How to Replace Unwanted Habits with Positive Ones – 5 Step Strategy

“They must often change, who would be constant in happiness or wisdom.”  ~Confucius

Many a times change comes easily. Some things are just easy to change. Then, there are deeply ingrained habits that are much more difficult to change. You try to change those habits, and you succeed for a while, then you stop and end up feeling like a failure.

Why are habits(especially negative ones) so difficult to change?

When you are changing a habit, you are really making a “break” from the ways of your past. You are deciding that you no longer want to feel or behave in the same automatic ways that you have become accustomed to. Changing habits requires more than just willpower alone.

Below is a five step strategy to help you overcome unwanted habits in your life and replace them with positive habits that will make your life better.

How to Replace Unwanted Habits with Positive Ones – 5 Step Strategy

1. Have Meaningful Goals
Undoubtedly, the best ways to give your self the necessary incentive to break a habit is to think about its drawbacks, and then compare them with the benefits of being rid of the habit. You must decide that changing your habit is a worthy goal, and worth the effort involved.

2. Know the Underlying Purpose Behind Your Habit
Although you want to get rid of a habit that seems destructive or limiting, recognize that your habit serves a purpose. There are many reasons for why we do the things we do. Bring compassion to yourself and review your negative habit. Even though the outcome of your habit is no longer desirable, realize that the underlying reason for your habit is important. For example, overeating may help provide a sense of calm, emotional eating may help push down emotions that you don’t want to deal with, or nail biting may help alleviate stress. Having a sense of inner calm, peace, or comfort are important things. Knowing you want these things, helps you replace those negative habits with positive ones.

3. Go ahead and Design a New Habit
Now that you know some of the benefits beneath your habit, spend some time identifying a new habit that will be at least as effective as or more effective than the one you are giving up. For example, suppose you have decided to give up eating dessert every night. Instead of spending all your energy and willpower forcing yourself to avoid dessert, realize the benefits your evening dessert brings to you. Then make a list of new habits that would offer those benefits in a new and more beneficial way. If your dessert is an attempt to provide comfort and relaxation, decide what other activities might provide those same benefits in a manner that was even more desirable. You might add walking, yoga, meditation, and breathing techniques to your evening routine to bring you relaxation and reduce stress. In addition, you might decide to read and/or take an evening bath to provide comfort and curb cravings.

4. Lets Create an Action Plan
Create an outline of how you are going to implement your new positive habit. If your new habit is about adding exercise to your evening routine, then decide what type of exercise interests you, where you would perform that exercise, what type of clothing or equipment you would need, and exactly what time and days you would exercise. There’s a saying in the motivational world that our priorities are shown where we spend our time and money. If developing a new habit is your priority, find a way to place it on your calendar, and if necessary, spend money and time on your new habit.

5. And finally, The Heart of Change
Bring respect to your journey by realizing that changing a habit is not easy. So, before jumping into change, ask yourself if you are psychologically determined to do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, to change your habit. In addition, make sure your heart is in it. It’s not enough to think you “should” be changing your bad habits. Long-term motivation is easier to maintain when you realize in your heart that you want change because you want to feel differently. The heart of change is in your emotions. Enthusiasm, excitement, and pride spur action. What gets you excited about your change?

Change doesn’t happen instantly.

Success comes from getting insights about why you do what you do, and then practicing new habits.

Adopt a positive attitude and as you stick with your plan, you will experience yourself as a positively different person.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you want to change any unwanted habits from yourself? Do you have any strategies of your own that you have tried successfully? Do share your thoughts in the comments below. 

With Immense Love & Gratitude,
Counseling Psychologist/ Spiritual Counselor
Motivational Speaker/Naturopath
Holistic Healer/Writer

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17 thoughts on “How to Replace Unwanted Habits with Positive Ones – 5 Step Strategy

  1. I love The Heart of Change and as you know I love change. Right now i get excited about change when it does come from my heart and make me feel empowered. Thanks for sharing your wisdom namaste

    1. Darling Suzie,
      I know there are BIG changes happening at your end. I love how your heart is so open to these changes. May all your changes be blessed ones 🙂
      Thank you for your loving comment here.
      Much Love~

    1. Dear Vidya,
      So so glad you liked this post and are feeling encouraged after reading it 🙂 May all your days be full of positivity
      Thank you for your awesome comment here.
      Much Love~

  2. synchronicitybridge

    Everything is right here…you nailed it.

