Breaking a Bad Habit: From Dirt Road to Superhighway

by Meredith Bell

When you want break a bad habit, it’s like trying to build a superhighway out of a dirt road. You can do it. Just know that breaking bad habits is a construction project in your brain that takes time.

break bad habits
Image source: BigStockPhoto.com

If you’ve ever tried to change a bad habit, you know how hard that can be. But you may not know why.

Your established behavior pattern is like a familiar, well-traveled road. You’ve used it for so long that the turns and stops are practically automatic. But at some point you realize that the route you’ve been taking is narrow and has some potholes. It’s actually holding you back and slowing you down.

Rationally, you may acknowledge that creating the new way will be worth the effort. It will be faster, easier and more efficient…and will produce much better results. But it’s not easy to get there because you’re trying to do something different and unfamiliar.

The problem is, in order to make the change, you have to literally rewire your brain. Over time, doing things the old way caused your brain to connect up a physical circuit. And your brain doesn’t stop using it just because you decide you want to do something different.  You won’t stop using this old circuit until you establish a new one. You’re going to have to build a brand new super-highway.

Building these new connections is like starting with a dirt road. Construction of a new habit is going to take time – from several weeks to months – just as a road construction project doesn’t happen overnight. It’s going to be a bumpy, rough ride at first because the new behavior feels awkward.



And you have that old, comfortable, familiar road competing for your attention. When you experience setbacks, it will be very tempting to revert back to it.

In the early stages, you can get discouraged. For one thing, you may not appreciate how much time is required to establish a new habit. And there’s a lengthy awkward phase that’s a natural part of the process. Your initial attempts may feel forced and clumsy, and the results will often be disappointing.  

This is a vulnerable time, because progress may be so gradual that it seems like you’re not getting anywhere. When setbacks and frustrations happen, you’ll be tempted to go back to your old, familiar way. A lot of people give up at this point.

What you probably don’t realize is that if you persist when the going gets rough, if you just keep trying in spite of the failures and disappointments, your success rate will gradually improve and your brain will eventually rewire itself. The construction of your superhighway will be complete – your new habit is now ingrained.

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An entrepreneur since 1982, Meredith Bell is a skilled coach and expert on behavior change. Her software company publishes assessment and development tools for the people side of your business. For more information and the free guide for entrepreneurs, “Ignite Your Business,” visit: http://www.ProStarCoach.com/smallbiz  

 
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