How to Break Bad Habits
The Habit: Disorganization
Why you do it: You may be a visual processor. You like to be surrounded by a mess because it’s stimulating―and it reminds you to do your
work. But it backfires, since you waste time searching for things.
How to stop: Separate papers into a pile you need to do and a pile you can think about doing. Use folders or boxes in different colors. “One of my clients has 12 clipboards hung up in her office: six for current projects and six for those she may get to later,” says Lynn Cutts, a Colorado-based certified life coach. “She’s still being visually stimulated, but her stuff is organized.” Set up a system that works for you, and start with basic steps, like putting your keys in the same place every day.
The Habit: Name-Dropping
Why you do it: You feel insignificant and want to be perceived as more special than others around you. You think people will be impressed
with you if you’re associated with a particular person. In addition to that, name-dropping can serve as a form of intimidation.
“It’s a kind of one-upmanship,” says life Cutts.
How to stop: Listen to yourself! Would you want to stick around and hear all this? Remind yourself that you don’t need to resort to mentioning names as a way of increasing your value. If you can’t resist dropping a name or two, do so in a non-self-promoting way or with humor. Do it to share information, as opposed to putting someone down or making yourself look more important. And make sure to tell the full story, even if it’s “Oh, I passed Harrison Ford on the street. He didn’t actually speak to me, but he did glance in my direction.”
The Habit: Nail Biting
Why you do it: You use it to derive comfort and relieve stress. “Nail biting could be the adult version of thumb sucking,” says Alan Strathman,
associate professor of social psychology at the University of Missouri, Columbia.
How to stop: First, note when you bite your nails, and then substitute another action. Keep a stress ball on your desk, or even play with Silly Putty the next time your fingers start tickling your teeth. You can also try wearing synthetic nails or painting your natural nails with a polish that has a foul taste. Or get a manicure. You’ll look good, and after paying for the service, you’ll think twice about ruining the results.
The Habit: Whining
Why you do it: You don’t feel confident that you have the power to request something. As a kid, you probably whined when you didn’t get
what you wanted, and it paid off―then.
How to stop: As an adult, you’re in for a big surprise if you think you’ll get the same results. If your husband or friends say you’re a whiner, take note. Simply state what you want by making a direct request. For example, instead of ruining an evening out by complaining that you got stuck at a table next to the kitchen, politely ask the waiter to reseat you. Remember: Most people will develop a resistance to whiners. “We rebel against the behavior because we recognize that giving in will only reinforce it,” says Strathman.
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So maybe you can’t change your health overnight. But you can get a head start.