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Want to drop a habit? Don’t deprive, replace


It’s that time of year when changing habits is on our minds.

So here’s what I’m wondering… have you ever try to ‘willpower’ yourself into not doing something? You know, like stopping a not-so-healthy habit?

How has that worked for you?

Letting go of a ‘bad’ habit is usually easier said than done, isn’t it?

Sometimes we feel like it’s a great intention to not get the candy bar at the vending machine during an afternoon slump or to stop staying up late bing-watching Netflix on a weeknight. But actually having an intention not to do something is rarely an empowering enough strategy to make a sustainable change. In fact, if the thing you’re trying to change has it’s own momentum, ‘just not doing it’ can backfire.

An important thing to know about habits is that they usually become habits in the first place because something you did felt good enough (consciously or subconsciously) for you to want to do it again. And so you did. Repeatedly.

When you try to make a change that involves letting go of something you’re used to doing, maybe even enjoy doing, simply stopping will likely feel like deprivation.
You’ll create a gap.

And when there’s a gap with an unmet need, sustaining your intention to change is harder. It’s too tempting and easy to go back to the familiar habit.

So what’s a better strategy?  Fill the gap.

Rather than focusing on what you’re going to give up, put your interest in finding a replacement
— and I phrase it that way deliberately.

Just choosing a healthy alternative because you should will also not likely make your change very sustainable.
Shoulds tend not to be good motivators.

Feeling good, enjoying something – those are good motivators. Remember, that’s how that habit got started it the first place.

So put some effort into this replacement experiment.
What would genuinely make you feel just as good as going to get that snickers bar? Is it about the sweet treat?
There are lots of healthy alternative food swaps that can be fun to try.

Or maybe it’s not actually about the food, but about the break you’re taking from your computer? What else would you enjoy filling that gap with?


P.S… that Netflix binging example I mentioned — that was a struggle of mine. Great strategizing work with my coach helped me shift the habit recently. I fill the gap with listening to music when I get home late from work these days. I’m loving the replacement.


What about you?
Are there habits this year you’d like to let go of?
Have ideas to share about good replacements?


If you found this helpful and would like to share your thoughts - or if you’d love some daily inspiration and motivation for your wellness, self-care, and empowered living - I invite you to come join our private Living from Center Community Facebook group. I'd love to connect with you there.