There’s the saying “People never change,” its usually uttered in frustration when one reaches wit’s end regarding the behavior or personality of someone they know. The saying implies, obviously, that people are incapable of changing something about their persona. But that statement is missing the real problem: habits are hard to break.

Habits, by definition, are recurring patterns of behavior that are acquired through repetition. Some habits can be easier cemented by a physical or chemical addiction, like with cigarettes for example. Habits, once they’ve been ingrained to the point of being subconscious in nature, are usually pretty hard to break. Hard. Not impossible.

Say your boss is telling you off for whipping out your phone, which isn’t unrealistic considering how much we use our phones during the day. Supposed your habit has gotten to the point that’s it’s an unconscious habit. You just can’t help but reach into your pocket to check the time or see if anyone texted you (even though you know your phone didn’t vibe). This was the case with me. I’d get phantom vibes. I’d pull my phone out to check the time but not register what the time actually was.

Like with breaking any habit, you’ve got to realize there is a problem, and you have to want to fix that problem. In most cases, too much of anything can be a bad thing. Things my peers complain about are cigarettes, being on your phone or tablet way past bedtime, playing video games for hours, eating too much food; you see where I’m going with this. It’s not necessarily what the habit is that’s the point, the point is that it’s affecting your life in some negative way and you want to change it. Taking baby steps is a good place to start.

Let’s start with cigarettes. You want to quit, but you get that itch every few hours and want to pop outside to smoke one real quick. Take baby steps. Try to smoke one less a day, or if you feel that’s not enough, maybe switch over to the patch or gum, or just go cold turkey and throw them all out. Try something that you think you can handle, because if you over do it and you can’t break the habit, then it’ll seem that much harder to try to break it again.

If we go back to my situation with pulling my phone out all the time, I thought I should try something different, something that breaks the chain of events, so to speak.

It’d go as such: I’d want to check the time (I should get a new watch by the way. Strap broke and I’ve been too lazy to get a new one. Besides, why get a new watch when my phone keeps time? Anyway…) I’d want to check the time, I reach for my phone in my right pocket, take my phone out of said pocket, and stare into it. What I did in order to break the chain was put my phone in my left pocket. It was a stroke of genius and the whole reason I wrote this article. I always carried my phone in my right pocket, so later that day, when I went to check the time, I reached for my right pocket, and realized my phone was in the other pocket. I’d catch myself and have a laugh about it. It was like seeing myself with a bird’s eye view. In my case, I had to put my phone in the other pocket.

Break the chain. This is the crux of my point here. Break the chain. If you want to quit cigarettes, maybe switch to vaping or the patch, or the gum, just find something that will allow you to take those baby steps and reach the goal you’ve set for yourself. Start with baby steps.

Taking baby steps is a technique that can work for removing a negative habit or adding a positive one. Want to wake up a little earlier to try to go to the gym? Try going to bet a little earlier. Set an alarm to remind you to go to bed a little earlier. Set your morning alarm for whatever time you want to wake up at. Want to sign up for a 5k? Try walking, and then run for a few minutes. Each session, add a few extra minutes to your run. Soon enough, you’ll see progress and you’ll be amazed at what you can do. Don’t be afraid to push yourself, but be cautious if you get knocked back. Don’t falter. Stay the course. To keep with the running theme, trying to break bad habits or built a good habit is a marathon, not a sprint. All things come in time.

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