How to Break Bad Habits

I’m a pretty good coach, but I would make a terrible counselor. Whenever I am put in that situation, I get agitated. Why? Because the solution to the person’s problem seems obvious. It’s all I can do to retrain myself from blurting it out.

Recently, my friend and former coach Ilene Muething shared with me this really funny Mad TV skit with Bob Newhart. In it, he plays the role of Dr. Switzer, a psychologist with a simple theory of human behavior. The clip is only six minutes long but worth every second. It’s hilarious.

When it comes to my own problems, things seem a little more complex. The solution isn’t so obvious—at least to me.

Could it be that we are simply addicted to our problems? Think about it: problems often persist because they are meeting some deep need for certainty, variety, connection, or significance. For example:

  • Bill smokes a pack of cigarettes a day. He has tried to quit several times. However, when he begins to feel stressed out, he has to light up to calm down. Could he meet his need for certainty in a more healthy way?
  • Karen is a compulsive gambler. She started out small, but now her addiction threatens to ruin her family financially. She tries to stop and does fine for a while. But then she gets bored and heads to the casino. Could she meet her need for variety in a more healthy way?
  • Ed has tried to lose weight for years. He has tried numerous diets but can’t shed the pounds. Could it be that he is addicted to the connection he feels with others around food? Could he meet his need in a more healthy way?
  • Susan is in a bad marriage. She and her husband are always fighting about something. Though she says she is miserable, she likes the attention she gets when she complains to her friends. Could she meet the need for significance in a more healthy way?

I often wish that Dr. Switzer’s stop-it formula was sufficient.

But real change—real transformation—usually take a little more work. This doesn’t mean that you have to spend years in counseling, but it does mean that you must take action. Here are four steps to get you moving in the right direction:

  1. Select a habit you want to change.
  2. Identify the cue that triggers the behavior (stress, boredom, loneliness, insignificance, etc.).
  3. Understand the need the habit meets (the reward).
  4. Now, without changing the cue or the reward, replace the routine with a new, healthier behavior.

This process is laid out in detail in The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg. I highly recommend it. If you want the “Cliff notes version,” read John Rochardson’s post, “How to Change a Bad Habit into a Good One.”

Question: What habit(s) have you struggled to change? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
Get My New, 3-Part Video Series—FREE! Ready to accomplish more of what matters? 2015 can be your best year ever. In my new video series, I show you exactly how to set goals that work. Click here to get started. It’s free—but only until Monday, December 8th.

Get my FREE video series now!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are snarky, offensive, or off-topic. If in doubt, read My Comments Policy.

  • DaddyBlogZAUK

    My bad habit was procrastination. I always put off things I didn’t want to do. The reason, I feared confrontation. My wife taught me about dealing with my fear, which in turn had an immediate efffect on my procrastination! Unbelievable! I now tackle problems small and large immediately with surprise, surprise, no ill effects and the minimum of stress!  Thanks for a great post, great advice, glad I was already following it!

    • TNeal

       I appreciate your sharing your insights on procrastination. They can be applied to my life as well.

    • Cheri Gregory

      Recognizing the fear aspect to procrastination has been invaluable for me, as well. 

      Whenever I procrastinated and my worst fears did not come true, I got caught in the reinforcement error of relief adrenalin, trapping me in a vicious cycle of fear-relief-fear-relief.Taking immediate action, even if it’s just a first small step, causes fear to lose its power.

    • Jeremy Statton

      I have felt the same. There tends to be a pile of work that sits on my desk for the very reason. I just don’t want to deal with it. The more I wait, though, the harder it becomes to deal with.

  • Cyberquill

    I can’t stop chocolate. 

    • Rob Sorbo

      Wait, you’re not saying this is a bad habit, are you?

      • Cyberquill

        That’s what my teeth are saying.

        • Becky Williams

          Just make it dark and throw in an almond… it’s good for you!

          • Cyberquill

            Right, and skip the sugar.

          • Gala

            there’s a recepie on the Internet somewhere how you can make some home-made chocolate with no sugar and no butter :) they use coconut oil, cocoa powder, coconut shreds as a sweetener and a couple of other healthy and easy things that I forgot now (i used olive oil instead of coconut, it came out really nice and chocolaty :)

  • Rob Sorbo

    I have a very “Stop it!” (or in some cases “Start it!”) mentality. I can’t think of many times when this approach hasn’t worked for me, but I know how frustrated I get when it doesn’t. 

  • Travis Dommert

    Thank you for starting my day with a great combo…lesson and laughter!  

    (And congrats on clearing 200k subscribers…exciting milestone!)

  • chris vonada

    Loved Newhart, this was good! I’ve been reading “Our Favorite Sins” by  Todd Hunter, it suggests how Asceticism, or the principles and practices of self-denial, are helpful… and how early Christians learned to battle desires or bad habits through fasting… and how Asceticism in one area makes us stronger in other areas too!

