How to Break Bad Habits
Why you do it: You try to take the focus off your flaws by exposing those of others. But a person who gossips by habit doesn’t truly believe she’s good enough on her own.
How to stop: Focus your conversation on sharing your experiences, such as discovering a new restaurant or your latest vacation. Brush up on current events, music, or sports. This will give you something else to discuss besides other people. Plus, you never know who is listening in on your conversation. If you’re complaining about your coworker, be aware that her best friend might be the woman directly behind you on the train. Keep in mind that gossiping makes you seem untrustworthy. You may even lose friends and professional contacts when people realize you’re a gossip.
The Habit: Perfectionism
Why you do it: Mom and Dad, who were probably perfectionists, had high expectations. (“Only a B, Mary?”) You define yourself by what you do, yet nothing gets done.
How to stop: Train yourself to care less. Deliberately do a poor job when performing a small chore―one that has no professional or personal impact, like doing the dishes or making the bed. “You’ll see the consequences aren’t so dire,” says Cutts. Set time limits for tasks, and use an alarm. There will be no room in the schedule for that “one more thing” to make it perfect. Finally, just for fun, do something at which you don’t excel. If you’re a shower diva (but know you’re no Streisand), try singing lessons. Or play a weekend sport with a team that judiciously ignores the score.
Five Steps for Changing Any Bad Habit
These tips come courtesy of Cherry Pedrick, coauthor of The Habit Change Workbook ($16, amazon.com).
- Know when your habit shows up. Identify habit-prone situations. Record how often and where it presents itself.
- Know the consequences. List the advantages and disadvantages of keeping—or changing—your habit.
- Know an alternative behavior. Develop a competing response that you can employ instead of falling back on your habit.
- Know your goals. Make a plan with short-and long-term goals, and reward yourself when you reach them.
- Know you're human. Don't beat yourself up if you fall back into your old ways. This is a natural part of change.