Self-defeating habits can sabotage both your business and personal life. If you’re ready to free yourself from those pesky habits that are holding you back, there’s no better time to escape than right now.

If someone were to ask you about your habits, you’d likely respond with a litany of “bad” habits. Habits can support you in leading a higher-quality life, help achieve the goals that you set, and can simplify your life.

On the other hand, habits can block you from reaching your goals by trapping you in old behaviors that no longer support you to take positive action. Moreover, each of our habits takes time and energy to maintain. The question is whether the benefits associated with a specific habit are worth the costs.

Habits can simplify your life

Do you have a regular regimen that you follow when you get up in the morning or when you go to bed at night? Do you schedule specific times for exercise, recreational activities or lead generation? If so, these habits free you from ongoing decision-making about routine daily events.

“Good” habits serve to simplify your life. Rather than having to decide whether you should shower or take a bath, whether you should have yogurt or an omelet, or whether you will pack a lunch or eat out, your habits allow you to place these decisions on autopilot. This saves both time and energy. In the case of good habits, their benefits usually exceed their cost.

For example, do you brush and floss your teeth daily? If so, this is an extremely healthy habit. Research has linked the plaque buildup inside our mouths to heart disease. Also, if you have ever had periodontal treatment, you know how very painful and expensive that can be.

Personally, keeping my brushing and flossing habit up has been much easier since I discovered an electric toothbrush and whitening toothpaste. The benefit was a whiter smile without paying several hundred dollars for whitening treatments. It has also resulted in much better dental checkups. Finding the right benefits makes sticking with a habit easier.

In contrast, “bad” habits provide benefits but they also have a high cost. Someone who enjoys smoking faces the potential cost of lung cancer, emphysema, a heart attack or other smoking-related disease. Smoking not only occupies space in the smoker’s life, it also causes physical harm depriving the smoker of time, money and even good health.

Keep a habit journal

If you would like to free yourself from self-defeating habits, begin by keeping a habit journal. As you go through your day, jot down your regular routines (habits). At the end of the day, go back through your habit list and determine which habits support you and which habits drain you of your time and energy.

Next, identify three habits that you would like to change. Your goal is to successfully change at least one habit. Start with the habit that will be easiest to change and tackle that first. Once you have conquered the first bad habit, you can go on to the more difficult ones.

No need to go “cold turkey”

Habits are virtually impossible to break when we go cold turkey, but are often easily changed when we substitute something else. In general, the quickest way to rid yourself of a harmful habit is to replace it with a different, enjoyable activity that better supports your life. For example, instead of eating that bowl of ice cream while watching television, take a walk, call a friend, or do some other activity that takes you away from the TV and ice cream.

A different way to break a habit is to change how you do it. For example, some researchers have forced smokers to smoke with their opposite hand. While it doesn’t eliminate smoking, it often lowers the number of cigarettes that the person smokes.

Break the momentum

Momentum is what often keeps most habits in play. If you are stumped by a particularly tough habit, ask yourself, “What benefit am I getting from continuing this habit?” Are the benefits greater than the costs?

If not, identify another behavior that you could substitute that will give you greater benefits. Then, when you’re about to engage in the old habit, stop yourself and ask, “Is doing this behavior one more time really worth the cost, or is engaging in a different behavior a better choice?” By asking this simple question before you choose to engage in the habitual behavior, you are making a conscious choice about your actions.

Remember, the best way to break old habits is to tackle the easy ones first. Substitute a new, pleasurable habit for the bad habit you want to eliminate. Try this approach and watch those old habits expire once and for all.

Bernice Ross, CEO of, is a national speaker, trainer and author of the National Association of Realtors’ No. 1 best-seller, “Real Estate Dough: Your Recipe for Real Estate Success.” Hear Bernice’s five-minute daily real estate show, just named “new and notable” by iTunes, at

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