    • Michael Hyatt

      That book sounds good. I’ll have to check it out. Thanks.

    • Jeff Randleman

       I just purchased that book.  Looking forward to reading it.

  • Phillip Brande

    Great post…. I’m going to use it in a series I’m doing. Thanks!

    • Michele Cushatt

       What’s the series?

  • Dave Anderson

    My bad habit is Diet Coke.  I’ve stopped, cut back and rebounded many times.  This is a habit I want to beat but have yet to do it.

    I will let you know in a month whether I was able to based on these steps.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Check out The Power of Habit too (link in the post above). I think you’ll find it helpful.

      • Dave Anderson

        I’m on it.  Thanks for pointing it out to me Michael.  This habit has gone from cute to annoying.  Plus it will be a great lesson I can teach my kids by having them watch me do it.  They are 15 year old twins and they know how much I like my Diet Coke!

    • Travis Dommert

      Dave, I was so there with you this time last year.  I loved everything about Diet Coke…from the name, to that silvery can, to the fizz, to the pep.  But I knew that a can full of anything with that many syllables couldn’t be good for me.  I’d had 3-6/day for at least 10 years until June 8, 2011 (who’s counting, right?).

      3 keys:

      1. I went cold turkey.  Now, I thought about it every 5 min for the first week, then every hour, then every couple of hours…but I couldn’t give in or I knew I’d fall hard.  I now go days without thinking about it.  (Not weeks, mind you…but getting there.)

      2. Track it. I made it part of an overall health/fitness set of actions I track on irunurun, so I got points for not giving in, and I saw my score every day…and so did my accountability partners.

      3. I didn’t promise to quit forever.  I just couldn’t wrap my head around life without Diet Coke (kinda sad, really)…so I told myself no diet coke for 90 days.  

      Reggie Campbell shared that trick with me one day in talking about a key to success with Radical Mentoring Group…don’t ask people to change forever, just long enough that you know it could stick forever.  Smart.  It stuck.

      Good luck, my friend!

      • Dave Anderson

        Huge!  Thanks Travis.

      • Michael Hyatt

        Regi’s advice was brilliant!

        • Mike Daniel

          Love this mini-thread on the diet coke addiction.  In my coaching practice, I often encourage dieters and addiction strugglers early on not to “give up” what they are addicted to (food, soda, affirmation, whatever), but to be deliberate to THINK about what they’d do differently if they DID give it up (again, lessening the immediate commitment level).  

          Very few people who want to lose weight, eat healthier, or lose a habit – once considering what they’d put on their plate if dieting, what exercise they’d do if exercising, or what they’d pick up instead of a soda – choose to walk in that flesh pattern once they’ve identified it AND what they’d prefer if they WERE to do something different.  

          In other words, wanting to do it differently, and then IDENTIFYING what they’d do differently is 90% of the way to DOING it differently!

          You’re almost there!

          • Tim Peters

            Good advice Mike.  

      • John Richardson

        That’s why the AA slogan, One Day at a Time, is so powerful

        • Michele Cushatt

          John, I was thinking the same as I read this thread. Sounds a lot like … “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

    • Gail B. Hyatt

      Encouragement: Watch “Hungry For Change” (an excellent documentary). There’s a brief mention of diet coke. Very addictive and very destructive. Very motivational.

      You can totally STOP IT!!!! I’m cheering for you! Wait to you hear Michael’s podcast for this week (Wednesday). It’ll be helpful. When you listen to it, think about Diet Coke. Keep us posted. You can TOTALLY do this!

      • Dave Anderson

        Gail, thank you!

        OK everyone!  If you want the worlds largest accountability group for quitting Diet Coke or any other item you are willing to make public…


        Day 1:  Done–No Diet Coke.  I’m aiming for July 4th.  Independence Day!


    • Tim Peters

      Dave –

      I had the same habit of drinking Diet Coke.  Not sure you work out regularly.  But if you do, work out in the morning.  I shifted my work outs to the morning and lost the urge to drink Diet Coke. 

      • Dave Anderson

        I do work out in the mornings. But you are right.  It is the best time for me and the exercise wakes me up without the caffeine.

  • Dale Melchin

    One of my bad habits is procrastination.  I feel this problem in my life is half conquered.  I still procrastinate in certain areas unfortunately.  Its mainly stupid stuff like cleaning the car.

    However, in all seriousness, this is one post that I’m only partially sold on.  I agree that everyone who is over the age of 18 needs to expire out their victim hood and take responsibility for their lives.  At the same time however, there are people who are so damaged that they need significant work in breaking up unconscious thought patterns.  Therapy is one way of fixing it, but only when the client is encouraged to take responsibility.

    The skit was hilarious.

    Thanks again for all you do, Michael!

