In this post I am going explain the principles involved in breaking a destructive habit. These principles have been scientifically tested through psychological studies and have been shown to work.

Although the principles are sound the application is much more difficult.

You will need to use all of your imagination and ingenuity to be able to apply the principles to your own life.

Why Habits Are Hard to Break?

Habits are maintained by the pleasure and reward that people receive by engaging in those behaviors. If the pleasure and reward is removed then the behavior will cease and the habit will be broken.

For example, if you are a persistent gambler and particularly like to play slot or poker machines then the random unexpected reward provided by the machine, and the pleasure that engenders, will encourage you to continue with that behavior even though the outcome may be financially damaging.

If the poker machine was recalibrated so that it never paid out any money under any circumstances then eventually playing it would become so painful and unpleasant that you would cease to use it and the habit would be extinguished.

Casinos understand these principles very well and that is why they calibrate their machines to give sufficient rewards to keep the players interested. Unfortunately these rewards are significantly less than the funds players expend.

Breaking a Habit Forever

There are two ways to break a habit forever.

The first is to find an alternative behaviour which is more pleasurable and rewarding than the behavior you are trying to break. For example, let’s assume that the behavior you are trying to break is overindulgence in chocolate.

One way you could achieve this would be to slightly overindulge in fruit which would be more filling than chocolate and probably more nutritious as well. By continuing to eat the fruit, and particularly fruit you enjoy, the pleasure that you get from maintaining a good diet will invariably overcome the feeling of disgust that you may experience from overeating chocolate.

The second method is much more difficult to apply but it has definitely been proven to work.

One way to break a habit is to take away the pleasure and reward that you received from that behavior. In the chocolate example given above another alternative would be to eat a piece of chocolate with something that you absolutely detest. The continual association of chocolate with something vile will probably cause you to cease eating chocolate altogether. This is a hard journey to take and I tend to think that the first method is probably the best way to go.

Good luck and I hope you achieve your goals successfully.

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John Townsend

My name is John Townsend and I have been working as a Stress Management Consultant since 1986. My seminar, Get Tough With Stress, has been presented to thousands of people throughout the world and shows people how to toughen up to stress and to transform stressful experiences into valuable learning experiences.

My clients include many of Australia’s largest companies plus Australian Government Departments and agencies. One of my greatest personal joys was to present my Get Tough With Stress programme to staff of the Australian Parliament.

Over the past 15 years I have been presenting to large numbers of Chief Executive Officers through an organisation called The Executive Connection (TEC). I have been privileged to receive the highest honours bestowed on speakers by TEC, an organisation dedicated to increasing the effectiveness and enhancing the lives of Chief Executives.

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