7 tips to break Bad habits and quit them Forever

7 Tips to Break Bad Habits

We first make our habits, and then our habits makes us.

By Yabesh Dutta

Bad habits interrupt your way to achieve your goals. They prevent you from accomplishing them. They make you fall— both mentally and physically.  And also waste your most precious time and energy.

So why do we still have them? And Is there any way to break the bad habit? 

I’ve tried to cover the most, I know, and have learned so far. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I can share what I know.

How habits works and are formed?

The procedure of creating a new habit can be sliced into four steps: cue, craving, response, and reward. All these four steps are the fundamental parts of habit-forming and can help us understand what a habit is, how it works and how to improve it.

habits cycle

Cue: It triggers your brain to perform an action or initiate a behavior. It gives your brain a prediction of the reward. Cue is the first indication of a reward, which naturally leads to craving.

Craving: Craving is the motive force behind every habit. Without some level of desire or motivation, there is no reason to do it.

Response: The response is the action or the habit you perform. Whether a response happens or not relies on the friction and motivation associated with the behavior.

Finally, Reward: It is the outcome you get at the end. It is an important factor that decides whether you should repeat the habit or not.

Here’s a quick practical example: Your room is dark (cue). You want to be able to see (craving). You turn on the lights (response). Your craving to see is satisfied (reward).

The Four Laws of Behavior Change

Before we get any further, we need a practical framework that we can use to design our habits. I refer to this framework as the Four Laws of Behavior Change, and it provides a simple set of rules to break bad habits. Here’s how it works:

How to Break a Bad Habit 
The 1st law (Cue): Make it invisible. 
The 2nd law (Craving): Make it unattractive. 
The 3rd law (Response): Make it difficult. 
The 4th law (Reward): Make it unsatisfying. 

You can break any bad using this framework. I’ve listed 7 tips to help you follow through this framework, aka, my 7 tips to break bad a habits;

How to Break Bad Habits

Law 1: Make It Invisible (Cue)

1. Identity and Eliminate the cues that trigger bad habits

You can make it easier for yourself to break a bad habit by avoiding what causes them. If you smoke when you go out with friends, stop going with them. If you eat cookies when you see them in the kitchen, hide them or put them far from reach. If you procrastinate while you study, put away your phone or turn off notifications. There might be many cues that trigger one bad habit, you just need to identify and eliminate them all. 

Here’s what might surprise you— The cues that spark our bad habits are often so common, that they become hidden from our consciousness. For example, the phone next to you while you study, the remote control next to the couch, or the cookies on the counter. That’s why sometimes it is hard to find them.

Right now, if your environment makes bad habits easier and good habits harder. Change your environment, and you will see a positive outcome.

Law 2: Make It Unattractive (Craving)

2. Highlight the benefits of avoiding your bad habit

You also need to change or re-frame your mindset. You think smoking is about lessening stress, but it’s not. Smoking does not relax your nerves, it destroys them. Smoking doesn’t make you social, you can be social without it. You are not a smoker.

If you are trying to quit smoking, say things like: “You are losing nothing and you are making marvelous positive gains not only in health, energy, and money but also in confidence, self-respect, freedom and, most important of all, in the length and quality of your future life.” This way you make it seem like, smoking is the most ridiculous thing in the world to do.

If you no longer found smoking brings any benefit to you, then you have no reason to smoke. You are making it more unattractive.

3. Surround yourself with people who live the way you want to live.

We tend not to do the habits that are disapproved and upraised by our culture because we have a strong desire to belong to the group and to fit in. We can join groups, spend more time with friends and family members who approve, respect or praise the desired behavior.

Surrounding yourself with people who live the way you want to, makes it easier to break a bad habit.

Law 3: Make It Difficult (Response)

4. Increase Friction. Increase the number of steps between your bad habits and you.  

If you watch too much television, then unplug the television after each use. Take it further? Unplug the remote control after each use. The more friction, the less likely the habit to occur.

People often choose to do something not because of what they are but because of where they are. If you walk into the kitchen and saw doughnuts on the counter, then you will eat them, even if you haven’t thought about it beforehand.

Hide the cookies. Don’t keep the cigarettes in your pocket, or buy them one cigarette at a time. The key is to make the good habit easier and bad habits harder.

5. Restrict your future choices to the ones that benefit you.

You can make your bad habits harder by using something called a commitment device. A commitment device is a choice you make in the present that controls your actions in the future. It allows you to lock in future action, restrict you from bad habits and tie you with good ones. 

The key is to change such it requires more work to perform bad habits instead of the good ones. For example, If you want to start yoga, book a yoga session and pay ahead of time. Now, canceling the session will cost you money. If you want to use less social media, install an app blocker and block all social media apps (including chrome) from 9 p.m. to 6 p.m. 

Law 4: Make It Unsatisfying (Reward)

6. Get someone to watch your behavior.

Ask someone can watch your behavior. Tell them to stop or remind you when you are about to repeat the bad habit. We are less likely to do bad behavior when it’s public and tend to be accountable.

You can take it further— by paying him or her an amount or giving a treat, whenever you break your commitment and repeat the bad habit. 

7. Make the cost of a bad habit painful and public: Habit Contract

People tend to pay their bills on time when they are charged a late fee. Students show up in the classroom when their attendance is linked with grades. You can do the same and create an immediate cost to any bad habit, which is also as the habit contract.

A Habit Contract is an agreement in which you commit to or not to do a particular habit and the punishment will occur if you don’t follow through. For example, Each time I each fast food (except Sundays) I will have to pay 20$ extra as a tip. 

Make sure the cost you have to pay is immediate and painful. This tip is most effective when it is only used for the most important habits.


Law 1: Make It Invisible (Cue)

1. Identify and Eliminate the cues that triggers bad habits

Law 2: Make It Unattractive (Craving)

2. Highlight the benefits of avoiding your bad habits

3. Surround yourself with peple who live the way you want to live

Law 3: Make It Difficult (Response)

4. Increase Friction. Increase the number of step between your bad habit and you

5. Restrict your future choices to the ones that benefit you

Law 4: Make It Unsatisfying (Reward)

6. Get someone to watch your behaviour

7. Make the cost of a bad habit habit painful and public: Habit Contract


Suggested Read: 16 Rules to build Good Habits

 Learn how to…

  1. Build a system for every day getting 1% better.
  2. Make time for making new habits.
  3. Overcome lack of motivation and energy.

…And more 

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