  • Eric S. Mueller

    I’ve found most problems can be solved easily from the outside. Once you’re inside, there are internal dynamics often not visible to those outside. You may not even understand them yourself. I guess it’s human nature. When people are telling me “Just stop it! It’s that simple!” over my problems, I get very frustrated.

    Then I turn around and do the same to others. “This is so simple! Why won’t you listen?”

    • Michael Hyatt

      I agree. That’s why I think it’s a little more complicated than Dr. Switzer suggests, but easier than some psychologists would lead you to believe.

    • Cheri Gregory

      I’ve found that any time someone starts their advice to me with “Just…” it’s not likely to be effective. 

      “Just…” tells me that they’ve not struggled with what I’m struggling. 

      If they had, they’d know it’s not a “Just…” issue.

      A far more effective opening is, “When I was trying to…”

    • Barry Hill

      So true! Others people’s problems always appear way more simple to solve than our own.  Ha. Log and splinter reference inserted here. :)

  • TNeal

    What a way to start the week, thinking about my bad habits. I was hoping to start out on a more positive note.

    Actually thanks, Mike, for your examples and the basic desires behind them. You help my thoughts run down new tracks and consider better outcomes. Well done.

    • Jeremy Statton

      Changing bad habits is very positive. You get to switch bad habits that consume time and energy into good habits that promote getting work done and positive things in your life.

  • Jennifer

    Thank you introducing this idea. I have many habits to change but the main one is my writing habit. I want to finish my book but when I go to my office I do everything else on my list first. I am going to try this technique and see what my cue and reward is and how I can change my routine. I enjoy all your posts and have learned a lot.

    • Jeremy Statton

      Most of the time when we leave writing off, it is to stall. We are afraid of staring the blank paper in the face. We are afraid that what we are goint to write won’t be good. The best way to deal with those fears is to get started.

    • Michele Cushatt

      I’m with you, Jennifer. I do everything else on my list first, because they’re easier to complete and cross of the list. Writing is one of those disciplines that never seems finished and, therefore, doesn’t give me the same sense of satisfaction when complete. I have been working at finding satisfaction in the process of it, rather than just the completion.

      • Sonya Lee Thompson

        You’re right, Michele, writing is a discipline. I love the idea of finding satisfaction in the process instead of the completion of it.

        As I write shorter pieces for publication, I try to celebrate when I submit the article, instead of waiting to hear the result. It’s the little battles that help us win the war. 

  • Nancyharris214

    I’m addicted to self help books as if there is some way to constantly improve and find perfect balance, peace and harmony. Perhaps to ultimately be struggle free or to always be in struggle. Now that I’ve typed this I feel it is more likely to always be in struggle. What would happen to me if I just accept and find balance, peace and harmony? I guess it’s time to put down the self help books and pick up a novel and simply enjoy. That seems scary, however in all the books I’ve read they do say that change can create a quiet boredom, stay in it and it will evenetually feel normal and ok. Thanks for letting me share. This was a great way to start my day!!! Something is going to change.

    • Kelly Combs

      Hi Nancy. I’ve been there with the self-help stuff, and wanting a magic wand approach to fix stuff.  I’ve come to realize there is no quick fix and truthfully we will have greater help if we skip the “self” help and ask for GOD help.  He provides the peace that passes human understanding.  Have a great day!

      • Cheri Gregory

        I SO understand the love of self-help books, as my living room decor will attest!

        At a women’s retreat last year, I became convicted that I hide behind my books, wanting them to be a substitute for full surrender to God.

        I shared this with a few friends who jumped all over me about not going over-board, and I’m certainly not saying I suddenly decided books are bad. But the way I was approaching them was a barrier to my spiritual growth.

        • Michele Cushatt

          I’m currently reading “Girl Meets God” by Lauren Winner, and she talks about giving up books for Lent for a similar reason. She discovered books were her escape, a way to make herself feel good when life was difficult, like grabbing a Snickers might be to someone who uses sugar. She gave up books temporarily as a way to redirect her attention to prayer and God. Interesting.

          • Cheri Gregory

            Michele —

            Thanks for the recommendation! My copy is on its way.

            Gonna have to live with the irony that I just bought a book to read about relying less on books!


          • Michele Cushatt

            Ha! I thought the same thing when I posted my comment!

      • John Richardson

        The book of Proverbs is a great book to add practical solutions to your life.

        One of the best verses related to habit change is Proverbs 22:6 “Train a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

        They say that habits, once created, never truly go away. If we help our children create good habits in the first place, when times get tough, they can always come back to them.

        One of the research studies found that children who were taugh to make their beds and formed a habit of doing it, were much more organized the rest of their lives.

        Simple, but effective.

  • Travis Dommert

    Do you think breaking a habit is different from any other meaningful goal?  

    [Seems last week’s “power of incremental change” lesson is relevant here!]

    • Michael Hyatt

      I think it is almost the same if you can reframe it as building a good habit to replace the bad one.

