Have you ever resolved to drop a bad habit, yet failed? I have. And I’m not alone.
You may decide you need to get rid of a bad habit, but it’s hard to just QUIT doing something. You may be committed to change, and have fabulous intentions–but you still struggle to follow through. Why?
It’s because people typically set themselves up to lose.
To be successful, you have to replace a negative habit with a positive one. So instead of resolving to “stop eating junk” you have to “choose healthy snacks” instead. This isn’t just a question of semantics: it’s a powerful, and often overlooked, difference.
To simply STOP doing something, your only real plan is to use your willpower, and that’s a limited resource. You know what this looks like: the first time the craving strikes you brush it off, 30 minutes later you do something intentional to distract yourself, and an hour after that you’re pacing in front of your refrigerator (or office vending machine) telling yourself not to grab a Diet Coke. If you’re like me, that’s when you give in.
But to be successful at making changes, you have to do more than decide to give up the bad habits: you have to plan what you’re going to do instead.
So let’s make a plan. Here’s how to trade in 3 common bad habits for good ones.
Quit Diet Coke
I’m sorry to say that I have tons of experience with quitting Diet Coke. That stuff is addictive! I have a long history of giving it up, only to relapse a few months later.
I’ve learned that to successfully quit Diet Coke, you have to do more than just decide to quit: you must decide in advance what you’re going to drink instead.
Drinking plain water instead of diet soda sounds noble and all, but it doesn’t satisfy a Diet Coke craving on a hot summer day. My substitute of choice is sparkling seltzer water, served with a wedge of lime, lemon, or if I’m feeling really exotic, grapefruit.
I keep my fridge stocked with cans of seltzer water from the grocery, and I also brew iced coffee and iced tea in the summertime. There are plenty of cold drinks for hot summer days besides Diet Coke! On cooler days, hot herbal tea is my beverage of choice.
If I’m out and about and seltzer water isn’t on the menu, I’ll order iced tea, coffee, or even red wine. Just not soda!
Stop Eating Junk Food
Resolving to get off the junk is an important first step. But if you don’t make a plan, you’re setting yourself up for a massive battle based on willpower alone–and by the end of the day you’re going to lose (or be really cranky).
To be successful, make sure you know what exactly you’re giving up. Is it chips? Cookies? Easy Cheese? And then decide what you’re going to eat instead.
Stock your pantry with healthy snacks so you have something to eat when the munchies strike. If you need ideas, check out this excellent list of easy & healthy snack ideas. (The almond crackers are a family favorite at my house.)
As for me, I get into trouble when I want something crunchy. It’s not glamorous, but baby carrots and sugar snap peas provide some crunch. I prevent a lot of dietary problems before they get started by keeping these veggies in my fridge at all times.
Of course, if you’re staying up late eating bags of chips, you may be able to fix the problem by just going to bed. Which leads us to…
Staying up Until Midnight (or Later!)
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve resolved to “go to bed early” and then gotten in bed even later than I did the night before!
If your goal is to get to bed at a decent hour, you’ve got to do better than deciding to go to bed “not too late.” (It’s hard to just stop doing something.)
Decide what you ARE going to do. Set a time, and then plan ahead so you can stick to it.
At my house, I used to set an alarm on my phone that went off at 9:20, when I was supposed to be brushing my teeth and heading off to bed. This technique didn’t work at all. When the alarm went off it just made me mad, because without fail I’d be right in the middle of a project I didn’t want to wrap up.
So I changed the alarm. Now it goes off 30 minutes before teeth brushing time, and it means “wrap up your projects so you can get to bed on time!” It’s a subtle change, but it works.
Sometimes I still stay up too late working on a deadline, but that repeating alarm makes it much easier to hop back on the bedtime wagon.
If you find yourself chronically staying up way too late, take a hard look at how you use your time the rest of the day, especially your mornings. If you can’t get your work done in the evenings, it’s likely that trouble started way earlier in the day.
To Change Habits, You Have to Make a Plan
Nature abhors a vacuum. You can’t just drop a bad habit: you have to replace it with a good one or you’re doomed to failure. If you want to succeed, you have to make a plan.
What positive change are you planning to make this month? Share below!