(Note to Reader: This is the third in a series of 8 blogs that I am sending to you about how to stop bad habits. It is taken from Week 4, The Urgent Necessity of Stopping Bad Habits in Happy School Advanced, the companion study to the book, Happy School. The other lessons can be found under the Happy School Advanced tab on this website). 

You can become a person who overcomes self-indulgence. Learning discipline is a course in itself, like driving or typing. Of course you can learn it!  

Write out the benefits for stopping your bad habit and the detriments of continuing. The Genie said, “It’s not hard to avoid the thing that’s harming your life. In light of that truth, it’s not a big deal to quit your bad habit.”

In my past groups, women have listed benefits from stopping various bad habits, such as binge eating on Trash Food or drinking alcohol. Stopping these habits improved mood in the morning, brought vibrancy to the day, increased clarity on life, more productivity, more energy to love others, etc. The list is incredibly long. 

The way to stop bad habits is to attach more pleasure to not doing your bad habits. By bathing your mind with the benefits of stopping as well as the detriments of continuing (on paper, not in your mind!), you will eventually be convinced to stop.

Bad habits are a mousetrap. Their bait is the pleasure (the cheese) and then the snap of the trap is your entanglement in the bad habit, along with all the detriments attached. Remember, you’re not giving up a pleasure because true pleasures don’t have hooks, toxins, and heartaches attached to them. Bad habits are such thieves. 

I once read of a movie star who has a cigarette a day but at parties, etc. she has a few more. I could never do that. I’d be smoking 2 packs a day. (I can hear myself now with excuses of why today is a special day to indulge: “Hey, today is Flag Day, and that’s special so let’s smoke a pack.”) Total abstinence is so much easier for folks like me. Moderation is fuzzy and if you’re a little compulsive in these areas—like me—abstaining is easier. 

My husband and I are both very careful about our intake of sugar and refined carbs because we know that an excess can seriously affect your health. So we gave up dessert and bread years ago. We go out to dinner all the time and never think, “Isn’t it sad we don’t get bread and dessert? Boo hoo.” No, we enjoy the jaw-dropping abundance of food that God has given us to eat. It’s a banquet! We went out to dinner with a couple not too long ago, and the man had recently started a Paleo diet. The waiter came and we all asked him to take away the bread basket. Then the man said, “It’s so hard to give up bread. I just hate it. It’s a terrible sacrifice. I really miss it.” Later, I thought about that, because we never think about any deprivation. We focus on the beautiful, bountiful, amazing, nutritious, delicious food we get to eat. You’ve got to listen to your self-talk. That man was giving the bread one interpretation (Lesson 3 in Happy School is about giving interpretations to situations) and we were giving it another. Listen to the Parade that Marches Across your Brain that talks you into indulging in your bad habit. Write it down so you can refute it.

Challenge the things you say to yourself, such as, “It’s so sad I don’t get X. I don’t have much in my life that I like and now I have to give up Y. Life is hard because I can’t have my bad habits.” (You can access the lessons in Happy School Advanced on Self-pity HERE.)

The steps to overcoming bad habits are try, fail, analyze what went wrong, and repeat. Your Lower Nature doesn’t have 2000 schemes, only around 20. They are not, as the Genie said, insurmountable impediments. You can scale this wall. Lay bricks every day and soon you’ll have built a cathedral. Stay with it. Try, try, try again.  

You have limited Willpower Points every day. Think of your bowl of Willpower Points as a bowl of mixed nuts. Every time you have chores or work you don’t want to do, difficult people to deal with, or interruptions, you take from your small bowl of mixed nuts/Willpower Points. Experiencing any kind of frustration depletes your bowl, as does making decisions. And it is much harder to make good choices later in the day when so many of your Willpower Points are used up. Try to arrange your life so you don’t have to use as many WP points. For example, I can’t buy Key Lime pie. If I do, I spend a huge amount of WP resisting it as it calls my name. Therefore I keep it out of the house. My youngest son loves it, so when he visits, I buy a single serving. 

When tempted to indulge in your bad habit (when you’ve previously made a decision to abstain), say to yourself, “Really? I haven’t learned my lesson about how much I regret that decision?”

The battle is won in your mind. Getting rid of bad habits makes you soar. Learn to associate your bad habits with obstructing, hindering, clogging, and delaying your true goals. Your bad habits have hijacked you. Few things bring more satisfaction than gaining freedom from bad habits.

A life with deep pay-offs always requires virtue and self-discipline.

Your Lower Self will have endless rationalizations to why you need to indulge: “Life is hard. I haven’t had birthday cake in ages.” The second you give in, your Lower Self will say, “See? Didn’t I tell you this would be great? This is what I was talking about! All your problems are gone and it’s just you and me and this divine pleasure. Wow. Take this in. This is life! Get some more.” And you’re officially on the downhill slope.

I once heard a story about the conversation of two crabs on the moon. As they were gazing at the beautiful, blue planet Earth, one said to the other, “Can you imagine living there? They have gentle rains, majestic mountains, warm beaches, beautiful snow, and fresh air. That would be the life.” We have all of that and we take it for granted. Instead, we live with our Lower Self always honking for more pleasure. It’s time to corner the beast. 

It’s madness to be conned by short-lived pleasure and to give up living your best life. 

Humans are the most powerful entities on the planet. You can learn to choose against your Lower Self.

When you’re starting out and trying to overcome a bad habit, you won’t be prepared for all of the “reasons” your Lower Nature has to get you to indulge. Therefore, it is imperative that you listen to the Parade Marching across Your Brain (your self-talk) so you can hear the reason that tricked you into succumbing. You have to write it down. Actually, your Lower Self is kind of a dunce, and it gets comical after you figure out how to refute the 20 or so schemes she has. She will keep trying the same 20 schemes. You can actually start laughing at her as you talk back to her with, “Really? You want me to indulge because it’s the weekend?!? That’s your reason?” 

When people are trying to overcome a bad habit, but instead fall for one of the 20 schemes their Lower Nature throws at them, they say to themselves, “I’m hopeless. I’ll never overcome this bad habit.” 

My friend, that is hogwash. You are a glorious human being, made in the image of God, created to overcome. You absolutely do not have to give in to a life of self-indulgence. You’ve got to stay at this, learn all 20 schemes of your Lower Nature, and debunk every one!

See this as a journey at first: two steps forward, one step back. If you are ambushed by your Lower Self, it’s because your Lower Self had a reason you weren’t prepared for. Therefore, again, it is imperative that you record the scheme, analyze it, be ready to refute it next time, and strike out again. Some people take a couple months to do this dance. But then, if they don’t give up, and if continue to Listen to the Parade, record, analyze, refute, and strike out again, they can conquer their bad habit.

Again, as I’ve said, the secret to overcoming a bad habit is to not want it. And the secret to not wanting it is to attach detriments to it that harm you (along with benefits you are being robbed of). Cocaine is said to be very pleasurable (this is one habit I didn’t get bitten by), but you don’t want it, right? Why? Isn’t there a lot of pleasure to be had? You don’t want it because you’ve heard about the lives of crackheads and you know the great detriments. You’ve got to apply similar thinking to your bad habits. 

The next blog is entitled, Resisting the Urges of Bad Habits. If you’d like to access all 8 blogs now, you can find them under the Happy School Advanced tab at JulieNGordon.com.

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