Starting vs breaking a habit
The process of stopping bad habits is fundamentally different from forming new ones.
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The process of “progressive extremism” utilizes what we know about the psychology of identity to help stop behaviors we don’t want. It works particularly well in situations in which substituting one habit for another just won’t do.
Identity helps us make otherwise difficult choices by offloading willpower. Our choices become what we do because of who we are.
By classifying specific behaviors as things you will never do again, you put certain actions into the realm of “I don’t” versus “I can’t.”
Saying “I don’t” rather than “I can’t” provides greater “psychological empowerment.”
Though companies like Nike try to ignite our willpower with their slogans, ultimately willpower cannot squash our subconscious and unconscious behavior.
Repetition of action and thought can make the required change seep into us, turning it into a machine-like, habitual behavior.
“The secret to permanently breaking any bad habit is to love something greater than the habit.”
Habit-building is a powerful tool for self-improvement. But the power of the tool can also create some overreach. In one way, habits will fail to form.
In other circumstances, habits are not the right way of thinking for making progress on some goals.
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