How To Expose And Destroy Bad Habits

Published on March 16th, 2011.  Originally Written May 1st, 2009 (revised, edited, updated, overhauled, tore down and rebuilt)

This evening I destroyed an accounting exam. I put it through a paper shredder and then electrocuted the paper shreds somehow. The toughest part was jockeying for coveted elbow room on the arm rests. Being strangers with the guy next to me, it would have been awkward to exclaim, “I’m entitled to use this space for my elbow because we are both right-handed, so your left elbow should leave!” Considering that, I was filling in the bubbles very well.

After that semi-grueling experience (traffic-laden trip included), I wanted to catch up on Fringe and House. I did and it was nice. However, before I watched them I promised myself that I would put my 2 or 3 day old CLEAN laundry away after viewing them (I may be understating the time period to attempt to salvage my self-image).

About 2 hours pass by (2 x 40 minute shows plus 40 minute buffer) and I’m lounging on my bed. I suddenly remember my promise and just as quickly dismiss it with the greatest ease. It was soo easy to nullify that promise – I mean, come on – did I have any idea how relaxed I’d be after watching TV? The promise obviously wasn’t fair or in my best interest. I just wasn’t thinking correctly when I made that promise.

NOOO! This is a true story and I actually thought those thoughts. I fully convinced myself that I was out of my mind when I had promised to take 5-10 minutes to put my 1 day old laundry away! Were these two different people? I think so. One of them was a rational human being that knows to put away his laundry after a few hours (The clean laundry seems to get younger as the story goes on). The other one was a lazy slumcat that has the lone interest of being lazy and justifying it.

Bad Habit Discovered

I was astonished that I had become so irrational so quickly. Something “triggered” me to justify my laziness.  I was procrastinating like I’ve done many times before and my typically-thinking mind did not screen it for validity because I was familiar with this justification.  Familiarity caused me to erroneously believe that this justification was valid.  This phenomenon is what is commonly known as a “bad habit.”

What makes bad habits so bad is that they are bad (bear with me here…) AND they can easily supersede the mind’s defenses.  We are automatically at a disadvantage when it comes to preventing these blunders.  It is the difference between a frontal assault and a sneak attack.  These are sneaky.

It is essential to find these bad habits because they can help us identify bigger issues.  Not putting laundry away might seem insignificant, but it is significant.  It points out a character flaw of laziness and unproductivity.  In addition, I broke a promise to myself, making it reasonable for me to question my follow-through ability in the future.

Bad Habits And Trees Have Roots

Do you want to know how to expose your bad habits?  It is easy to do and can be applied to your life immediately.  It relates to one of my favorite concepts – opportunity cost. Get into the good habit of asking yourself why you’re doing this now instead of anything else you could be doing. This simple habit will unleash an avalanche of development opportunities for you.  You’ll find that you waste a lot of time, spend too little time on some important things, and you’ll start to notice many of your bad habits.

It may sound like a lot of work to continuously ask yourself why you’re doing activity A as opposed to other activities.  In reality, it ends up being a quick check that you habitually do before you take on a new activity.  It is all done inside the mind and you will get very good at it in time.  If you do catch yourself with a bad habit, like one of the ones below, think deeply about some possible underlying causes for your bad habit.


Bad habit – possible bigger issue(s)

  1. Biting the nails – This is the bad habit that shows up in my mental dictionary.  Harmless, right?  Actually, biting the nails could mean anxiety or stress, low self-image, nutrition deficiency and more.
  2. Leaving the seat up (guilty) – This could mean that you’re too inwardly focused or inconsiderate.  A man who is always thinking of how he affects the lives of others would not leave the seat up.
  3. Leaving the seat down – Just kidding.  🙂
  4. Poor listener – Poor listening points to a lack of respect for others, ego-centrism, and poor social skills.
  5. Arguing – It is interesting that some people are drawn to arguing.  Possible reasons: insecurity, fear of vulnerability, emotional instability… (see picture below)
  6. Addiction – Addictions have some genetic disposition factors and others, but are perhaps just as often compensatory measures to fill a void in life.  Loneliness and low self-esteem are examples of issues that lead to addictions (sex, drugs, alcohol).


Bad Habit Tree: Take a look at those nasty roots!

Why Do We Fail To Think?

It is important to understand why we fail to think about some things (including bad habits).  The answer is urges.  Urges are desires that tend to spring up out of nowhere.  Urges are the children of addictions and bad habits and they can be subtle or extremely powerful.  These bad habit parents send their urging children out into the world to remind people that they should visit them.  People of the world are made aware of the parents and will often times visit the parents without a second thought.  The next time an urge child appears in front of you, call the police think before acting on it.  This is what separates humans from the other organisms that simply respond to stimuli (i.e. urging children).

This all goes along with being a thinking person. You might be thinking, “Well, what are the benefits of doing this? Why would I question everything I do?” That is a great question! Also, that is exactly what a thinking person would have done once I suggested this way of living. If you asked this, or agree with the reasoning of asking it, then you have answered your own question. This question exemplifies the point I’m making – think about and question everything!  The best paths in life will hold up to rigorous questioning.

If you want to develop into the person you really want to be, you need to know what you’re working with right now.  You find out by asking the question: “Why am I doing this as opposed to anything else?”  The ‘anything else’ could be specific ideas you have  in mind (such as your dreams) or a general  encompassing of the infinite nature of possibilities.  This website is a result of that question, and I’m very happy with it.  As you can see, it does a lot more than just expose some bad habits.

