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How to Form a New Habit and Take Control of Your Mind Once and For All: Part Two

Updated on August 3, 2011

A Few Words on Changing Habits

The majority of us accept that we have a number of bad habits, such as nail-biting, smoking, drinking in excess, nose picking etc, but, do we question or challenge the existence of these habits? Surprisingly, not as often as one might think. Why is this? Why do we readily admit to being slaves to these habits, yet every new year continue to make resolutions and promises to conquer these habits, only to predictably procrastinate?

The answers to that question are many and varied, according to my own biased opinion here are a few reasons:

1. We somehow believe that changing habits is extremely difficult and therefore don't even try. After all, we have a life to lead.

2. Some people believe they have no choice, as these habits are a part of their personality. Take away the habit and part of the personality is also removed.

3. Rather than improving themselves from the inside out, most people try to improve from the outside in, by buying more accessories and possessions.

4. People just aren't made aware enough of the fact that controlling behavior and changing habits is well and truly within their power. We are strangely ignorant of just how much control we have.

Regain Control of Your Mind in Order to Begin changing habits

Thought always without exception, precedes action. It could be the smallest most trivial action, barely noticeable by your conscious mind which is constantly in motion and therefore processes the thought at a ridiculously fast pace, far superior to any computer in existence.

In that case, the first step on the path to changing habits and regaining control is to monitor and study your thoughts on a daily basis. Believe me, I have been doing this for the last 2 years and you would be astounded by the amount of junk that goes through your mind while you are doing mundane things like traveling to work, working, having a lunch break etc

That's where we come to the first technique I'd like to share with you.

Oh, and this very appropriate quote:

"Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions.Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your character. Your character becomes your destiny."

Changing Habits Through Selective Thinking

Think your Way Out of a Habit

This technique probably falls under many labels and names but I prefer to call it the "Think your way out of a habit" technique as essentially that is exactly what you are doing while utilizing it, however, it does take persistence and a real desire for change.

In my opinion, if we give people the tools for changing habits, most will use them. We need techniques and tools as well as a constant dose of inspiration and motivation. Here I supply the tools for you to begin changing your habits, but it's up to you to provide the inspiration and passion, which, naturally should already be there if you are serious about changing your habits.

Think your Way Out of a Habit

Step One: First of all, set aside some time each night in which you can be alone for at least five minutes.

Step Two: Take a clock to your selected place and place it in front of your chosen seat.

Step Three: Each night, go to your seat, get comfortable and then stare at the minute hand of the clock until five minutes has elapsed. This is extremely important as this part is readying your mind for the changing of the habit. Practice this once a night.

Step Four: Now that you have built a new habit, a habit of controlling and focusing your attention without it wandering off, it is time to start using the technique for changing your habits.

Step Five: Throughout your day, observe your thoughts and where they are leading you. For example, you might be walking to work which takes 5 minutes and during the walk your habitual mind may pop this thought into your head: "What about a ciggie?" Signal received, your hand automatically reaches into your pocket and pulls out the cigarettes. Practice observing and make a note of all the thoughts that lead you to perform habitual behavior.

Step Six: When you have sufficiently practiced observing your thoughts and the actions that follow them, make a note of the habits that you have observed or previously knew about anyway. Decide which ones you no longer want to be controlled by and in their place, choose new habits as we all know that "nature abhors a vacuum."

Step Seven: Now armed with a focused mind and a list of new habits it is time to begin the habit changing. It is well-known throughout the self-help community that it takes approximately 21 days to form a new habit or replace an old one, so you must keep this up for 21 full days with NO DAYS OFF!

Step Eight: Start a journal and on the first page write the date and label the page "Day One:"

Step Nine: As you go about your normal day, observe your thoughts and behavior that follows those thoughts. When you spot thoughts that lead to the initiation of one of your bad habits, stop the thought gently, see yourself taking the thought and screwing it up into a little ball, placing it in the sink and setting fire to it. Then once it is burnt, run the tap/faucet and wash it away. Finally, think a thought that will strengthen your newly desired habit and follow the thought up with whatever action is required to strengthen the new habit.

Step Ten: Make a note of your daily progress in the journal that you have prepared and set yourself challenges for the day after. If you miss a day, start over again. It took me 3 attempts to complete this technique as I kept missing a day half way through but I persevered and never gave up. As a result, I have a new set of habits that I'm the proud owner of!

Do this for 21 days and not only will you get rid of a bad habit, but you'll form a new habit.

Do you see how simple it is? Once you know the steps, it is simple, just like any recipe in a cookbook. You can't bake a delicious apple pie unless you use the right ingredients and follow a set of guidelines and the same applies to your brain. Know it, understand it, exercise it and choose which programs/habits it is filled with and you will truly become the master of your life.