  • Kelly Combs

    I guess my habit is social media. When I get bored I “log on” instead of something more productive.  I think because it is a “thoughtless” activity, versus having to work at something.  

    Thought provoking post.  Because my struggles have been with perfectionism and legalism, it was hard to come up with a bad habit. Not that I don’t have growth opportunities in my life, it’s just most of them don’t fall in the habit category. You have me thinking this morning. Are the things in my life struggles or simply bad habits?

  • Juan

    Definitely finding the rewards or reasons of the habits I want to stop doing is the key. 

    • Tim Peters

      Me as well, Juan.  

    • Barry Hill

       Yes, Juan! Definitely one of the keys!

  • Cheri Gregory

    LOVE this skit! A fellow teacher and I did it for our annual Faculty Talent(less) Show a few years ago. I think the adults found it funnier than the kids…

    I realized just a few months ago that I don’t only need a Complaint-Free bracelet, I need a “Meddle-Free” bracelet. My habit of jumping in to “help” or “fix” or “improve” situations that do not need to involve me falls under every one of the four needs you listed:
    Some days, I need to guarantee that things won’t get screwed up for me to fix later.

    Other days, I’m tired of my own life and try running someone else’s just for a lark.

    Then there are days when I feel distant from a loved one and start asking innocent questions …about what they’re doing…and why they’re doing it that way…

    And of course, there’s nothing quite like hearing, “I couldn’t have done ___ without you.”

    Wonder if I can get a bright red bracelet with these four words on it to remind me to “Stop it!” 

  • Daren Sirbough

    I loved the video. That was hilarious! I need to change my habits of procrastination. I’m not sure what the payoff is with it but I’m keen to find out what that is.

  • Julia Reffner

     A habit that I struggle with is maintaining balance in my diet and developing a consistent routine for exercise. Accountability is the best helper for me for both. Little kids are honest so I’ve put my daughter on board. She rides her bike alongside me as I run and she is good about nagging, uh, reminding me until it happens for the day. I think she feels empowered to help mommy out, too.

    • Michele Cushatt

      That’s a GREAT idea, Julia. Including our kids in the exercise routine not only keeps us accountable and makes it more enjoyable, but it will end up being a fabulous memory for our kids when they grow up. Last night I read a short “memoir” my 15 year old wrote for school. His chief memory of childhood? Running with his mom. Yay!

  • Agatha Nolen

    Great advice, Michael. I would add one thing: finding a good friend who you trust not to ridicule you, but not to give you a free pass either. Confide in them and ask for their help. There is nothing like being accountable to someone else that fortifies a good habit. I had some really bad habits and the only one who kept whispering to me was Satan–about what a failure I was. I needed to have another voice crowding out those damaging whispers and encouraging me to stay on course.

    • Michael Hyatt

      This is great advice. I agree.

    • Tim Peters

      Agatha –

      Agreed. Friends are huge when breaking habits.  I wrote – Why Every Leader Needs a Truth Teller –

  • John Richardson

    Great video, Michael. With habits making up almost 40% of our daily activities, if we can learn how to change them, we can overcome a lot of problems. The difficulty is determining the cue and the reward. Charles’ book gives a lot of helpful information in this regard.

    When you set out to change a bad habit, you may run into a fear response if you try to change too much at once. The amygdala part of the brain will set off a flight or fight response and sabotage your efforts. In his insightful book, One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way, Dr. Robert Maurer talks about taking really small steps at first.

    He illustrates it this way…

    Large Goal- fear- access to cortex (rational brain) restricted- failure

    Small Goal- fear bypassed- cortex (rational brain) engaged- success

    The cerebral cortex is where our rational thoughts lie. If we take on too big of a change, the amygdala (lizard brain) takes over and fires a fear response. Some people are able to overcome this by turning fear into excitement, but for the majority of us we are stopped dead in our tracks.

    This ties in to your recent podcast, The Power of Incremental Change.

    Finding out what is cuing our habits and what rewards we are getting is the first step. Deciding on the change is the second.

    If you find that habit change is difficult, taking smaller steps may be the answer.

    I recommend both of these books highly. They can really help you find solutions to end those nagging bad habits.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I love the work you are doing in this John. You are going to become Dr. Habit!

      • John Richardson

        Thanks, Michael. I’ve really been interested in why it is easier to accomplish a BIG goal such as running a triathlon or writing a book, than it is to do much smaller, mundane goals such as increasing sales 5% or cutting out junk food. Dr. Maurer’s book helped me see that I need to make the change big enough to make it exciting, or small enough not to trigger a fear response.

        This really made sense, and lines up with my experience. Using this knowledge to modify some existing habits may help me get some of those stubborn “big rocks” accomplished.

  • Chris Arend

    I haven’t laughed that hard in a while.  Great way to start the week Michael.  Thanks for sharing that video and the advice that followed.

