We all have habits we aren’t proud of. Some examples of those habits are procrastination, being late, stress eating, staying with people who treat us badly, not doing what we say we will, etc. We all have bad habits, even the most successful people. Learning to deal with the habits we don’t like and develop better habits is key. No one can determine what habits don’t serve you besides you. Meaning if being late is a habit you’re okay with then do you. But if it’s not—then the advice in this post will help you break that habit.

Maybe you’re feeling stuck with your current habits with no clear path to the life you’ve always dreamt of having. I’ve felt like that and still feel that way sometimes. I haven’t fully cracked the code yet. Some days I feel cloudy and I struggle to imagine better for myself. I let myself feel that instead of avoiding it. My therapist advised me to do that, so I’m sharing some of her brilliance with you. What helps me is working on myself. Working through my thoughts and researching ways to break the habits and emotional cycles that reoccur in my life.

We can’t gain back time.

Each day is a chance to move our life towards something more than it is now. That drives me to act. I refuse to let inaction build up regret of wasted time, energy, and opportunities. Your attitude is all that matters to determine what you’re really capable of achieving. 

So, let’s break down the 4 steps to break your bad habits:

1. Determine the bad habit you want to change

I suggest starting with one bad habit. If you decide to quit caffeine, wake up at 5 am and stop procrastinating all at once, it can get very overwhelming. Start with the habit most affecting your mind and attitude negatively.

Example: I want to stop stress eating.

2. Identify what is driving your bad habit

Now that you’ve determined the habit. Discover why you want to change this habit. Without a strong reason why you will not change. Identify the negative consequences your habit has on your life then identify the positive benefits that will come from eliminating this bad habit. Think about how this habit will affect you in 1 year, 5 years, even 10 years from now.

Example: Stress eating leads me to eat junk food, feel groggy, gain unwanted weight, and not be as mentally clear and energetic as I can be.

Some positive benefits from not stress eating are I’ll feel more energized, I’ll lose weight, I’ll focus on working through my stress with healthy choices, leading to an overall better attitude about my appearance and my health.

3. Change the story you’re telling yourself

Despite whatever you keep telling yourself—you deserve better. You are worthy, and you have the power to reverse every and any habit you have. This life is yours to create. Imagine the day when you overcome your bad habit. Envision how you would look and feel. The next step is to determine what’s triggering your habit. After you realize what triggers your habit, identify what actions you tend to do after you feel triggered. Lastly, identify the positive result you feel after you repeat your bad habit. Understanding why you repeat the same habit and routine will make changing it so much easier!

Example: My stress eating is triggered when I feel conflicted about a particular task or situation. The stress of all the work I have to do overwhelms me and then I reach for whatever junk food I can get my hands on. While eating these snacks, my taste buds are stimulated, and I begin to feel calm and relaxed. As a result, I tend to stress eat when I want to take a break and unwind.

4. Take immediate action 

Now that you understand exactly why you keep repeating the same habit, it’s time to replace your routine with an alternative. Your triggers will most likely always be there but if you change your routine to benefit you, you’ll develop better habits. Replace your bad habit with a positive alternative that will reward you as much as the bad habit has. Set a goal to do this within a certain time frame so you have a benchmark to hit. Keep track of your progress to keep you motivated.

Example: When I feel triggered to stress eat, I’ll reach for my favorite fruit instead. Stress eating doesn’t feel like such a bad habit when you replace the junk food with fresh fruit or veggies that satisfy you and make you feel energized and proud of your choices.

These steps can be done with any habit of yours. Work through them and repeat them consistently to make them stick. It takes a minimum of 21 days and a maximum of 254 days to make a habit consistent. Your bad habits took months or even years to develop so don’t expect them to change overnight. Don’t be discouraged if you take a few days or weeks to progress, just keep going and lean on your support system for encouragement.