what’s a good habit to replace for biting your lip?

  14. to have a friend you can share/tell the bad habits with helps alot and they will support you through ti

  15. to break a bad habit, you have to confront the habit. For example, I need to stop having an attitude problem. Ive had it since I was a child, and its only developed and ruined relationships, and is currently ruining my love life now.
    Rubber band theory: when these thoughts cross your mind, snap the elastic band. girls can use a hair tie. This will trick the brain into thinking bad thoughts = pain. This is not self-inflicting, but this like anything else can be abused. I quit smoking cold turkey. this is one habit i need to break, and at any cost.

  16. I have a really strange habit of popping my ears when I’m anxious (like when you’re on a plane). I just sit there and do it repeatedly and without thinking. Not only is it annoying, but it’s probably not good for my ears in the long run. Any tips?

  17. Hi there i need a help from you by telling me how should i stop these habbits. Drinking & SMOKING I SMOKE 3PACKS A DAY WHICH IS STRANGE I HAVE BEEN MARRIED AND DO HAVE KIDS

    • Wow 3 is alot. I say every other time you want to smoke, don’t. So The first time you reach for a cig, smoke it then the secong time reach for some gum instead then the third time the cig again and so on and so on. Try it for 30 days and see what happens. That should cut you down to 1 1/2 packs a day. Then, if you’ve succeeded, Smoke one and then the next TWO times you want one have gum or a candy or whatever.

  18. Darn, I wanted to avoid this, but I think it’s too important to ignore.

    This breaking bad habits thing you got from a Joel Osteen book, which you acknowledge as Christian. So, doesn’t this prove Christianity to be “on track” and “not outdated”?

    the principles of biblical living are for the soul and spirit. The bad habits that we’re all concerned about “war against the soul” (keep it from growing).

    I hope this causes some to think about the role of the spiritual life.

  19. My bad habit is overeating in the mornings. I used to have incredibley good will power when it came to eating but now I go on binges. I eat healthy foods for the most part and I know how to take good care of myself, but I don’t. Still I exercise almost everyday but slowly I still am putting on weight. Some days I do really well but then I start stuffing my face and I can’t controlmyself and sometimes binges last 2 or 3 days. It’s so depressing and I hate my body now. I don’t like to think of myself as someone who cares too much about body image but I was so much more confident when I looked and felt good. Now, overeating is ruining my life because i have zero self confidence and nothing is fun for me anymore yet here i am, eating cookies and writing this at the same time. It’s another person living inside me, maybe the “bad wolf” that moves my hands and my mouth and the good girl with lots of will power sits quietly and watches. It sounds crazy but I really feel that way. I hate food yet it’s all i think about now.
    I’ve got to break the habit! But everytime I try I fall back. This has been going on for over a year now! I’m so depressed!

    • I had a similar problem of eating large meals and being overweight. The way slowly came down in weight is that I decided to go from a large take away meal every day to a medium take away meal for two weeks. After that I decided the two weeks after that I would go for a small meal for a few weeks after. From then, I eat the small meals, but control size of the lunch meal to be alternating between small meal and smaller meal every day to maintain the goal weight.

    • I understand perfectly the idea of comfort eating cookies and slowly putting on weight. I have clothes of 3 different sizes in my wardrobe. What I have done is to point out to myself that the cookies really don’t taste that wonderful. They’re not exactly ‘haute cuisine’, are they? Secondly, I have bags of dried fruit in the cupboard – pineapple, mango and strawberries. So I have found a ‘good habit’ to replace the ‘bad habit’ and actually the dried fruit tastes just as nice as the cookies. Thirdly, I refuse to open the cookies or ‘just have 1’. I can’t have just 1, I know that from bitter experience. I find it easier to have none than to have ‘just 1’. Fourthly, I don’t have the traditional meat, potatoes and 1 veg at dinner. I have meat and 2 veg/salad. Fifthly, don’t expect any miracle drops in weight. A slow, steady weight decline is perfectly acceptable. Sixthly, this is not a ‘diet’. You have to accept that this is a permanent lifestyle change. Good luck!

  20. from my humble point of view, i think that breaking a habit is all about have the will to quit it, and your points are useful but are all complimentary for those who don’t have the will

  21. Dear creator of this thread~

    I thank you, because reading this gives me new hope to overcome something that has been eating at my insides for a while now. The big problem is that almost everyone my age does this, and enjoy it. However I find it bad, and quite disgusting. Since everyone around me does it, do you have any suggestions on how I can overcome that?


  22. I agree with you Adyooda, one has to be ready. I have a habit of staying up late and then sleeping in to catch up. This bad habit has gone on for almost a year. I’ve wanted to quit for awhile. I’ve finally (with God’s help!) come to a place where I believe I can do this. What makes this habit worse is I have 2 girls at home with me 4 and 5 1/2. So they have been tired of seeing mommy lying on the couch. And then they just got used to it. It’s when they got used to it that it really bothered me. I always knew that that wasn’t the kinda mother I wanted to be. I just started and I’ve been staying up the last 6 mornings. I had 5 hours with both girls before my oldest goes to afternoon kindergarten instead if my normal 2-3 hours. I most definitely feel so much better about myself. And like Abyooda said you have to have the will. I’ve be working myself up to this breaking. All the glory to my Lord Jesus Christ, for strength and for the added hours with my precious girls who are growing so fast. Here’s to many more staying up mornings until the habit is broken!!

  23. This is a great post, with great tips on how to break a bad habit. I especially like the “stop feeding the bad habit” tip. Feeding habits is one of the reasons why many people go back to their former bad habits.

  24. Very useful tips. Thank you Mr.Donald Latumahina.

  25. so,many try,to stop feeding their bad,habbit,but it’s not easy,why? Because you need greater force to stop a greater one.actualy you can stop all bad habbit or things with,the ideal points;but we need just one things to back this idea.that’s GOD. If we can follow jesus as our role model,we wount be drift again to our bad habbit.

  26. I want to know how to break small bad habits such as biting your nails or making a certain noise or something like that

  27. Question:
    If you tell yourself for years that you don’t like yourself you will eventually hate yourself. If you tell your habit you don’t like the habit you will eventually hate it. Would it still be an habit once you hate doing it?

  28. smoking is my bad habit and i have been battling with this habit for almost two decades now,the worst part is that whenever i strongly decide to quickly stop it,i found myself very deep in the habit again,may God help us to drive that bad wolf in our life,now i am applying slow withdrawal method and it’s working.gud luck

  29. Naveen Kansotiya
    Naveen Kansotiya

    for given useful tips for ignore bad habit.

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