7 Steps To Break (or Make) A Habit

Everyone has habits, some good and some bad. These are taught actions that we perform practically effortlessly. And the majority of us have a habit we’d like to break or cultivate. The good news is, with a little effort, we can harness the power of habits to work for us, not against us.

Whether you want to break an unwanted habit or cultivate a positive one, this 7-step guide will equip you for success.

1. Awareness is Key: Identify Your Triggers

The first step to changing a habit is acknowledging it. Reflect on your daily routine. What actions do you find yourself repeating almost on autopilot? Do you reach for sugary snacks when stressed? Stay glued to your phone before bed? Recognising these patterns is crucial.

Once you identify the habit, delve deeper to understand the triggers. What situations or emotions prompt this behaviour? Are you mindlessly checking your phone while waiting in line (trigger: boredom), or do you crave sweets after a challenging task (trigger: stress)? Understanding your triggers empowers you to anticipate and interrupt the habit cycle.

2. Digging Deeper: Uncover the Why

Why do you engage in this particular habit? Is it a source of comfort? Does it provide a temporary escape from stress? Maybe it’s simply ingrained in your routine. Understanding the underlying motivation sheds light on what you might need to replace the habit with. For example, if snacking during stressful situations helps you cope, replacing it with a short meditation session could address the need for stress relief in a healthier way.

3. Setting SMART Goals: Small, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound

Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to overhaul your entire routine overnight. Set SMART goals for your habit transformation. Instead of aiming to “exercise more,” create a specific, achievable target like “go for a 20-minute walk 3 times a week.” Track your progress using a habit tracker app or a simple journal. Witnessing your progress is a powerful motivator that keeps you committed.

4. Planning for Success: Craft a Habit Stack

Habit stacking involves linking a new habit to an existing one. This leverages the power of routine and creates a sense of familiarity. For example, if you want to develop a morning meditation practice, tackle it right after making your coffee – a habit you already perform. This association makes the new behaviour more likely to stick.

5. Replacing, Not Eliminating: Introduce Alternative Routines

Our brains crave routine. Simply eliminating a habit can leave a void, making relapse more likely. Instead, focus on replacing the unwanted behaviour with a positive alternative. Is mindless phone scrolling before bed disrupting your sleep? Replace it with a relaxing activity like reading or taking a warm bath. This substitution not only disrupts the old habit loop but also introduces a beneficial routine.

6. Rewarding Yourself: Celebrate Milestones

Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool for habit formation. Acknowledge and reward yourself for achieving your milestones. Did you stick to your walking routine for a week? Treat yourself to a healthy smoothie! Celebrating your success strengthens the association between the new behaviour and positive emotions, making it more likely to become ingrained.

7. Anticipate Slip-Ups and Get Back on Track

Change takes time, and setbacks are inevitable. Don’t let a slip-up derail your entire progress. View it as a learning experience. Analyse what triggered the lapse and adjust your strategies accordingly. Maybe you need to find a different stress reliever or a more tempting reward for sticking to your goals. The key is to acknowledge the lapse, learn from it, and recommit to your journey.


Habit transformation is a marathon, not a sprint. Be patient with yourself, celebrate your victories, and don’t be discouraged by setbacks. With consistent effort and these steps as your guide, you can successfully break unwanted habits and cultivate positive routines that empower you to live a healthier and happier life.

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