In the September, 2014 edition of Ideal Insights, I wrote about habits (how they are formed and how they can be replaced).

In that article, the emphasis was on the fact that a habit has to be replaced, not just removed.

In my coaching and mentoring career, there have been countless clients who wanted to give up an unproductive habit. My emphatic message to them was that they must look for ways to replace that habit.

If you are to get rid of a habit, please remember that a void will be formed.

The legendary Bob Proctor said “Nature abhors a vacuum. Once you give something up, something else will have to fill that void”.

This is so pertinent when it comes to replacing a habit.

Today, let’s discuss how you can replace a habit.

Here are four steps to replacing an unproductive habit:

1. Come up with a productive habit – in an article in Psychology Today, Teri Goetz stated “Choose something to replace the unhealthy habit”. That could not be truer! If you are looking to drop a habit, you will be in a far better position to look for a new habit to replace the old habit with. Just getting rid of the old habit will not cut it. You have to come up with something new to replace the old habit. This is what I wrote in the previous article on habits - There was a Life Coaching client of mine whose goal was to quit smoking. He had a habit of having a cigarette every hour, on the hour while he was at work. He said that when he quits smoking, he will miss going outside his office like he used to when he smoked. I asked him how long it took him to smoke a cigarette. He replied “Four minutes approximately”. So, I asked him to go for a four minute walk around his office building, on the hour, every hour. His not so good habit had to be replaced.
2. Look for the “spark” – what is it that causes you to engage in the unproductive habit? What sparks that action? Let me share a story with you. I had a coaching client in 2009, whose goal was to lose a number of kilograms in a number of months. He was on an appropriate diet, and was also engaging in regular exercise. At least twice a week, he would get side tracked, and do something that wasn’t congruent with his goal. He would walk past a bakery (on his way to work), and buy a rocky road slice! After consuming the rocky road slice, he would be consumed with regret. My suggestion to him was to identify that walking past the bakery “sparked” his action of buying and eating the rocky road slice. He decided to take another route, which didn’t have a bakery or a fast food shop. The same applies to productive habits. What sparks the actions of productive habits? I suggested to this client that if he gets prompted to buy food items from a shop that he walks past, he should purposely walk past a fruit and veggies shop. His goal was to increase his fruits and veggies intake. Identifying the spark is an integral part of the process.
3. Find an accountability buddy – a study done at the University of Aberdeen found that people who found a new exercise partner were more likely to do more exercise. One of the most important lessons that I learnt while doing my coaching certification was that a coach should act as an accountability buddy to the client. You are more likely to respond productively if you are being held accountable for your actions. Find someone who will hold you accountable for your actions in dropping the unproductive habit, and in upholding the new/replacement habit. Ask this person to be firm (not harsh) in holding you accountable.
4. Give yourself an appropriate reward – when you have sustained the new and productive habit, give yourself an appropriate reward. What does an appropriate reward mean? It is something that will be complimentary to, and/or congruent with your new productive habit. We often hear that people “reward” themselves after being disciplined for a set period of time eg. having a pizza and a can of soft drink for dinner after eating healthy all week. That is not what I am referring to. If you have been exercising hard and eating healthy all month, you could reward yourself with a fitness watch. The fitness watch will remind you of your goal, your hard work, and your progress. Celebrate your achievements, and reward yourself appropriately!

Quote: “Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.” Jim Ryun

I sincerely hope that you have gained a simple insight into how you can replace an unproductive habit with a productive one.

Influencing you to your excellence,


PS: Here is my Anti-Bullying Charities latest short video (Understand The Behaviour Of The Bully)-

Author's Bio: 

Ronny Prasad is an author, speaker, corporate trainer, and anti-bullying campaigner, based in Melbourne, Australia. He is the author of WELCOME TO YOUR LIFE - His anti-bullying charity regularly delivers presentations at schools, and uploads videos on Youtube, for kids who are being bullied at school. You can download his free anti-bullying app on Google Play or Apple's App Store. Just do a search for Beat Bullying With Confidence.