    • Tim Peters

      Newhart is great. 

  • LivewithFlair

    I think I misread the line, “are we addicted to our problems?”  I was thinking that you meant we can become addicted to “having problems,” and I think that’s absolutely true.  Some folks become addicted to crisis, drama, and “having problems” because we shape an identity around our victimhood.  Sometimes, we manipulate friends, pastors, and family this way.  Do you know what I mean? 

    I like when Jesus asked the lame man, “Do you want to get well?”  Such a strange question!!  Of course we want to get well, right?  Well, some of us don’t.  We like our status as victims.  

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yes, that’s exactly what we meant—just like the lame man.

    • Barry Hill

       “Do you want to get well?”— what a fantastic question!

  • Paula Lee

    I found this very helpful since I am working on my Masters In Counseling and taking a class in addictive behaviors.  I went over to John Richardson’s site and his worksheet for changing a bad habit into a good one will work in Cognitive Behavior Therapy.  I also reserved The Power of Habit from my public library.  When changing behavior, it is very important to “reframe” yourself and change your image to become an ex-whatever, be it an ex-overeater, an ex-gambler, an ex-procastinator.  But, it isn’t as easy as “Stop It!”  My biggest issue is social media vs. quiet time with God, I have a hard time disconnecting from the social media sites and enjoying my quiet time with Him.  Your post reminds me that I need to pay attention to the cues that are causing me to waste time on FB, Twitter, etc. and focus instead on the relationship with my Savior so I can receive the direction I need each day.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I have read several psychologists who say that identity is what drives behavior, so if we can intentionally change our identity, as you suggest, it will really help with behavior change. I know when I declared myself a “runner,” it helped immeasurably with my daily exercise routine.

  • Kristine Pratt

    I’ve seen people mention Diet Coke, but I went for the straight stuff. The regular, fully caffinated, lots of sugar version. The thing is, I never saw how destructive my habit was until I started having health issues. When my doctor told me no more Coke or caffeine of ANY kind I went cold turkey (ambulance rides tend to bring the reality of our lifestyles to our attention, don’t they?)

    It took three weeks before the caffeine was out of my system. I became irritable (ok, let’s be honest, I bit the head off of anyone who so much as looked at me), got shaky, felt sick, and thought I was dying. I think it took the heavy withdrawal symptoms to see just how bad a habit a few cans of soda daily was. What amazed me even more was the 20 pounds that disappeared in the next few weeks. 

    A lot of the time I think we don’t put the effort into stopping a bad habit because we don’t see how destructive that habit is. We rationalize. A few sodas don’t hurt anyone. I ‘just’ bite my nails. What I look at on my computer isn’t harming anyone if I do it after everyone is in bed, it’s not like I’m taking time away from my family, I’m just relaxing…

    But what we aren’t seeing is the 20 pounds those sodas cost us (and studies have shown that diet soda leads to weight gain as well!). We don’t realize that we might have lost out on that job because those ragged nails didn’t impress at the job interview. And that the images looked at after dark have a much longer reaching impact in the light of day.

    So maybe another good question to ask when looking at habits is this: What is the impact that this habit has on my life? 

    It’s certainly helped me to keep caffeine out of my life for the last 8 years….

    • Michael Hyatt

      That’s a great story, Kristine. I remember losing 10 pounds once and then picking up a 10lb package of flour. Oh my gosh! I couldn’t believe I had been carry around that much extra weight.

      • Tim Peters

        Great visual.  

  • Glwyant

    Here are a couple of great resources for understanding and dealing with addictions (bad habits) from a Biblical perspective. Instruments in The Redeemers Hands by Paul Dacid Tripp and Redeemer by Mike Wilkerson.

    • Jim Martin

      Thanks very much for these resources.  I am not familiar with either.  This is helpful.

  • Jeff Randleman

    My habit is building an effective exercise routine.  I start and stop over and over…  The habit of not working out needs to be replaced by a new one. 

    • Jason Stambaugh

      If you find the fail safe solution to that one, you’ve gotta share it. 

      • Jeff Randleman

        Ha!  It will be worth millions!  I could capitalize on it and never have to exercise again!  I could hire someone to do it for me!

      • Barry Hill


  • Ben

    I am 44 years old. My habit is eating too much. When I get near spicy rice, I feel like going on and on, staying off it or keeping it really low quantity gets hard when there are no alternatives like veggies or fiber foods in abundance. I used to burn off the excess calories by running and playing a few years ago, but the climatic conditions (cool or rainy weather) of the new place makes it hard to get out everyday. I know the solution is to watch my intake, and I need help to keep my BMI at optimum. I am 5’6″ and 69 kilos. Was 64 last may!

  • Mike Daniel

    I think this great cognitive behavioral process applied to bad habits.  From a spiritual perspective, I’d make only one alteration.  

