Why We Don’t Change Bad Habits

Sounds crazy doesn’t it?

Even when we know we have a habit that is detrimental to our well-being and fulfillment-either physically or psychologically, we still don’t put the effort into changing it.

We might think about all the ways we act, think or speak that are destructive or less than constructive. We might complain to our friends about how we should change, but we never take the consistent action required.


Perhaps it’s because we have come to believe and accept that the person we are in this moment, the one with all these bad habits, is the person we have always been and will always be.

Think about this for a moment. How many times have we said this to ourselves; “I can’t help it. It’s just who I am.”

Is this really true? Is this how we define ourselves? Simply by a bundle of fixed habits that can’t be changed?

That seems like a depressed, uninspired and imprisoned way to live.

If we investigate a little more deeply, we will discover that there was a time when we didn’t smoke, overeat, feel anxious about speaking in public, attack others verbally or any other myriad of negative habits we have hindering us from living our best lives.

True, it may have been so long ago that we don’t remember our  pre-bad habit era but we can surely agree that there was at least one moment before the habit became a habit, that we were…free.

A time and perspective when we didn’t need to do any of these things in order to survive or thrive. A stage of “innocent ignorance” when all was still possible because we didn’t have a rigid and fixed view. We were still flexible and adaptable.

Who were we then if not the same person as we are now?

Yes, of course we learn from our experiences and it shapes who we are (or think we are) but how correct was that learning? Did we ever check to see if what we learned that caused us to form the habits we have today, was in fact true or healthy or in alignment with the life we want to live?

Perhaps we don’t change bad habits because we have inadvertently mistaken misguided beliefs for truth. Fine. Happens to the best of us. It doesn’t mean we have to stay locked in those belief systems. We can question them. We can remember that who we are is who we decide we are. Once we do that, bad habits are easier to break and better ones are easier to form.

What habit do you have that doesn’t reflect who you are or want to be?


Today’s 5-minute action item – Write down a negative habit that you have described to yourself or others as being “just who you are.” Write down all the reasons you believe this is true. Think back to a time when you didn’t have this habit or if you can’t remember, imagine one. Write about what it was like to not have the burden of this habit defining you. How did it feel to be free of this self description?

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