Stop Bad Habits – Breaking the Vicious Cycle



When it comes down to it we all want to stop bad habits, but how do we go about breaking the vicious cycle?  Obviously there is not just a magic button that we can press or we all would have done that by now.  Let’s take a look though at some perspectives that just might be able to help you get off the merry-go-round.

Finding the Desire to Stop

A common bad habit is smoking cigarettes.

Before you can successfully quit anything the first thing that you need to do is to find the desire to actually stop doing it.  This is the reason that so many people fail at breaking a bad habit as they really didn’t want to stop in the first place.  Finding the desire to make the change is a vital first step in the process.

I have seen this a lot when it comes to people quitting smoking cigarettes.  They see all of the harmful things that they can do and often loved ones put pressure on them to quit, but in reality they don’t want to and thus fail to break the cycle and fall back into their normal smoking habits.

So the first step to break a bad habit is to look inward and to find your reason or reasons to make the change.  Once you figure out what works for yourself, you have now started down the path of change and are ready for the next step.

Conscious Efforts

After figuring out your desire, you need to make conscious efforts to avoid the old habit.

This is probably the hardest step in ending a habit and that is making a conscious choice to do something different then you have been.  You see a habit allows us to go through it without much thought and now we need to learn how to make sure that we are paying attention to what we are doing so that we can make a conscious choice.

My recommendation here is for you to identify a trigger that is leading you to your bad habit that you have chosen to work on changing.  Once you have done that, you then want to create a mental note that every time the trigger comes into play that you want to stop for a second to think about what you are doing.

So if you were working on quitting smoking, perhaps you attached your trigger moment to when you pick up your pack of cigarettes.  Now whenever you pick them up the little alarm goes off in your head giving you the opportunity to make a conscious choice to not smoke.

Again I would like to reiterate that this is a difficult part of the process and you may make mistakes while going through it.  However, mistakes are not necessarily a bad thing as when they happen they will help you to reinforce your trigger as well making a better choice.  Should you make a mistake, it is okay, just make sure that you forgive yourself and move on in a positive manner.

Three Weeks Later…

It took me 3 weeks to create a new habit.

Making and breaking habits is a long process that typically takes about three weeks to completely change or start a habit.  The first week is the hardest as it will be a daily challenge to keep to your desire to change.  As you progress though it will become easier and easier until you don’t even have to think about it as you have now moved on.

Back when I was younger I had very bad habits with brushing my teeth.  As I was now becoming a young adult, I took it upon myself to change that.  I understood the three-week process of creating a new habit and made a little checklist that I taped to the bathroom mirror.

This list was in a clearly visible area that I frequented.  This helped to remind me that I needed to brush my teeth 3 times daily.  Each time I did I would color in 1 of the 3 little circles I had for each day.

At the end of the three weeks, I had formed a new positive habit and was no longer in need of the reminder on the mirror.  I no longer had to think about it and make a conscious choice to brush my teeth as it was now a new good habit.

A Helpful Tool

Meditation can be a very helpful tool to help you make changes in your life.

One tool that can be very helpful in this process is learning how to meditate as it will help you to learn how to be mindful of your thoughts and help ease the anxiety of the change.  Also, depending on what habits you are trying to break, meditating can be a good habit that could be switched out in place of the bad one.

I would also advise here not to think about meditation with any preconceptions.  All to often people have the wrong perceptions of how it works and how to do it, when in reality it is not as hard or as involved as one might think.

Meditation can be as simple as just being aware of your breathing and involved as day long practices.  For the most part though, just the simple practices of it are more than enough to help us in our everyday lives.

If you are not sure where to start with mediation I would recommend the following course to help you get started: A beginners guide to mindfulness meditation

A beginners guide to mindfulness meditation. Begin practicing mindful meditation. Experience its benefits, increase awareness & go from novice to unguided guru.

Other Helpful Articles

There are several other articles that I have shared here in the past that directly relate to this topic that I would like to share with you as well.

Article: Positive and Negative Thinking - How to Live a Better Life
Article: Positive and Negative Thinking – How to Live a Better Life

The first article is, “Positive and Negative Thinking – How to Live a Better Life” in which I help you to take a look at how you are thinking and how that affects you.  Obviously, getting your thoughts going in the direction you want them to can help you to make changes in your life.

The next article, “Managing Emotions in the Decision Making Process” will help you to understand the emotions involved with making these various decisions that we have talked about today.

Last I would like to recommend that you read, “The Importance of Learning From Mistakes” as it is vitally important in this process not to get down on yourself when you do make mistakes.