    It is now 40 years this date of 2012 since my father found out that he had lung cancer. It was then that my dad, brother, and myself made the decision to quit cigarette smoking together.

    I have lived another 40 years since that decision, which is 10 years more than my father’s life span thus far.

    Everything you presented here with this post came into play for kicking the toughest habit for me to this day.

    If my brother was still alive I would say that number 5 was the main incentive for him. He was all *heart* and about *family*. Believe me he did not want to take the meds for his schizophrenia. The meds that ‘calmed’ the voices. The meds that finally killed the voices for good. He did live another 35 years without cigarettes…he was proud of it. I am so proud of him. ‘His voice’ still speaks to me:

    So, here alive I type these words: “It’s a *reward* to change and find yourself proud of it”.

    1. Dear Rand,
      Its amazing how one persons ‘change’ can bring about positive change in all those around him. Your brother is an agent of positive change and someone who is so truly inspiring.
      Thank you for sharing your inspiring brother here with us.
      Much Love~

  3. Betsy at Zen Mama

    I have several habits I need to change Zeenat! Thanks for these great, positive tips! I like the idea of designing a new habit. I’ll start that first.

    1. Dearest Betsy,
      Designing a new positive habit is a very creatively inclined and polishing the soul kind of project. I’m so sure you’ll have find the process happily stimulating.
      Let me know how it goes 🙂
      Thank you for your lovely comment here.
      Much Love~

  4. Nice work here Zeenat. No5 definitely nails it. I’m just finishing a post related to ‘meaningful goals’, one of my favourite topics. Thankyou
    be good to yourself

    1. Hi David,
      I’m so sure that post on ‘goals’ will be mind blowing! Cant wait to read it 🙂
      So happy you liked this post…and no.5 is my favorite too!
      Thank you for your encouraging comment.
      Much love~

  5. Love this Zeenat! Rather than just “making a change” (what we usually do that doesn’t work), looking at why we do what we do and feed the need in a more productive way – that’s the ticket! I’ll be using this concept in a few different areas. Thank so much! Big Hugs!!

    1. Dear Paige,
      I cant wait to see how you apply this concept to your life 🙂
      Replacing a negative habit with a positive one is simpler than we think. The key is to understand why we do what we do.
      Thank you for your wonderful comment here.
      Much Love~

    1. Hi Mikey,
      hmmm…there are many things I wish i knew when I was younger too!! But better late than never right 🙂
      Glad you stopped by and shared your amazing thoughts here.
      Much Love~

  6. Hi Zeenat,
    This is such a useful post that offers a sound approach and encouragement to change habits from those that harm us to those that heal us at any time in life. I found that making a list new habits and their benefits to me as you advise has been a great motivator. I would not have been successful in making changes if I hadn’t understood the deep roots that led to the behaviors I wanted to change and an action plan like you advise and a support group. My two girlfriends, who sadly passed away prematurely and I were each others cheerleaders. We held each other up when we were sliding down and we celebrated every baby step we made towards succeeding. I miss them big time.

    “It’s not enough to think you “should” be changing your bad habits. Long-term motivation is easier to maintain when you realize in your heart that you want change because you want to feel differently. ”

    That’s so true Zeenat. Bless you for what you do for us.

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  8. Priyanka

    Dearest Zeenat,

    Changing unwanted habits often results in failure in the long term. There are many such habits within me for which I frequently feel the urge to change. But dear Zeenat, the bad habits you mentioned here (like nail biting,over eating,emotional eating and so and so) are still easy to give up, as they affect a person more physically than mentally but what about habits that affect a person more mentally than physically like being short temperamental and straight forward. Believe me, I constantly fight with the inner me to help change these habits and I happen to be successful only for a day or two and then I meet Mr. failure again. These habits affect me greatly but it seems unable to help myself. And yes, one thing I always keep forgetting to tell you is that my best friend happens to be a libra just like you and she too is just as balanced and matured as you are, I hope I could be the same.

    The five step strategy you mentioned here is now on my priority list. As your posts always inspire me, I am sure this one here too will help me.
    Immense love.

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