My Process For Breaking Old Stubborn Habits

There is this old story I have heard where habits are compared to trees. The larger the tree, the deeper the roots, and the more difficult it is to remove. Your habits are the same way. If it is something you have been doing for years, that tree is a 100ft oak. You are not going to simply pull that up by the stem, as you would with a habit that is two-weeks old.

It’s A Slow Process

When trying to remove bad habits from my life, I have been slowly removing the ones that have been keeping me from achieving my goals. I like to start with the easiest things (trees that were planted 0-6 months ago), hoping to build momentum and confidence for the larger obstacles (my habits +1 years in the making).

Like most people, I felt like I was wasting a considerable amount of time each day. To change this reality, I started with the easy job of adding value-added tasks into my day. In the beginning, I did not stop doing anything I was previously doing.

Absorb Beneficial Information

I started listening to audio-books and podcasts that were on topics I wanted to learn more about. As my interest grew in the material, the amount of time I was willing to devote to the podcasts and audio-books increased. Before long, I was attempting to implement the strategies I was learning into my life. If I was listening to a writer sharing how they overcame writers block, I wanted to see if that would work for me. If I was listening to a podcast about starting a business, I wanted to see if those strategies worked in my business.

Leave The Distractions (at first)

All the while, I have not removed the distractions from my life. Since there are only 24 hours in a day, I found myself becoming frustrated by the fact I did not have enough time to accomplish my goals each day. The motivation behind my new mindset was simple: as I was building small wins and seeing the benefits of my positive changes, my mind wanted more wins and more growth.

To ensure I was not resistant to the changes I wanted to make, I started by removing my most recent “time wasters”. If there was a television show where I have only seen a couple episodes, I stopped watching it. If it was an app that I have purchased less than a month ago, I deleted it from my phone. I started replacing these items with more books, audio-books, and podcast episodes. I remained in this phase for several months, slowly removing distractions as my interest in them faded.

Time To Remove The Oak Tree

In the end, the only distraction that remained on my phone was my Clash of Clans game. It is an entertaining and addictive strategy game that I spend several hours a day engaging in. It was something I knew that was holding me back from my peak performance. However, I did not want to admit I was wasting my time. This would require me to admit that I wasted several years on this game, when I could have been doing something more worthwhile with my time. It may sound crazy, but as long as I kept playing the game (even if just for a few minutes a day), that meant I was successfully convincing myself there was no problem. I would tell myself, “the other changes I have made were more than enough”. I would rationalize doing something I knew I should not be doing as, “surely everyone has an indulgence they partake in to remain sane”.

Reality Check

While this was true, I knew my situation was a hindrance to my overall success. Could I admit this early on? No, unfortunately not. But as I slowly changed parts of my life, it changed the way I looked at other aspects of my life.

Sometimes, we overlook recognizing a distraction for what it can be – Enjoyable. (You probably didn’t expect me to describe a distraction that way.) Distractions are so hard to quit because they are something we enjoy doing. You enjoy checking social media as much as you enjoy texting with your friends. Instead of immediately working on removing your distractions, work on creating new enjoyable activities first. Think of it as trading something you like for something even better. Instead of thinking of it as being forced to give up something you enjoy, for free. As I enjoyed my new habits more, I was able to align my emotions to my mindset. Once I enjoy what I know I need to be doing, it becomes easier to quit doing what I should not be doing.

You are interrupting yourself from your distractions by distracting yourself from your interruptions.

Continued blessings,

Undre Griggs | Clouded Sage | Forecast Hope | Be More

If you enjoyed this article, you are going to love my upcoming book, Champion of Change. Sign up and be able to get a free copy when the book launches.

  • Derbra Owete says:

    Yeah I agree. Removing an oak tree is not an easy job nor is it a fast one but chipping away at it like you said, it’s the way to go. We all have oak trees in our lives that hinder our growth and hide us from the sunshine that God gives us. They are really good for shade. But when they hinder us and stunt our growth then we need to do something about it if we’re honest with ourselves. That takes courage.

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