    Instead of just changing the WAY we try to meet that need, what is we tried to participate with God in how He as our Source wants to meet that need. (cf. Jer. 2:13)?  As Paul said, “For you died, and your life is NOW hidden in Christ with God.”

    Thanks for the great post and practical application!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Great spiritual application, Mike.

  • RobertBlakely

    How funny I just posted this video this morning. ;)

    • Joe Lalonde

       Great minds think alike? (-:

  • Denise

    I’ve been reading Duhigg’s book with great pleasure, thinking I should synthesize the points down for my clients. You’ve saved me the step and done it brilliantly. Thanks also for recommending the cliff’s note version.  All my best, Denise

    • Jim Martin

      Denise,  I am glad to hear that you have enjoyed this book.  I have thought about buying it and glanced at it briefly in Barnes and Noble.  Your comment, along with Michael’s reference to it in this post are helpful.

  • Charles Specht

    I love it.

    I once had a 30-day intensive class in college called, The Psychology Of Stress.  It was by far and away the most stressful month of my life.  Studying about stress only made me stressful.

    • Barry Hill

       When you took the final for that class, did the prof. call it the “stress test?” Sorry, I couldn’t resist. 

  • Whitscorner

    Excellent advice. Enjoyed the video and the comments following. Will use the information to attack my bad habits of overeating and stress.

  • McNair Wilsoin

    I use, “Snap out of it.”  It’s a bit more gentle. It does take longer to say than , “Stop it.” But isn’t as harsh. With my own worries I live by the old saying, “I know that worry works ‘cuz almost everything I’ve ever worried about never happened.”  [P.S. I love Mo Collins (the actress in the sketch) and who doesn’t love Mr. Newhart.]

  • Anne Marie

    I need to get more disciplined and focused and not so distracted by all the pretty flowers along the Road.

    • Barry Hill

       I think you can still take time to smell the roses. :)

  • Brian Kiley

    Hilarious skit. If only that advice worked :-). As I have dealt with my own struggles with time management, and as I have helped walk others through their own fights with bad habits, it has become apparent to me that in order to overcome our bad habits we first need to be honest about how much comfort those habits give us. For me, not using my time effectively meant that I often had to rush important projects, and that meant if the project wasn’t good I had a built in excuse. As destructive as that was, I found great comfort in it. I suspect that often we are ignorant to just how much we feel we “need” our bad habits. Acknowledging that need can help us see how silly it is, and can be an important step towards establishing new habits.

    • Barry Hill

      I think you are really on to something here with the dependent relationship that we develop with our bad habits. Understanding what comfort that they bring us offers us a window into our soul/spirit.

    • Jim Martin

      Brian, you make a good point here.  I am referring to what you said about getting honest about how much comfort these bad habits might give us.  (Or if not comfort, I suspect there is something that we get out of our habits.)  As you say, however, being honest about this is huge.

  • Patricia Wooldridge

    My procrastination brought me a horrendous scenario involving sorting/filing a year’s worth (stacks) of paperwork—all needed but buried, therefore unusable. Almost 2 weeks of hard work all day every day except weekends, paid off.  That showed me: Never Again to leave my workspace cluttered with ANYTHING, thinking “I’ll do it tomorrow.” Tomorrow is the day that never comes. Now it doesn’t have to. Every afternoon, every bit of information has a home, and it is IN it. How freeing.

    • Joe Lalonde

       Ouch Patricia! That would be a nightmare.

      How does it feel now that you’ve created the habit to file everything and have it in its place?

    • Barry Hill

       Great example, Patricia. Thanks for your transparency.

  • dougtoft

    I have long been a fan of Bob Newhart and I am a faithful reader of this blog. I am deeply disappointed in this post. While it applies to most of us, and to behaviors that are largely voluntary, it will not help people who are struggling with real mental health issues.

    I have several friends who are recovering alcoholics. They tell me that what allowed them to continue drinking as long as they did was the belief that they could stop drinking any time they wanted, and that they didn’t need any help.

    I have a relative with disabling Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. She is not able to work, and she lost her first husband, who told her to just stop her compulsive behaviors. 

    There are effective treatments for OCD, but they take time. It’s more complicated than just “stop it.” To say this to a person with OCD will simply further their suffering. And believe me, they are already suffering greatly.

    I’ve read the Power of Habit. It’s a good book. But the process of transformation is different. Transformation and isolated habit changing are two different things. And, transformation can’t be reduced to a numbered list. 

    Trying to reduce compulsive behaviors to a need for variety or certainty fails to do justice to the complexity of these conditions. Addictions alter the chemistry of the brain and wreak havoc with the reward system. The solution involves research-backed treatment that’s delivered over time, on many levels. Anecdotes and a comedy video aren’t going to cut it.

    But this is hard. People like easy answers. They like to give advice. They like to feel superior.  Nuanced answers and high-level thinking don’t always make for a punchy blog post.

