If you’ve been struggling with bad habits all your life, then all that can be said is: “Welcome to the club!”

The attempts of man at getting rid of his bad habits and exchanging them for good ones is an age-old story. In every day and age, ever since the dawn of human morality, man has struggled with this ideology. Some call it sin, others call it moral turpitude, still others call it a way of life. No matter how you look at it, negative behavior has always been undesirable to the society at large.

So how does one elicit positive results in light of the negativity around him?

The following 7 steps should help you achieve what only the brave dare to: giving birth to positive results by studying the effects and machinations of the negative ones. Here’s a closer look:

1.      Take One Habit, and Identify its Trigger Mechanism

Let’s take one of the worst habits of all as an example – smoking. Now, assume you want to quit smoking. Next, enumerate all the triggers that cause you to reach for that smoke. It could be a simple thing such as waking up each morning; it could be a tense situation that makes you reach for tobacco; it could even be something as simple as going to the toilet. No matter what that trigger is, keep tabs on it. That takes us to the next step.

2.      Replace the Triggered Activity

In this case, the triggered activity is smoking a cigarette. So, for each of the triggers you have listed, find something positive to replace it with. For example, if you regularly reach for a smoke just after you wake up, keep your toothbrush handy where you normally keep your cigarettes. This simple technique, over time, will help you replace the habit of reaching for a cigarette in the morning.

3.      Do it for a Month

Once you have identified what you want to replace that triggered behavior with, stick with it for about 21 days. A month is good, but 21 days is the minimum time required to develop a new habit, as several studies have shown. The important thing is to never give up. Even if all you can manage in the beginning is abstaining from the habit for two days or even a single day, that’s still one victory in the war against your bad habit.

4.      Stay Away from Triggering Environments

If the toilet is a trigger environment, then replacing the extra time spent in the toilet with something else is the best approach. But if you find that hanging around outside your office before you get in is causing you to smoke, then get to work just in time so you don’t “have a few minutes” to spend time outside. If drinking makes you smoke more, then stop drinking for a couple of months – or at least until you are able to exchange the smoking habit for a healthier one.

5.      Understanding Urges

Cravings and urges can be pretty intense, but once you realize that they will pass after a few minutes, you will have the courage to face them. Try to distract your mind from the dreaded habit by engaging in other activities: eat a frozen banana, massage your limbs, make a phone call – anything that can distract you from the urge to smoke is worth it, unless, of course, you engage in something more harmful, like running in front of traffic.

6.      Get Help

The hardest thing for an addict to do is to accept the problem. The next hardest thing is to ask somebody to help you get over that problem. But if you can climb over this hill, then you are more than half way there.

Join a support group if you feel awkward asking your friends or family for help. The AA chapter in your area is another alternative – they don’t only reserve their help for alcoholics. Lastly, you can also consider online forums; build your own support group from there, if that’s what it takes to get rid of the bad habit. The point is: ask for help when you need it.

7.      Never Give Up

Say, you fell down at the very first step. So what? Didn’t the spider teach Robert the Bruce that giving up is for the birds? Didn’t you stumble and fall a hundred times before you learned to walk? Didn’t you scrape your knees and elbows and bruise your head and butt a hundred times before you learned to balance on a bicycle?

Life is like that for the most part, so get up, dust yourself off and give it another go. Smokers who have quit know how hard it is to stay the course. Nothing is worth it if it comes easily.

These 7 steps should help you get “instant” positive results whenever you want them. In this case, instant doesn’t refer to the amount of time it takes to get over a habit: it refers to the “switching” of your brain waves that ultimately makes things happen. The victory takes but an instant, even though the spoils may only arrive by regular mail!

The secret to success, as many have found, is the ability to “stick with the program.” The secret is not some miracle cure or magical solution that simply dissolves the hurdles: the secret is within you, and that secret is all about that one last push – that one last ounce of effort that goes into achieving the goal that is close to your heart.

That brings us to the final point – your desire.

A Final Word

Desire is one of the strongest forces of the mind known to man. It beats every other emotion hands down. Nothing can stand against the force of desire if that desire is strong enough and founded on strong beliefs.

In the case of smoking, you need to find out what benefits quitting will entail. Will your family be happier? Will you be healthier? Will you be able to live a longer, more productive and meaningful life? Will you simply be happier as a non-smoker? Ask yourself these impactful questions, because the answer that you give yourself could be the answer to the mountain of a problem that you face now.

So, step forward and step into the light, because you deserve a better life than the one you have now.

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