If you want to create new habits, leave the bad habits where they are, and start to create completely new habits.

In short, focus on what you want, not on what you don’t want. Give up your desire to find old habits and behaviors to fix, and become fascinated with creating new ones.

The way people try to get rid of bad habits is most of the time fundamentally flawed. We somehow want to reverse the habit and focus on stop doing it. We want to “unwire” what is already there.

The latest discoveries in the field of neuroscience shows that it is easier to create new “hard wiring” and “connections” in our brains, than to “unwire” old connections.

How do we form habits in our brains?

Our brains are basically a connection machine. It’s the brain’s most favorite activity. There are literally millions of neural pathways in our brains. Therefore, when new information enters the brain, it attempts to make it fit into the current network of connections. It wants to make order out of chaos.

These information might be any stimuli that enters the brain through the five senses (with women it’s six – no, only kidding)…seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and feeling.

When we learn new things, we make new connections. The more we deal with that “new thing” the more ingrained the connections become in our brains. This is what happens when you learn to drive a car.

Initially, it’s slow and you have to think what you are doing. That’s your brain trying to make new connections. Later it becomes second nature and you don’t have to think what you are doing. That’s your brain hard wiring the new habit.

An analogy for hard wiring is the way water flows on the surface of the earth. The water finds their way across the land and when the next rain comes, it follows the same path as the previous rain, deepening the course. This is how canyons are formed.

In the process, we form habits. The problem is that some habits give us the results that we want and others don’t.

The traditional way of changing old bad habits is to reverse the way the information is flowing in our brains. In practice, this means the following:

  • I want to stop smoking
  • I want to stop eating chocolates
  • I want to stop being impatient
  • I want to stop procrastinating

Trying to change old bad habits is like trying to get rid of the Grand Canyon…not such an easy task.

Focus on Creating New Habits.

Leave the old, bad habits right where they are and create new ones. It takes much less energy and time. If we use the examples above, it means the following.

  • Instead of trying to stop smoking, rather set yourself a goal to run a half marathon in under 2 hours.
  • Instead of trying to stop eating chocolates, rather create a new habit of eating healthy food.
  • Instead of trying to stop being impatient, rather create the new habit of finding joy in every moment or the beauty in every person that you interact with.
  • Instead of trying to stop procrastinating, rather create the new habit of doing your important tasks first thing every day.

To use the water analogy again, rather cut a small new path that will direct water to flow where you want it to flow, and allow the water to do its work over time.

What Happens to the Old Bad Habits?

The same that happens with your ability to do complex mathematical multiplications in your head quickly in your youth. The bad habits largely disappear if not used in years.

Any pathways that you don’t use for a while slowly become less connected.

So if you want to change bad habits, just give less energy to them. Meanwhile clearly define the new connections you’d like to have and get to work at turning these into long-term habits.

Author's Bio: 

Derik Mocke (B.Sc) is an energetic, purpose driven, educated, present moment, emotionally aware, fun loving professional life coach, group coach, motivator, father, husband and marathon runner. His life purpose is to help people, groups and companies to find their energy and zest for life. He helped companies with employee motivation for the past 15 years and is also the editor of www.sustainable-employee-motivation.com