Habit Busting

Habit Busting

by Pete Cohen
Thorsons 2003
ISBN: 0007154976

This book gives you all the tools you need to tackle the stubborn self-sabotaging behaviour that is preventing you from being the person you want to be and to put in place productive patterns that will lead to a happier future. Check out Pete's websites at www.habitbusting.com" and www.lightenup.co.uk

Also see Reader Reviews at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

Please note: I have included the Table of Contents for this book below, as it was not available on Amazon.

  1. What Are Habits?
  2. Using Your Imagination
  3. Why We Want to Change: Pleasure vs Pain
  4. Motivation
  5. Beliefs
  6. The New You
  7. Making Mistakes
  8. Saying Goodbye to Old Habits
  9. Getting Stronger
  10. Taking Care of Yourself - The Habit of a Lifetime

The Brain
The brain only suggests a behavior it thinks is the best and most effective way of making us feel better, and it has learned what makes us feel better or more comfortable from our behavior in the past.

Ask yourself this: do you think you have a choice when deciding whether or not to accept your brain’s instructions? You have, and you are not limited to doing what you have always done in the past.

One of the major functions of the brain is to avoid pain and make us feel good; but we know from experience that what the brain ‘believes’ is best and what we ‘know’ is best are not always the same thing.

Why change is so hard
We instinctively regard change as threatening – the brain searches always for what is familiar and comfortable. With the feeling of comfort comes a kind of security, which his why people try at all costs to avoid change. Trying to do anything differently, whether it be crossing your legs the other way or sleeping on the other side of the bed, feels strange and uncomfortable and therefore not good; so we go back to doing whatever we did before. For the same reason, not wanting to move outside of our comfort zone – we tend also to put the minimum amount of attention or effort into many of the things that we do.

An incredible amount of energy goes into continuing with our habits. Procrastinators, those with eating disorders, smokers, etc are always strong people with huge quantities of energy and self-will who are simple misdirecting their potential.

Imagine yourself, as vividly as possible, as being the ex-habit person you want to be. By doing this you are allowing your body (and mind) to prepare for the end result.

Once you have made a decision to change, focus on that and not on what you are leaving behind.

If you expect breaking your habit to be difficult, it probably will be. Until you can believe you can break the habit, you are going to find it very difficult to succeed, because belief and behavior are intrinsically linked.

Remember that at any time your behavior is optional… you can choose whether to moan to yourself over having lapsed from your intention to break a habit, or you can laugh about it and move on. Always, it is up to you.

Welcome change
The first time we try to change a habit by behaving differently, it can feel odd, uncomfortable and strange because we have stopped being, if only for a moment, the only person we know ourselves to be. What we have to learn is how to come out of being what we perceive to be most comfortable and be open to change.

Supporting actions
Just as every piece of fattening food confirms their view of themselves as an overweight person, every time they choose to eat healthy foods their view of themselves as a person who has control over their previously habitual behavior is confirmed. The more examples we can generate, the more our brains will make those examples the focus of our attention.

Affirm the Benefits
Your brain can only follow the instruction you give it. To over-ride your habit, you need to give the brain a new set of well thought out and quite specific instructions, over and over again. The instructions or new goals need to be so attractive that your brain wants to leave behind your habits and move towards the new you.

Fortify Your Belief
To help create belief in yourself, you could also look at the belief as an idea… Let us say the idea is that you could be slimmer. You have a HABIT of being over-weight, but an IDEA of being slimmer. One reference is to change what you eat, another is to be prepared to exercise, another to eat more slowly, another to drink more water. Now that your idea has four legs, it can stand. But if you stop using one of them, the belief starts too fall over, so you need to think of what else you can do to make it stand again. You could eat more fruit and vegetables and/or cut down on desserts. Suddenly your have a very strong foundation on which to support you belief.

Plan to have knock backs, because they do and will happen. How you deal with them will determine how successful you will be in breaking your habit. Expect adversity, but factor in perseverance.

Reverse Thinking
The brain has practically no reference point for things in reverse; even reversing a car happens forwards in time. If you can see your habit backwards, it will scramble it in the brain and make it that much more difficult ever to do again.

Many people grow up regarding anything that gets in their way as an obstacle, a nuisance, a problem they cannot surmount, and move away from or try to avoid it. Doing this, though, will take you in the opposite direction from where it is you want to go.

Repeated thoughts
How many of your everyday thoughts are new, and how many are old ones you have been carrying around for as long as you can remember? Each time you repeat a thought, you reinforce its power; the circuit or pathway along which you think gets stronger; leaving less room for new and empowering creative ideas.