Other Resources Available

Share Your Story

Before I go I always like to ask that you share your story with us.  The reason for this is that we each bring our own unique perspective to the table and yours might be what someone else needs to see to make their own breakthrough.  So please, let us know how you have overcome bad habits or what tools worked for you.

Create a great day for yourself!

James W D

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38 Replies to “Stop Bad Habits – Breaking the Vicious Cycle”

  1. Hello James,

    Most of our behavior is habitual. We all have something called a paradigm which is controlling every aspect of our life, like the way we talk, walk, eat and so on.

    We’ve been programmed both genetically and environmentally and that’s what formed our paradigm.

    A paradigm is a multitude of habits that are fixed in our subconscious mind and on which we might act without any conscious thought.

    Everyday, we follow a routine and if we want to change something we might feel uncomfortable and we hit a terror barrier. Why? Because it’s not in the harmony with the paradigm.

    The only way to alter our paradigm and change a bad habit is to replace it with a productive one. We have to be careful so we won’t replace a bad habit with another bad habit.


    • Christina,

      Thank you for the well thought out and said comment. What you stated is very true and is yet another piece of perspective to add to our overall puzzle here.

      Routine and habit can be very hard to change and like you said, you also have to be careful to replace with a productive one too.

      Finding that harmony for yourself is a part of the battle that we will live throughout our entire lives. There will always be challenges here as that is a part of the growth process that we are going through in this world.

      Thank you for sharing your knowledge and perspective.

      James W D

  2. Hi there,

    I smoked 40 cigarettes a day for around 10 years, so and when I wanted to stop I found a way.

    It is true that you have to make a conscious decision to stop otherwise you will just give up then start again when something activates your emotional trigger.

    My way was making that decision and reading ‘Easy way to stop smoking’ by Alan Carr.

    It took me a week to read it and I came out the other side, never wanting another smoke.


    • Carl, first thank you very much for sharing your story. Quitting smoking is probably one of the most popular and hardest habits to break (especially because of the physical addiction).

      Yes the conscious decision is probably the most important part of this process as it is an indicator of your desires and that is very strong.

      I will be sure to recommend that book as an option to those I know who would like to quit. You never know what will be the right tool for them and there is always something a little more powerful about reading information from a book like that.

  3. I have found that adding the opposite action to something I want to stop to my calendar holds me accountable. Also, for doing things like faithfully checking my glucose levels twice a day and journaling my food intake. Good stuff here.

    • Calendars can also be a great tool as most of us do look at them daily. Having your reminders on there or even just scheduling when to do things is a big plus. Thanks for stopping by and sharing!

  4. This is some great advice and I wish I had come across this a few years ago.

    I was a cigarette smoker for many years and I had quit several times for at least a year or two, but something always made me go back to it until I found vaping. I have not had a cigarette for 4 years now and I hope to eventually get to where I am no longer vaping. I get closer and closer to this goal every year. I started out at 24mg and I am now down to 3mg.

    Do you think people lack motivation or will power when trying to stop a bad habit?

    • Kristena, That is awesome to hear that you are winning that battle against cigarettes/nicotine! I know that one is a particularly hard one to kick due to the actual physical addiction to it. I was lucky to quit when I was younger before it had dug in too deeply.

      Typically I think that the motivation is there. Instead of understanding that we may take a few backward steps during the process we tend to get hung up on those points as failure. However we need to learn and understand that it is all part of the learning process. We will make mistakes along the way but instead of dreading on them we need to own up to them, learn from them and move on.

  5. Hello there,
    Great site you have here, I enjoyed reading this post and found it very useful.
    It’s true, people will form habits naturally, whether they are good or bad. It makes sense to make as many good habits as possible to help prevent bad ones.
    Conscious effort and finding the right desire will make it easier for sure, I’m also very interested in trying out the meditation technique.
    Thank you!

    • I have found that meditation has helped me to have a better control of my thoughts on a daily basis. This has made it much easier to make changes in my life, though you still have to work at it.

      Also, you are very right in that the more good habits that you develop the harder it is to have time for the bad ones. Thanks for sharing that perspective!

  6. Your site seems to be laid out well. It looks like a professional website. The people who commented really seemed to appreciate the words you wrote. I am a smoker myself and a lot of your content struck a cord with me. I think you picked a great niche. A lot of people in the world have bad habits. Maybe everyone.

    • Ben, I would venture to say that yes, we all do have bad habits. Obviously some are a lot worse than others, but none of us are perfect in this world (that is why we are here anyway!). I hope that I have helped plant some seeds that will lead to positive change in your life.

