“That’s the rule: If you use the same cue, and provide the same reward, you can shift the routine and change the habit. Almost any behavior can be transformed if the cue and reward stay the same.”
You cannot truly extinguish bad habits. Habits are strong, and when the cue appears, your brain will always crave the reward. However, what you can do is replace the routine. The cue and the reward have to stay the same, but the routine does not.
This is called a Golden Rule. This rule has helped with treatments for alcoholism, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and hundreds of other destructive behaviors.
You can change any bad habit. The key, however, is to identify the cue and the reward. Then find a new routine that will give the same reward. For example, you may smoke because it provides a burst of stimulation or a way to socialize. If you need stimulation, you can grab some coffee in the afternoon. This simple change will increase the odds that you’ll quit smoking successfully.
Another element, probably the most important in breaking bad habits, is changing your beliefs. It’s not quite understood how this works, but studies show that in order to create lasting transformation, one must believe that the transformation is possible. For example, if you want to quit smoking, first, you must start believing in yourself—that you can do it, that you can really break the bad habit.
Beliefs most often emerge only with the help of a group. If you want to break a habit, find a support group or at least someone you can talk to about it every day.
Change (or create) any habit by following these four steps.
To change strong habits, change your beliefs.