Conquering bad habits

“First we form habits, then they form us. Conquer your bad habits, or they’ll eventually conquer you.”

~ Dr. Rob Gilbert


A habit is defined as an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary or a customary practice or use. 


Of course, some of these acquired behavior patterns or customary practices are desirable ones; good habits that we should try and maintain, but today I am focusing on those undesirable practices that we have; bad habits that we need to try and conquer. 


All of us, whether we choose to admit it or not, have some bad habits; they may be as minor as biting our nails or cracking our knuckles or as major as gossiping, smoking, or addiction to any vices. Many times we may ourselves identify these practices as undesirable and really want to stop or conquer the habit but find ourselves continuing the practice; being conquered by the bad habit. Think about it, being so controlled by a bad habit until it becomes almost involuntary, that is a serious thing! Once we have developed a bad habit, it is indeed very hard to break. 


We are in the time of year where Catholics, Anglicans and various other denominations observe Lent. 


Lent is said to be a period of fasting leading up to the feast of Easter, recalling Jesus’ 40-day fast in the wilderness. Many Christians throughout the world observe the season of Lent and look forward to this annual time of sacrifice and simplicity. 


It is said that the purpose of Lent is to be a season of fasting, self-denial, spiritual growth, conversion, and simplicity. The word Lent comes from the Teutonic (Germanic) word for springtime; therefore Lent can be viewed as a spiritual spring cleaning, a time for taking spiritual inventory and then cleaning out those things which hinder one’s relationships with Jesus Christ and service to him. It is supposed to be a time to transform the entire person: body, soul, and spirit. 


During the season of Lent members are encouraged to fast for a 40 day period; be it from certain foods or simply “giving up something “ they have an inordinate desire for. Some people may choose to give up things like sweets or caffeine, while others give up drinking alcoholic beverages, gossiping etc. 


It is said that by giving such things up, the person fasting learns to control a particular part of his or her life, which leads to greater self-discipline even when Lent is over. 


While I am not a member of any church or religion that observes Lent, I have many acquaintances that are. Over the years I would hear persons say that they are giving up things such as gossiping for Lent, but unfortunately see them revert, that is if they last for the 40 days, to doing the same thing again. 


It is not my intention at all to judge anyone or make light of this religious practice, but I’ve always wondered if persons can give up something for 40 days, how is it that they can’t give it up all together, especially if it is a bad habit. 


So how long does it actually take to form or break a habit?  There have been many reports about this; some say 21 days, some 30 days, some 90 days etc. However, there is no definite proof. 


The bottom line is that it is up to the individual and how determined he or she is. With continuous persistence and perseverance, it can be done. It is just up to us to consider how badly we want it. Unfortunately, for most of us it takes something drastic, such as a health issue, a matter of life or death, before we decide to give up that bad habit. 


Here is some information that I gathered via the Internet that may help us all in our quest to conquer our bad habits:


Realize habits have consequences and rewards. Frequent practices of your habits, good or bad, have a long-term effect on you whether you like it or not. 


Recognize the bad habit you want to break. Knowing and understanding the habit will help you to gain control of it. If you don’t believe you have a bad habit or you don’t get why some things just keep happening to you over and over, get feedback from people outside your normal social circle. Others may recognize patterns that you misconstrue as “that’s just how I am.”


Decide how serious you are about breaking the habit. If you are truly committed, you will be able to achieve your goal.


Track when you do the habit. Perhaps keep a journal handy. Write down where and why you do the habit. Writing increases your awareness of the habit.


Think about what you wrote. What does this habit do for you?

Think about a healthy habit that you could replace your bad habit with. Write down simple alternatives and choose one you would like to practice.


Catch yourself doing the bad habit and stop yourself. Practice the healthy habit instead.


Practice this exercise weekly or as often as you want. The more you practice a behavior, it will become a habit.


So what is that bad habit that you wish to conquer? I trust that you would find this information quite useful. 


While I never want to come across as so religious, I cannot end this article without saying, of course, that we must all realize that on our own sometimes it may be impossible to conquer those bad habits, but with God all things are possible! 


Let us therefore ask Him to help us conquer those bad habits before they eventually conquer us.


• Questions or comments on this article may be sent to


Published  Thursday, March 2, 2017


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