How to Replace a Bad Habit With a Good Habit

Fri Feb 1, 2019

In an ideal situation, being able to replace a bad habit with a good habit should be easy to do.

As our habits are ingrained in us, to change them will require discipline and commitment.

If we want to know if we have bad habits we need to replace, we should review our present results. If we aren’t happy with our present results, chances are we have habits that aren’t serving us.

As awareness is the first step to making any lasting change, we must recognise the habits not serving us. When we notice the habits we’d like to replace, we have to learn how to make new habits stick.

The Costs of Failing to Replace a Bad Habit

It’s one thing to know we have a bad habit; it’s another thing to continue on with it. If we choose not to replace a bad habit with a good habit, it will:

  • Affect our self-confidence and self-esteem.
  • Cause us to trust ourselves less.
  • Affect others we associate with regularly or who depend on us.
  • Lead to other costs either physically, financially or emotionally.
  • Slow our progress towards what we want.

To improve continuously, we have to replace our bad habits with good habits.

replace a bad habit

how to replace a bad habit

A few years ago, I became aware processed sugar was a contributing factor in me gaining weight. Even though I didn’t eat a lot of sweets, the occasional snacking in between meals was an unhealthy habit.

I knew if I wanted to become healthier and get back to my ideal weight, I had to make changes. Some things I did initially included:

  • Stop buying snacks or food that had processed sugar.
  • Drink more water especially when tempted to snack.
  • Track my progress by weighing myself twice every week.
  • Not going shopping when I was hungry.
  • Pay more attention to what I ate.

While it was challenging initially and required a greater level of self-discipline, the process became easier. Once I saw improved results in my weight, it gave me more motivation to continue to stick with it.

Over the past few years, I’ve reduced my weight by over 20% and have continued on with the new habits I formed.

5 Things You Can Do to Replace a Bad Habit With a Good Habit

Being able to replace a bad habit with a good habit requires commitment, discipline and a willingness to keep going even when the process gets difficult. Here are five things you can do to start the process of replacing a bad habit.

  1. Identify the bad habit you want to replace. One benefit of doing regular self-evaluations is we’ll gain more awareness on how we can improve. Once we’ve identified what we’d like to change, it’s useful to start with one habit at a time.
  2. Be clear on the payoff and costs of keeping the bad habit. We continue on with bad habits because there is a payoff. For example, someone who overeats when they’re feeling stressed, their payoff is food makes them feel better. However, there is also a cost if the bad habit continues over the long-term. By having more clarity on what triggers the bad habit, we’ll know what’s keeping us from making a positive change.
  3. Identify the new habit or what you want to replace the bad habit with. If we have a bad habit, one option is to do the complete opposite. Another option is to form a new habit that makes the bad habit irrelevant. We also have to be clear on what the new payoff or benefit is as it will help us stay motivated.
  4. Create your plan. Our plan can include mentally preparing ourselves by visualising what life will be like with the new habit. It can also include things we can do if we fall back to the bad habit. Part of the plan can include making it difficult to go back to the old habit. For example, if snacking is a bad habit, then our plan can include eliminating all snacks from our environments.
  5. Track your progress and keep yourself motivated. One of the best ways to track our progress is to be accountable to someone. Having a buddy or an accountability partner is a powerful way to stay on track. We can also specify rewards we’ll give ourselves if we reach certain milestones, which will help us stay motivated over the long-term.


The hardest part is getting started. To replace a bad habit with a good habit will take time and effort, however the payoff will be worth any short-term discomfort. As we continue to replace bad habits with good habits, we’ll feel better about ourselves and the quality of our results will also improve.

Action Step: Conduct a self-evaluation of the different areas of your life, which will provide insight into what you can focus on. Narrow that down to one or two habits you should replace with better habits. Apply these ideas to get started with replacing your bad habits.

Question: What are other things we can do to replace a bad habit with a good habit?


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