Changing a habit is difficult. Changing a bad habit that is deeply ingrained is probably one of the hardest things to do. A habit after all is a learned behaviour that is almost involuntary. On the one hand, a habit helps to save you time and energy when you face a familiar situation. On the other hand, a bad habit can cause you many problems in your life. Although it is hard to change bad habits, it is not impossible to do so. The first thing you need is to be very clear about your motivations for wanting to change.
Need for Change
From young, I learned that failure was bad. Every time I made a mistake or failed at something, I faced disapproval and felt great shame. This led me to fear failure and shun it. I became afraid of taking risks and making mistakes. The moment I made a mistake, I gave up. In doing so, I turned a temporary setback into a permanent one. As a result, I never succeeded in anything important. At some point, I realized that my life would go nowhere if I did not change my habit of viewing failure in a bad light. I realized I needed to change.
Before you can change a bad habit, you must realize the need to do so. It could be that your habit is causing you or the people around you problems. Alternatively, you may find that your habit is ineffective in dealing with a situation. Only when you realize the need for change will you sit up and address the issue.
Desire for Change
Realizing the need to change my habitual view of failure was not enough. I could have chosen to do nothing about it. Before a change could happen, I had to desire that change to make it happen. I had many reasons for wanting to change my bad habit. Firstly, I knew I could not avoid failure in life since it was the path to success. Secondly, I wanted to change so that I would stop feeling awful whenever I failed. Thirdly, I wanted to change because I wanted to learn from my mistakes and succeed. Lastly, I wanted to change because I was tired of being afraid of failure.
Before you can change your habit, you must sincerely desire that change. You and you alone are responsible for your own life. No one else can live it for you. Similarly, no one else can compel you to change a bad habit if you do not wish to do so. The sincere desire to change must come from within you. This is crucial because it will give you the energy you need to overcome the inertia and resistance you will face in the process of changing your bad habit.
Purpose for Change
Realizing the need for and having the desire to change was not enough. After all, my habit of viewing failure in a negative light was deeply ingrained. I had almost 30 years of practice. Thus, the inertia and resistance I faced in trying to change that habit was great. Desire to change alone could only take me so far. I knew my desire would wear off after a few weeks at most. Then, I would regress to my old ways again. To pre-empt this, I needed a greater and deeper form of motivation. I needed to tie in my desire to change with a greater purpose. The purpose I chose was to master failure so that I could be successful and gain the means to protect and nurture my loved ones. With this responsibility on my shoulders, I had to change my bad habit no matter what.
Purpose is intensely personal and varies from person to person. A good purpose should be strong enough to make your change in habit permanent. The reason for such a strong purpose is simple. You will need this motivation to overcome the great resistance you face in changing your habit. With this purpose, you will have the strength and the courage to press on despite the long journey and odds ahead. Whenever you feel like lapsing back to your old ways, your purpose will stop you from doing so.
It is also useful to have more than one purpose if you can. You should have at least one main purpose and many smaller ones to support it. No matter how strong a purpose is, it will surely lose its appeal from time to time due to familiarity blindness. During these moments, you will have to draw strength from your other purposes to press on.
Changing your habit takes time and effort. The more deeply ingrained your habit is, the harder it will be for you to change it. This is why it is so important for you to be clear about your motivations. Without inner drive, you will not be able to make any changes in your habit, let alone sustain your efforts in doing so. So realize the need for change. Desire that change. Most importantly, in the greater scheme of things, know why you have to change. Only then will you be motivated to commit to changing your bad habit.