      Oh and thank you for the compliments on my site here, I really do appreciate them.

  7. Hello James
    lm one of those people who have this bad habit,burning money and harming my health.Im a smoker for the last 20 years and recently l have started feeling the effects when l climb upstairs or when l run for the bus.
    l have now decided to build new good habits,not only good but healthy too.
    After reading your very informative post, i feel l have the tools and mindset to get going and do things right for my health.
    Changing and leaving this bad habit l have been practising for years will not be easy but im sure with determination, l can do it.
    Thanks once more for a real well written post.

    • When it comes to smoking, it seems like you are finding the desire to make the change. Often in our youth we can get away with things as we are young and full of energy. As we age we start to allocate our energy more and it sounds like you are hitting that point.

      Think of the benefits that you would gain by quitting smoking. First not only would you see improvement in your health, but that would also help alleviate the strain on your wallet. Take the time and do the math once to see how much you are spending on cigarettes in a month, I bet you would be surprised.

      I would also recommend though that as part of your process, plan out how you are going to redirect those funds so that you don’t just burn through it. Put some in a savings account, preferably at a different bank then your normal accounts (making it harder to access) or help promote a local charity. Whatever works for you, just have a plan and write it down!

      I have faith that you can make the changes that you want. I hope to hear back from you someday telling me how long you have been free of cigarettes.

  8. Hi James,
    What a great spiral shell you have used on your website – it really captures your message I think. I enjoyed your article and fully agree that identifying your own reasons for changing a habit is the first important step. Without this you won’t get very far at all. I really like that you have some extra reading suggestions as part of the process – that’s really helpful. In terms of identifying the triggers, I have heard before that it’s a good idea to replace the habit with a different behavior at the time the trigger happens – for example, a common one I’ve heard is chewing gum instead of lighting up a cigarette. Do you agree?

    • Mara,

      First I would like to thank you for your compliments! I would also agree that after identifying your trigger, finding a better action to take at that time can certainly help. Basically you can do the whole two birds with one stone thing by replacing a bad habit with something new and good.

  9. HI James, thanks for the great post! Anthony Robbins in his book “Awaken the Giant Within” wrote about the fact that people’s life is all about pleasure and pain. Whatever we associate with pleasure we want to continue doing and we want to avoid pain. Changing a habit can be easier if we could change our associations to things- connect pleasure to our new healthy habit and associate pain with things we want to avoid doing.

    • Elektra, Anthony Robbins has a great concept there and that would certainly be a valuable tool to have to work on changing your life. being able to associate the correct emotions to actions will certainly help you make the transition an easier one for you. Still boils down to making some conscious choices, but is another great example of the various ways you can go about change.

  10. James,

    Beautifully, and wisely, said!

    Great advice. And even if you know some of the elements (like the 3 week period to break a habit), it sure don’t hurt to have it reviewed!

    I’ve managed to break a few bad habits in my life: smoking and drinking, and most recently, caffeine.

    I wanted to quit caffeine because it irritated my bladder. But I LOVED caffeine’s buzz, and I LOVED the focus it gave me (briefly). By focusing on what I didn’t want — that irritation — I was able to happily choose NO bladder issue over a short-term buzz. I switched to Yogi herbal tea (un-caffeinated, of course!).

    Next challenge: SUGAR!

    Any suggestions for that? I’m overweight but love the candy, cake, sweets.

    Awesome inspiration!

    • Roger, First off I would like to thank you for sharing your story with us and I found it awesome on what you have overcome thus far. I myself quit sodas probably just over a year ago now about. I went strictly to water first and then after about a month I started drinking either water or unsweetened tea. People always ask me how I can drink that and I tell them about after a month of water only, the flavor then tastes great!

      Well I am by no means a dieting expert, but my advise would be to align it with how you quit caffeine. Figure out what the pros and cons just like you did and then start working on making the conscious choices. Best of luck to you and your next adventure!

  11. This is a truly helpful post to not only help motivate people to make changes. It also gives some very helpful tips to move forward to make some life changes. Making small changes in you lifestyle can really help you improve your health and wellness.

  12. I’m going through this process right now. I’m trying to have a more active life style and do exercises regularly. I set a goal of 3 times a week with at least one day interval between the exercises. It has being working so far and now I’m starting to miss it if for some reason I can’t go. My life is much better now that I can exercise myself and make my body work in a consistent basis.