How do you deal with bad habits?

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    • profile image

      Darvin 2 years ago

      You've imsspreed us all with that posting!

    • profile image

      Retta 2 years ago

      Four score and seven minutes ago, I read a sweet artcile. Lol thanks

    • Richawriter profile image

      Richard J ONeill 3 years ago from Bangkok, Thailand

      Hey there Oxtrail,

      Thanks for that excellent and well-thought out comment. I've always had a way of understanding things intuitively. It works for some things and not so well for others but as you say can sometimes be echoed by science.

      As for the clock and fire, I guess it works well for me as I'm a very introspective person anyway and such imaginative techniques work within me more than anything, kind of as a symbolic gesture. Some of us work better with images, others words and others feelings.

      Thanks for stopping by with your awesome thoughts.


    • Oxtrail profile image

      Shawn Oksenendler 3 years ago from San Diego

      Interesting Hub Rich,

      some of the research that has been done on habits agrees with you and some of it doesn't. It is really great that you were able to intuitively see what in many cases scientific researchers are confirming. I have been reading "The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business" by Charles Duhigg, and years of studies and research would agree with your assessment that "nature hates a vacuum" and that keeping a journal can help stop old habits and create new ones, but staring at a clock or setting a thought on fire don't have any evidence that they will help long term. It may have worked for you, but seems a little abstract and unsubstantiated to me.

    • Esther  Strong profile image

      Esther Strong 5 years ago from UK

      Thanks for taking time to break things down, step by step. Great stuff.

    • Richawriter profile image

      Richard J ONeill 6 years ago from Bangkok, Thailand

      Thank you Happy Mummsy.

      Glad to be of service to ya!

      Yes, indeed we are all creatures of habit whether we like it or not but it's never too late to change. Even though it is difficult to find the time to practice these techniques or the peace of mind, it does prove that we have more control than we realize.

      Looking forward to reading some of your stuff mummsy.

      Take care. :) Rich

    • profile image

      happy mummsy 6 years ago

      useful and interesting hub especially to someone like me who's a serious creature of habit [but aren't we all?]. thanks for the share! ~ m

    • Richawriter profile image

      Richard J ONeill 6 years ago from Bangkok, Thailand

      Thanks Alastar.

      Yes, it is a different direction and I plan to continue the momentum by more frequently adding self-help articles as well as general knowledge. The zombies will still rampage over the pages of hubpages though!! :)

      A pleasure as always my friend!

      Take care. :) Richie

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 6 years ago from North Carolina

      Wow. This is a bit of a different direction from your fine fiction Richie; and it looks to be helpful in getting rid of bad habits. Thanks for sharing. Keep us up-dated on how your progressing. Your spot on for sure about the thoughts and the ten steps looks like a winning formula.

    • Richawriter profile image

      Richard J ONeill 6 years ago from Bangkok, Thailand

      Thank you for stopping by again Cardisa! :)

      I appreciate your input.

      I'm doing this program myself and it is working wonders for my life. It takes patience but I'm more than happy to practice my patience skill on something as important as my life.

      Take care Cardisa. :) Rich

    • Richawriter profile image

      Richard J ONeill 6 years ago from Bangkok, Thailand

      Pwalker! Long time no see. Good to see you!

      I'm glad you are aware of your habits and are in control, you'll go far, with the combination of awareness and your writing skills!

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Take Care. :) Richie

    • Richawriter profile image

      Richard J ONeill 6 years ago from Bangkok, Thailand

      Thank you Ken!

      Yes, you are right. If we can take control of our habits, we can achieve anything.

      It takes discipline, but then again, once the habit of discipline has been ingrained, anything is possible!

      Thanks and take care. :) Rich

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 6 years ago from Jamaica

      A very good step by step program for breaking or developing any habit. I am sure it will work. Many of the things we do from day to day is by habit. Learning a new habit while training yourself out of can't lose.

    • profile image

      PWalker281 6 years ago

      Great hub, Rich! I've gotten into the habit (pun intended :-)) of watching my thoughts, and I'm often amazed, as you said, of the junk that has been passing through my mind unobserved. Awareness is the first step to breaking any kind of habitual behavior, and you've provided the rest of the steps in this thought-provoking hub. Rated up and useful.

    • profile image

      Ken 6 years ago

      Yeah good article...nature loves habits.....I think that one needs to fill the void created by the breaking of an old habit......replacing a "bad" habit or "unwanted" habit with a new habit...

      Once one achieves that...anything is possible...