How to Break a Habit

Bad habits. We all have them. 

Smoking. Swearing. Biting your fingernails. One drink too many. The list could go on and on.

Breaking habits has never been easy for me. Inevitably I come up with a plan, stick to it for a few days, a week, maybe even a month, and then its back to old tricks.

Some of these habits are more benign, like my procrastination. That usually only tends to hurt me and in the end I manage to complete everything. It leaves me a sleepless ball of stress, but I almost always complete whatever task I kept putting off.

Other habits are more damaging. They affect my mental health, my physical health, and my relationships with those I love. Those are the habits that I can't stand, the habits that some days make me hate myself. Those are the habits that I want more than anything to break.

I've learned over the years that for me (and perhaps for others), one of the keys to breaking a bad habit is accountability. You must be accountable to yourself and to others. Name that habit. Shame that habit. Go public with the struggle. Chances are you'll find that others are struggling with the very same thing.

So this is my public pronouncement. I, Matthew Joseph Lardie, am trying to break the following habits:

  • "Me"-ness. I tend to frame things in terms of myself. I often act first without regard to how it may effect others around me. If its good for me, if I enjoy it, if I think it will be beneficial, than others must too. This habit has hurt those around me countless times and has often left me feeling defensive, confused, and guilty. While hindsight may be 20/20, I need to get out in front of this habit and stop it before it happens. 
  • Screen time. My phone never leaves my side. When I sleep its next to my bed. When I drive its on my lap. When I go out to eat its sitting on the table next to me. Granted much of what I do requires some sort of connection to the digital world, but more often than not my online addiction conveys a sense of carelessness about those around me. My willingness to jump on my phone in the middle of dinner, of a movie, or an event is a clear sign (regardless of intention) to those around me that I'm not really engaged. I want to divorce myself from near-constant connectedness and re-commit myself to being present with those I love. 
  • Physical inactivity. The time last year I was going to the gym 2-3 times a week, running at least once a week, and keeping myself generally in shape. Since then I've virtually stopped exercising. I've gained more than ten pounds. Clothes no longer fit. I get tired more easily and have had a fair share of minor injuries. I've lost almost all of the body progress I made and it leads a continual cycle of frustration, regret, and shame. I want to get back on that wagon, get back to running and exercising, and generally lead a more active lifestyle.
Caught on my phone...again.

Caught on my phone...again.

These are three big habits that I'm hoping to break in the coming months and years. The first step in breaking these habits has been to name and shame them here, publicly, for the whole world to see.

I have no illusions that it will be easy. I have no illusions that I will accomplish everything perfectly and timely. I'm sure I will regress at some point, I'm sure I'll have bad days, I'm sure it will be frustrating at some points. 

Luckily for me the one habit I do have that works in my favor is a tendency to be stubborn. So I'll stick to it, and along the way update you all here on the blog. 

I'm also inviting you to come along on my journey to break these habits. Join me in Step One - name and shame your habits in the comments below.