    • That is awesome to hear that you are working on changing your habits right now. Setting goals is also another key component to help motivate and track progress. As far as missing some times, it is okay as life happens sometimes. Just learn what you can from those situations and use it to help avoid missing times in the future. I have also found that having a workout buddy is tremendously beneficial.

  13. Hey there it’s Alexey!
    Building new habits – or stopping bad ones is not an easy task and it requires a lot of work, strategy to be accurate.
    Habits can be built – I love to study this subject and I found your article very interesting 🙂
    The best place to stop a habit is to replace it with a new, better one. And the best way to build new habit is by repeating it for a certain period of time (2-3 weeks) until it turn automatic.
    Thanks for the share.

    • Hi Alexey! You are 100% right in the it does require lots of work and strategy to accomplish. That is why it is so important to find the desire first to make the change and then to work on making conscious decisions rather than allowing your habits to determine your actions. I also agree that replacing a bad habit with something good can definitely help make the transition process easier on you as well. You’re welcome and thank you as well!

  14. So many people desire to stop bad habits and so many people struggle. I think this is a great post that can be very helpful for those who struggle. Excellent post!

    • Thank you very much! My goal is to make the world a better place and I will continue to work hard to producing articles that will help us all in our struggles.

  15. For sure, habits are one of the biggest factors that influence us throughout our daily lives. They can help us succeed and they can certainly hinder us on our way to success or change. Like you, one of my baddest habits is brushing my teeth on a regular schedule. I’d usually get them at night before I went to bed but that was less then what I should have been brushing them. I ended up purchasing a new electric toothbrush and downloading the app that went with it. It has definitely helped me to see when I’m getting off track and to help me build better habits. Which are really hard to build unless you have the desire.

    • Desire is a huge key factor in this whole situation. I know smokers that don’t want to quit, they enjoy the cigarette. Without that desire they will have a harder time to quit, even if they can’t afford the habit anymore. With today’s technology and the plethora of apps out there, I am sure you can find something to help you with breaking any bad habit. Thanks for sharing your story, it is very much appreciated.

  16. Hello James , I really appreciate your thoughtful article. Bad habits are so ingrained with our emotions. You cover some very important information . I know that in overcoming bad habits and I have as many as anyone, that guilt is never a good motivate, but when I ask for strength from God and Christ for what is the best for me, it certainly helps. Some things are not good for me and guilt trip from someone like I said does no good. But, considering if it makes me a better person or if it is profitable for my soul or not is something I reflect on. As for mistakes, it is wonderful to know I have supportive family and friends that I trust and who do not fuss at me even if I fail , but encourage me onward to try try again. Every time we say no brings us one step closer to success.

    • Faith is certainly a great component in helping to break bad habits. As for guilt, I avoid that at all costs. Making someone feel guilty for something is just another negative on top of an already negative situation. Having a supportive family is also a great tool to utilize in breaking the vicious cycle!

  17. hi James I like the neatness of your site and I like your principles ..
    Changing negative habit’s begins in changing negative thought’s.
    I remember one lesson from Jim Rohn in one his lecture’s which Earl Shoaff said to him it’s simple :FOR THINGS TO CHANGE FOR YOU,YOU’VE GOT To CHANGE>>>


    • Zack, First thank you for your compliments, they are much appreciated.

      As for that simple statement, yes it is very true. If you continue to do the same thing and expect different results, you are only living the definition of insanity. For change to happen you need to actually change the things you do. Thanks for the tip I will have to look into these guys.

  18. We all have vices that need to be broken. The hardest part is the initial period of quitting the addiction. What helped me tremendously was an accountability partner.

    • Very true Josh and I believe that is a big part of why we live our lives… to learn and grow past these vices. Having a partner in making a change is definitely a huge advantage and one I would highly recommend. Whether it is just having someone else to start a new workout regiment to having someone that has broken their addiction already with things such as alcohol. The social aspect and the emotions involved with that can be tremendous tools to use. Thank you for sharing that as it is a concept I know and didn’t think to share with this post.

  19. Hey, James! Great insight, here, on breaking bad habits and making good ones! You’re so right with the 3 week thing, too! I know, from my own experience with trying to get into a fitness routine. It took a good 3 weeks before it became a mindless habit and not an effort or forced activity that I dreaded. Now, I look forward to it and if I do miss a day, I just don’t feel complete. Thanks, as always, for your unique look on life.

    • Thank you Barb. Yes the three week window is very important. It takes time for our brains to realize that we are making a change and then to adapt to it. The conscious effort interrupts current pathways and begins to pull our connections in our brains into the new paths that we desire. You are very welcome!

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