Once you do expose a bad habit with this method (many will be related to wasting time), you are well on your way to changing it; It requires the mental awareness used to discover it.  Bad habits with deep-rooted causes like the list above should be attacked at the root (which could take more time, thought, and effort).  Others might be surface-level or ignorance-based habits that can easily be remedied – poor posture for example.

Why am I slouching as opposed to sitting up? “I’m slouching because my back is tired.”  Hmm…well, I know that my muscles need to build up to support my back, and slouching is a temporary solution with a very negative long term effect.  After answering the question and thinking about it, I’m now sitting up straight and will visit the massage chair soon.

It can also be reaffirming.

“Why am I writing on my website as opposed to anything else?”  The answer fires back immediately:  “Because I love it, feel like I’m accomplishing something, and I believe I am creating permanent value for myself and others.”  That doesn’t sound like a bad habit to me.  🙂

Deep Thinking Can Change Your Life

2017 UPDATE: This was the first post ever I ever wrote for this blog (all the way back in March 2011). It marked the beginning of a journey of deep thinking about what I truly wanted in life, which ultimately brought me complete financial and location freedom and a dream career as an author. In late 2013, I wrote and published my first book, Mini Habits, which is now in 17 languages! My other books, How to Be an Imperfectionist and Mini Habits for Weight Loss are constant bestsellers. My books have changed thousands of readers’ lives! If not for this blog and this post, I don’t know what I’d be doing, but it wouldn’t be as satisfying as my career now. Maybe this post will read differently now that you know what deep thinking did for me.

Thinking: the talking of the soul with itself.

brainWe all think, but not all of us think deeply, which is thinking beyond what your mind defaults to. This is a problem. Can you guess why?

Deep thinking is how we increase our number of valuable and useful thoughts. Your quantity of valuable thoughts has a direct effect on your quantity of valuable actions. And great lives are made by taking valuable action.

But the number one reason that people don’t think hard is because it is hard.

Deep Thinking is Work

It’s not just because the infinite number of possible thoughts and ideas can overload your processor (i.e. brain).  I have heard it said that the typical human will lose focus every 10 seconds. If you decide to think about a single topic, you will need to refocus continually to do it successfully.

This is what makes thinking difficult – you must consciously decide at each 10 second interval whether or not to continue thinking about the topic.  If you don’t make a decision, the default decision is to lose your focus.  Yes, I literally just had to refocus.  If you’re not alert, you will move on to something else.

A great thinking exercise to try: find a peaceful area with no distractions and choose an important topic that you’d like to think about.  Bring a time-keeping device and think about that topic for 10 minutes, uninterrupted.

Success will depend on each person, as attention spans are greatly varied.  So start out with 10 minutes, see if you can do it, and take it from there.  If you fall into the average statistic of losing focus every 10 seconds, you will have successfully refocused 60 times!

You might be surprised at the ideas you come up with and just how difficult it is to focus constantly.

Written in 2009

I can hear the smooth purr of the air conditioner in the silence of my room. I like silence because it is conducive to thinking, and I’m in love with thinking. My thoughts take me to new possibilities. Goals, dreams, and amazing ideas can be formed in a single moment just by deep, focused thinking.  Thinking is also how we make these dreams reality.

In August 2008, I left the USA for the first time.  I went to Ireland by myself and stayed for 4 days.  It was a defining experience for me and the beginning of a dream to travel the world.  It was so special because until that point I could only muse passively on the glories of international travel. I was able to visit Ireland because I thought about what I wanted to do and how to do it (research, work, save, etc. all the way up to purchasing a plane ticket and reserving a hostel in Dublin).  The dream continued the next year when I spent a month in Germany with two of my closest cousins.  It would have been EASY not to think about how it could be done and just assume that I’d go these places someday.  Someday is how dreams stay dreams.

A Toast To Ireland :-)

This is a toast to Dublin, Ireland on the top (7th) floor of the Guinness Brewery. For an entry fee, guests are able to tour the Brewery and see how the famous beer is made. Once they reach the top, they are served a complimentary Guinness from the tap with a 360 degree view of the city.

A New Way of Life

What if we thought about who we wanted to be and how to get there?  What if we thought of possibilities before we’re hit with the consequences? What if we calculated the outcomes of different lifestyles and compared them to our desired outcomes? What if we did it all with great persistence?

This as a life philosophy really isn’t that hard…it merely requires focused, disciplined thinking. It applies to all of life: relationships, dreams, values, careers, health, and major decisions.

Too often we drift towards a pre-determined mold laid out for us by society. Society says if you’re in this situation, do this. Deep thinking allows us to choose what situation we’re in in the first place, and then helps us to decide what is truly best for us once we’re there.

As a child, I was put into a school system that did not teach me how to think freely and deeply, but rather to memorize these dates and follow these steps. We are so much more capable than that!

I’m not advocating detailed plans that map out an entire lifetime, for these plans will be shattered once “life happens.” General values, direction, specific goals, well-thought-out lifestyles and diets, and other important things are what I’m speaking of. The more you think about your life, the fewer unpleasant surprises you’ll experience.

Deep thought compels us to be accountable to our values (by uprooting inconsistencies) and propels us towards our dreams.  Do not do what the world expects you to do. Do the things that thinking, planning, research, and your own judgment tell you to do.  Cut out the distractions for a little while and think about (deep) thinking to see if it is something worth investing your time into.

You already know what I think.