One of the brain’s many functions is to confirm what we believe. So if you believe something is possible, you will create the behavior that supports this belief. You choose what is happening in your head (belief) and the brain generates more of it (behavior).

The beliefs that you hold about yourself in relationship to your skills and abilities and the environment in which you live will determine how successful you will be. These beliefs can be as helpful or unhelpful as you like.

Designing a new Self Image
For many people there is a certain amount of pleasure in their pain, because it is familiar, habitual and in some way a comfort, and trying to change means moving away from where they are or away from the person they recognize as themselves. We need to start looking for alternative ways to feel good.

One way to change is to turn up the pain – in other words, to think about what the future would be like should we still have our habits.

Motivation is really no more than persuading yourself to do whatever it is you want to do… To do this you have to make what you want to do so compelling, and what you no longer want to do so repellant that you want to get on and do the new thing and abandon the old now.

External influences
If you mix with people who are depressed or talk constantly about their problems, there is a strong chance that your own feelings will start to mirror theirs. On the other hand, if you mingle with successful people who talk enthusiastically about their plans for the future, you will feel very differently about yourself and the world in general.

Action plan
Everything you need to know about success can be reduced to 3 simple words:
1. CAN – can you do it?
2. WILL – will you do it?
3. NOW – when will you begin

You would not go to the gym, lift a barbell once and expect bigger biceps… you (have to) push the boundaries of comfort again and again until you get the results you want. The same goes for any training technique.

Reactions and Behavior
You are much more than your behavior, because you can change your behavior. Habits might appear to define you – but they don’t. You can learn to be different.

Negative Thinking
Generally people focus on what is wrong, what is missing, what they have not got, and give themselves a hard time.

Negative Self-Talk
If you find you are talking to yourself in a negative or derogatory manner, tell yourself to shut up, then give yourself some encouragement and be kind, as you would be to a child or a best friend.

Taking Responsibility
Is the game that everyone else plays the one you want to go on playing? Or do you want to start playing the game of your own life, doing the things that feel right and that you want to do.

Positive Visualization
The things we think about and imagine have a profound effect on how we feel. Thinking about or imaging how you will be once your habit is broken gives your brain a description of where you want it to take you. Doing this should also make you feel good, and because making you feel good is one of the brain’s primary functions, the thought or imagining becomes a way of behaving that the brain wishes to adopt.

Automatic Thinking
Scientists estimate that the average person has between 50-60,000 thoughts a day… having such thoughts, for many of us, is like eating; we do it automatically; without really appreciating what is going into our bodies (or our minds). What often gets forgotten is that these thoughts, in many ways like the kinds of food we eat, shape our lives.

Negative Perspective
Many of us go over and over the same habits, behaviors, worries, stresses and regrets and fill ourselves up with what’s wrong with and missing from our lives. These thoughts seem to follow us round like a big, dark cloud, and at night they can rob us of sleep. This way of thinking severely limits our capacity for new and creative thoughts, and steals away from us the joy of loving.

Favorite short quotes:

People who procrastinate often spend so much time planning to put things off that they fail to realize how much better they would feel if they just did them and got them our of the way.

A habit is a behavior repeated so often we can practice it without thinking.

We develop habits through practice and repetition, so imagining life without them can seem difficult.

If any generalization about the unwanted habits people have is true, it’s that they take time and money to maintain.

Some people who want to change become preoccupied with wanting to find out why they developed a certain habit in the first place. Why is not the issue; getting on with change is.

The process of learning how to be that ex-habit person is similar to the way in which we developed the habit in the first place. REPETITION!

The one habit that will let you change all other habits is the habit of noticing how automatic many of our choices are, and then choosing to do something different.

Spend the next day looking up as much as you can. When we look down, we tend to feel down. By looking up our spirits are also lifted.

Attention is keeping your mind on what you’re doing while you’re doing it.

One of the biggest habits people have is ‘terminal seriousness’ – they take themselves too seriously.

Do you know it is estimated that about 90 percent of people who buy books do not read past the 1st chapter?

If you want to change, you must be able to see yourself having made that change or you have little chance of every achieving it.

If you have time to think about throwing in the towel, you also have time to think about success.

You cannot hold on to depressing or self-defeating thoughts when the corners of your mouth are up-turned.

All too often we get so caught up in what has happened, what could happen and what might happen , that we miss out on what actually is happening. We fail to experience life.

Make a decision to enjoy what you do now, in the present, because that is what it is – a present – and it won’t come round again.


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