    Before judging someone who is dwelling in the depths of despair and telling this person to “just stop it,” I urge people to remember something that you have written elsewhere: Walk a mile in their shoes.

    • Dale Melchin

      While not giving too much away on my goals, I am an aspiring counselor who has a lot of work to do before he gets to his desired goal. 

      I agree with most of what your saying and I truly think that this post has nothing to do with those who are so damaged or who are so ensnared by mental health problems.  This post has to do with people who refuse to take responsibility for their lives or certain areas of their lives, or even people who would dare to hide behind the shield of a mental health issue.

      I also agree with Mr. Hyatt on the content of this post.  I can reconcile the two in my mind well enough.

      The reason why I appreciate this post so much is because I have had my chops busted in some of my writing for being too “stop it” and not enough “walk a mile in their shoes.”

      The point is some people truly need therapy, while other people need their chops busted.  The real skill is being able to tel lthe difference.

      • dougtoft

        I agree. You make a clear distinction between people who need therapy and people who need their “chops busted.” This distinction is either missing or blurred in Michael’s post. 

        • Dale Melchin

          In all fairness to Michael, I don’t think the post is intended for people in the throes of a severe mental illness.  I think it is intended for people who are hampered by bad habits but are either unwilling to break the habit or they are using mental illness as a shield to abdicate personal responsibility.

          These are questions that I have as a person pursing the profession of counseling (and possibly some coaching.)  When does a bad habit become of a mental health issue?    What is the source of these afflictions?  Why do they occur?

          Those are questions that I have and hope to have answered as pursue my degree, but I think they are also good discussion questions… if not too off topic.  *Glances furtively at Michael Hyatt or community manager*

          • dougtoft

            Again, I agree. Thanks for bringing a moderating voice to this discussion.

          • Michael Hyatt

            Thanks, Dale. You are correct. This post is not intended for people with mental illness. As a blogger, you have to strike a balance between endless caveats and saying something that has enough punch to make a difference. Thanks.

          • Dale Melchin

            I’ll need to remember that as I’m working on my blog as well.  Thanks for weighing in!

    • Barry Hill

      Thanks for your comment. What you wrote really resonated with me as the child of a recovering alcoholic. My father will tell you that his addiction, which for years he believed he could stop at any time, cost him in almost every major area of his life. Thankfully he has been clean (again) for many years.

      As you mentioned at the beginning of your comment that this post is mostly directed at the majority of us who are not combating major chemical, emotional and/or mental challenges—and I sincerely believe that Michael wasn’t trying to address those cases, but, simply, the facetious nature of the skit was designed to bring humor to the majority of us who don’t battle these challenges, and continue with behaviors that are harmful.

      It’s easy to see that you have been profoundly affected by the people that you know who have suffered with these challenges, and having watched my father deal with Alcoholism for decades, you are right—there are no easy answers.

      Doug—I was encouraged by your heart and your willingness to address a common misconceptions. I know that the purpose of this post wasn’t to make these issues seem “simple”, but, again, I’m thankful for your heart and care for this issue and the people that live with these challenges.

      Blessings to you and the rest of your day!

  • Julie Sunne

    One of my worst habits is responding critically. I long to change my critical spirit to one of grace. I will focus on identifying the triggers and replace my critical tongue with something positive–perhaps even biting it! Thanks for the pointers.

    • Barry Hill

      This is a GREAT one! Part of the challenge is being able to identify when we are being critical, first, right? then we can replace it—I think this will have a huge impact on your life.

    • Jim Martin

      Julie, it sounds like you have not only identified what behavior you want to stop but the exact behavior you want to replace it with.  

      I recall a period in my life when I was very specific about pinpointing what behavior I wanted to stop but was far too vague about what behavior I wanted to replace it with.  I finally realized that the vagueness and uncertainty was part of the problem.

  • Sonya Lee Thompson

    Would it count to say I’m trying to incorporate steadfastness into my life instead of flight? Just thought it might fit in. I like your idea of considering what I could put in it’s place, and what it would look like. This will help me to take it to the conclusion and see which path would be better and why. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can!

    • Joe Lalonde

       Sonya, I think that counts as a habit. Why do you think you choose the flight habit?

  • Working4two

    I have the habit of always relating a conversation towards me – Its not that I constantly talk about myself but when I listen – I will always refer to how someone’s experience has been similar to me or someone close to me.  It downplays my sincere interest in other people and my desire to be liked.

    • Joe Lalonde

       That can be a hard habit to break. Have you read How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. The book is about relating to others and creating better relationships. It might help you in this area.

      • Working4two

        while reading Dale Carnegie’s book is when I first realized I had the habit, and 3 years later, I still catch myself doing it over and over again.

