Wouldn’t it be nice if you could promise yourself you’d stop doing something, and then actually stop doing it? How often have you told yourself that “Today is the LAST day that I do X” and then within a week you find yourself back to your old ways?
Well, there’s one simple strategy that you can implement today. But before I show you the strategy, we have to get one thing out of the way…
You Have to STOP Relying On Willpower
Most people try and change their behavior by relying on willpower. They want to use their brute mental strength to stop negative behaviors. And while that might work for a week, or for a month, it doesn’t work for the long term.
Willpower is an exhaustible resource. So the more you use it, the less you have. Which is why you can’t rely on it as a long term solution for taking consistent action.
You need a better gameplan.
Remove The Cue
Let’s say you have a bad of habit of eating junk food. Most people would say that in order to break that bad habit, you’d have to use your willpower to make sure you don’t eat the junk food that’s in the cabinet. And while that’s decent advice, there’s one fatal flaw.
If the food is in the cabinet, you’ve already lost.
When the tempting treats are already inside of your house, it’s going to take a massive amount of willpower to not eat it, and that’s willpower you probably don’t have. You’re setting yourself up for failure.
So what’s the alternative?
You need to remove the cue completely!
If we go back to the junk food example, removing the cue would mean that the junk food never comes into your house in the first place.
Why Removing The Cue Works
If you think of a habit as a series of events, it would flow like this:
With the previous example, you would be receiving your cue (seeing the ice-cream), and then you would have to use all of your willpower to stop yourself from performing the action.
But by removing the cue, you make the decision to not eat the junk food at the grocery store when you’re calm. Not at home when you’re hungry and desperate. It’s much easier to pass up the Pringles in the grocery store than it is when they’re in your house.
You’re making the decision before the cue is ever even received.
I used poor eating habits as an example here, but you can apply this strategy to plenty of bad habits. As long as there’s a cue that you can remove, this strategy will work.
A Recent Example From My Own Life
I usually eat pretty healthy food during the week. And I would reward my healthy eating with a little “cheat meal” on Fridays. I’d usually stop by Cold Stone and pick up some ice-cream.
Now, I love Cold Stone, the ice cream is delicious, but it’s so expensive! So instead of spending $15 on Cold Stone for the family once a week, I decided it’d be better to just buy a gallon of ice cream from the grocery store. It was a fraction of the price, and gave you way more.
But, there was one problem…
First, let’s look at how my ice cream habit breaks down…
Cue – See Ice Cream
Action – Eat Ice Cream
Reward – Satisfy craving
Before, it was easy to wait until Friday night for the ice cream because I had to drive somewhere to go buy it. I didn’t receive my cue until I decided to receive the cue.
But now that the gallon is in the freezer, it’s a lot harder to wait until Friday. Every time I’m in the kitchen, I’m reminded of the ice cream behind the freezer door. My cue is staring me in the face. I’m finding myself dipping into the ice cream bucket a little more often than I’m comfortable admitting.
So what’s my plan now? Well, it’s very simple. Throw out the ice cream bucket.