4 min read

Breaking Bad Habits

Breaking Bad Habits
Me on Mirage

How I identified my bad habit and how I will break them.
From: 30 before 30

Atomic Habits by James Clear opened my eyes for the power of habits and how they influence my life. One of my goals before turning 30 is to eliminate (some of) my bad ones, and I feel this is a great task for the beginning of the year.

Step 1: Good vs Evil

Habits are things I “do often and regularly, sometimes without knowing that you are doing it” (Source). They determine my standard response to outside situations and have an immense influence on my personal progress. Do I reach for my phone right after I wake up or meditate?

Every Saturday, my wife and I make coffee and play games together on our iPads while watching Bob’s Burger, Friends, or the Office in the morning. Is this a bad habit?

I want to work on my dreams while spending time and enjoying the moments with my wife, friends, and family; thus, playing games on the couch while watching TV is not a bad habit … for me. It is important to understand that everyone’s goals in life are different and therefore their definition of good and bad habits differentiate as well. The internet suggests that everyone’s goals are the same, which isn’t the case. For me, playing video games is a bad habit, but if your goal is to spend as much time relaxing with friends, it might not be.

I simply have to find my purpose of my existence (A concept I first encountered in the cafe on the edge of the world), and then analyse the alignment of my habits with the path towards this purpose.

Step 2: Identifying my Bad Habits

First, I tried to sit down and think about habits keeping me from my goal. Then, for a few days, I paid close attention and was mindful about the ways I act. It is hard to stay mindful, but I managed to observe myself and analyse how my habits determine my response to a few common situations (i. e. triggers):

  • After waking up, I reach for my phone and read low quality news
  • As soon as I have nothing to do, I reach for my phone
    – I normally open Safari and go to Reddit
  • When I sit down to work and hit a wall, I immediately do something different
  • As soon as I sit down on the couch, I reach for my iPad
  • As soon as I open my laptop, I open Safari
  • When I finish watching something on YouTube, Netflix, etc., I immediate start the next video
  • When I come home from work, I sit down on the couch and turn on the TV
  • If I am getting bored of the topic I am working on, I immediately find something else to do on my computer - and stick with that for at least 10 minutes (like looking through old photos or starting a round of chess).
  • Right before sleep, I scroll through Reddit on my phone
  • Sometimes, I launch Counter-Strike without even thinking about it and queue for a game (I wasn’t able to determine what triggers me). When this game is done, I immediately start a new one, which can lead to hours in front of the computer.
  • When I want to check the time, look up a simple fact, or just have two seconds of free time: I get out my phone.
  • Once I am on my phone, I click around way more apps and websites than I intended to
  • Whenever I don’t know anything I have the strong urge to immediately look it up - even if it doesn’t influence my life at all
  • I rather do anything else than sit down to work
  • I open the pantry or fridge to check for food or snacks approximately 1000 times a day
  • When I am bored and have nothing to do, I get a snack
  • I constantly compare the things I own with their alternatives. I have a video camera and spend more time comparing it to other cameras than using it.
  • When I get interested in a new topic, I immediately start buying something. Even if I loose interest before the item arrives.

Analysing these points shows one dominating factor: digital content and my way of interaction with the digital world. I consume too much through my phone. This not only steals the time I need to work on my goals but also trains my mind towards the constant consumption of content. I feel like I need keep consuming and tasks like working towards my dreams seem daunting.

Step 3: Breaking Them

I tried to do stop myself from consuming digital content in the past, but failed. I was on a good path for a few days, and then suddenly forgot about my good intentions and fell back into my old habits. This is not surprising considering it takes a long time (in some cases up to 254 days), to change my current habits. (Source)(Source)

James Clear has a few suggestions to break a bad habit including cutting triggers or joining forces with somebody. To break my bad habit, I will start a 100 day digital detox:

  1. No more electronic devices in the bedroom
  2. No consumption of news (I’ll get a newspaper instead)
  3. No playing video-games alone
  4. No killing time on my phone
  5. No reading through reddit

To summarise: no digital consumption of any type!

To support myself, I will join forces with you by writing this article and forcing myself to follow through with it. I also cut out triggers and prepare my surroundings for success by:

I once started a digital detox and got sick after one week. I took this as an excuse to watch YouTube videos for the whole day and my detox was forgotten. This time, I won’t give myself any excuses, but I will also not give up if I failed for one day. The goal is to be consistent for at least 100 days.

Follow this journey through my newsletter and look out for the next article about establishing good habits.