  • Jason Coorts

    Michael, I’m going to step out and say this was one of your weaker blogs. Ok, yes we can have behaviors modified through these tips listed like cutting down our cokes and cigarettes or exercising more. You’re entering into the realm of communicating that we can simply change ourselves by following a few simple tips even when there’s some deep-seated issues requiring significant heart healing, like the gambling addiction example.  I don’t believe this model presented will work in the realm of sexual/pornography addiction, which is becoming horribly prevalent.  
    This book presents a more effective model for people struggling in addiction in my opinion:

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks. I do appreciate your input.

      The gambling addiction example was based on an extended passage in the book, The Power of Habit.

  • Randy Dignan

    Bad habits…  Wow!  I guess diet and exercise…  Eating the wrong foods for me because of my heavy travel schedule and Mrs. Betty Sue and her apple pies made just for me when I am a guest ather church…  I was reminded by what I was taught by an older man several years back about the doctrine of replacement!  Whatever bad habit I had,I had to replace it with a good one!  It’s like anything else though…  It is not easy!  But, it does work!  Especially when family, friends, and especially the Holy Spirit help!  Great read!  Thanks much!

    • Barry Hill

      I love the idea of replacing a bad habit with a good one. If I could replace “bored eating” or “mindless eating” with something else that would be a good start!

  • Tmayolo

    I have always loved this video, especially as an HR professional.

  • Deitra Brunner

    Kind of funny, in a way; but mostly sad and pathetic because I’m learning that a lot of my “problems” stem from the fact that I’m looking at the wrong person in the wrong way.  I know I think too much and tend to look beyond what everyone else sees and instead of just making a decision I let it ruminate and grow into worry and anxiety which leads to depression, low self esteem, fear…

    Just stop it!

  • Rob T

    there is some new research about the will, and I was wondering how it might coincide with what you are saying.  the gist of the theory is, the will works just like your muscles.  It gets daily deplete, but the less you use it, the stronger it gets over the long haul.  i suspect there is some wisdom in this about battling bad habits as well.

  • Dave Anderson

    OK everyone!  

    If you want the worlds largest accountability group for quitting Diet Coke or any other item you are willing to make public…

    THIS IS OBVIOUSLY THE PLACE TO DO IT!!  See thread below…

    Day 1:  Done–No Diet Coke.  I’m aiming for July 4th.  Independence Day!


  • Dee

    i have a few habits id like to change, one is being in an unhealthy relationship with someone that wants to be single , next i eat for comfort and when im lonely. this has helped me a little to see things more clearly
    thankyou Dee

  • MichaelKRedman

    I think your opening paragraph is interesting.  It seems to imply that in coaching you tell people how to solve their problems and in counseling you don’t.  Is that what you mean?  I was always under the understanding that Business/life coaching was meant to pull the answer out of the person and not just give them an answer.  How do you see the difference between coaching and counseling   

    • Michael Hyatt

      I don’t what the technical distinction is, but I see counseling as more remedial and coaching as more about helping people realize their potential. Thanks.

  • Pingback: Five Blogs – 10 April 2012 « 5blogs()

  • archer

    This was good!  It reminds me of the counseling concept of motivational interviewing.

  • Pingback: Links for this Week « Postcards from the Promised Land()

  • Tony Chung

    Hahah! At work the running joke is “Tony – Stop It!” I didn’t know where it came from until today. Thanks Mike.

  • Pingback: Habits, Good and Bad | An Untitled Life()

  • Pingback: Overcoming Bad Habits: Another View | Beyond the Sinner's Prayer()

  • Pingback: The Perils of Superficial Advice « doug toft()

  • ChristianGrad

    I struggle with porn/masturbation. How do I “stop it”?

    As an graduate student in science, I find myself burning my candle at both ends doing research. Sad to say, but this habit is becoming a way to de-stress. I thought prayer would “stop it” for me, but it hasn’t. Romans 7:15 sums up my feelings, frustrations and helplessness rather accurately.

    Would greatly appreciate any insights or advice.

    • Eric S. Mueller

      Read the book “Every Man’s Battle” . If you do a search for the author’s names, they have a ministry to help men in this area.

      • ChristianGrad

         Thank you for your reply, Eric! I’ll look into getting that book.

        Just wondering if my next statement will cause you to recommend some other resource: I am a woman (yes, christian women face this temptation as well).

        • Eric S. Mueller

          Those authors have written a series of books. They do have an “Every Woman’s Battle”. I haven’t read it. I’m sure their websites have resources, or can point you in a better direction.

  • Pingback: Leadership Styles That Create Results |

  • Goodbye

    For more tips on how to break a habit, visit:

  • Pingback: when around unhealthiness… don’t do as the Romans! | { double hockey sticks }()

  • Drau1

    I have watched this over and over and it still cracks me up!!  My nephew watched it with a serious face (he is 15) and he didn’t find it humorous.  He said “well, why doesn’t she just STOP IT?”  oh to be that young and habit free…  thanks Michael for sharing…this is an all time favorite of mine!