Breaking the Habits We Don’t Know We Have

Whether good or bad, habits can be easy to ignore. They become part of our everyday behavior — part of who we are.

Sometimes habits can be beneficial. Solid sleep habits and exercise routines can make us happier and healthier individuals in the long run. But habits can just as easily have a negative impact on our lives, sometimes even veering into addiction territory. A harmful habit could be as simple as biting your nails or as serious as snorting cocaine.

The most dangerous bad habits are often the ones we don’t realize we have. They’re the negative thinking processes and learned behaviors that prompt us to make decisions that wind up being destructive. These underlying habits may in fact be at the root of our most obvious addictions.

Unfortunately, pinpointing those bad habits isn’t as easy as diagnosing a drug or alcohol addiction. Honing in on why you think the way you do, and why you do the things you do — that requires some deep self-reflection that many people won’t take the time to do.

This may not seem like a big deal to some people. I’ve worked with many, many people over the years who’ve accepted a life of mediocrity, refusing to get to the bottom of what’s holding them back. These people are undermining themselves and creating failure. Yes, bad habits have the power to do that.

We all have goals for our future. We all have dreams about how we want our lives to be. But our habits — our behavior — are at the heart of whether we reach those goals. If you fall into negative habits that detract from your life, like bad time management, poor diet, and substance abuse, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Habits are hard to break. I know this from my own battles with addiction and anger management. I struggle with them every day. But here’s a question that I ask myself, and that I encourage you to explore: Does this behavior move me closer to or further from my life goals?

If you’re doing something that’s keeping you away from reaching your goals, there’s a good chance it’s a habit that you need to break. It could be a thought process or simply a way you’re wasting time and destroying your productivity. It could be something health-related that’s killing your energy levels. It could be big or small. It could be lots of things.

Start by identifying where you’re getting stuck and committing yourself to overcoming that obstacle. It’s a simple but powerful first step toward claiming control over your future.

For more on how personal accountability can radically change your life, pick up a copy of my book, The Reward of Knowing.