How to Break a Bad Habit in 6 Steps

I am developing a new habit, and so this weekend, as part of my effort to break the cycle of the old habit, I learned how to sew buttonholes. How can sewing buttonholes be the secret to forming a new habit?

bald black man in orange jacket, headphones, at edge of football field

To break a bad habit, we must choose to avoid what we’ve been doing. To form a good habit, we must choose to practice it repeatedly.

I’ll explain shortly. First, if you don’t sew, you cannot appreciate how hard it is to sew buttonholes. Niccolò Paganini wrote his wickedly difficult Caprice No. 24 in A minor so that violinists could learn it in lieu of learning how to make buttonholes.

I have a mechanical sewing machine that requires four separate steps for a buttonhole. The jazzy computerized machines sew perfect buttonholes in one step. It’s the difference between managing a team of horses and driving on cruise control.

I am not known as a domestic goddess, but once in a while I’ll trot out the sewing machine and make pillow covers. I decided this time that I’d finish them using buttons. That means buttonholes. Something I have successfully avoided since my high school life skills class.

The bad habit I am trying to break is staying cocooned in my comfort zone. We’ve all heard the experts advise that to kick a bad habit, replace it with something good. So whenever I can, I embrace an opportunity to do something that takes me out of my comfort zone.  

Here’s how buttonholes are related to forming habits. The steps I took in learning how to make buttonholes are the same steps we use whenever we want to form a new habit or break a bad habit.

Step 1:

The secret to forming a new habit or breaking a bad habit starts with making the choice. I wanted to finish the pillows with buttons precisely because I wanted the challenge of learning something that is difficult.

Step 2:

Next, forming a new habit requires learning about how to do it. I watched some videos and practiced the different steps until I understood how to do it.

Step 3:

A new habit takes many attempts before even the first success. Each time I made an attempt, I considered what I had done right, what I had learned, and what I could do better. Then, I tried again.

Step 4:

I told myself that I knew I could master the skill. We have to be our own coach and cheerleader when we are making new good habits, or breaking old bad ones.

Step 5:

I imagined how great I would feel when I had successfully finished the two pillows. I imagined how great the pillows would look and how much I would enjoy looking at them and using them each day in my reading space.

Step 6:

I trusted in myself that I could accomplish what I set out to do. When things went wrong, I didn’t blame anyone else and I didn’t get angry with myself for making a mistake.

It takes commitment and practice in the replacement activity before it becomes habit. And even longer before the old habit is no longer habit. Making buttonholes is just one of several new activities that are helping me step outside my comfort zone. Those buttonholes show me I am building a new habit. And the new pillows look great.

Life Is Honest, Open and True: A habit is any automatic activity or thinking. Bad habits limit what’s possible in our lives and careers, so breaking them frees us from self-defeating activities. When we go beyond breaking a bad habit to forming a good habit, the long-term benefit is the doors it can open for us to a better future. What bad habit is holding you back? Is there a good habit you’ could form in its place?

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0 Responses to How to Break a Bad Habit in 6 Steps

  1. Pingback: Doin’ It Hard, or Doin’ It Easy | LifeIsHOTblog

  2. This is awesome. Thanks for these practical steps. Hoping to change my eating habits one step at a time!

  3. Good thoughts about creating new habits, D’Anne. I don’t sew…but my mother-in-law was amazing at it. I never got into it…but admire people who are gifted like this. I sew buttons on that fall off….that’s about all. 😉

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