How to Break a Habit in Seven Seconds

On December 5, 2009 I received an email saying that a great man had died.

That man was Jim Rohn.

…Jim Rohn? - The name rang a bell but I'd never read anything by him or seen one of his videos or tapes.

The email also had a link to a youtube video - I clicked on it and was brought to a 2 minute video where this friendly looking, white-haired man was giving a talk to a packed hall.

His low-key friendly style got my attention. And I was immediately interested in what he was saying.

I'd heard of Brian Tracy, Bob Proctor, Wayne Dyer and most of the other famous motivational type speakers but somehow I'd missed Jim Rohn.

I learned that he was a mentor to Tony Robbins. But he had a completely different style.

I bought an mp3 download of one of his seminars so I could hear it whilst driving.

I got a book - then a video course.

I scoured youtube for anything I could find.

His message was so compelling.

Now, one of the main ideas running through his materials was the idea of making goals.

But they couldn't be any old goals - no, they had to be very specific.

For example, say you wanted to lose weight, you couldn't just say,

"I want to lose weight,"

Or, "I want to become slim."

These goals are just too vague.

Jim said you had to make very specific goals that were

SMART.

Now, SMART stands for:

Specific

Measurable

Actionable

Realistic

Time related

So a SMART goal for losing weight might be:

"I want to lose 12 pounds by 3 months from today's date."

Now this goal is specific - it says you want to lose 12 pounds.

It's measureable - you can weigh yourself.

It's actionable - you need to eat less and exercise more.

It's very realistic - you need to lose 1 pound a week.

And it has a finish time.

And, according to Jim, one very important thing about the goal was that it had to be written down.

Now, I wasn't much into goal setting, apart from making a daily to do list, but I thought I'd give it a try.

There was an exercise on one of the mp3s where you had to write down at least 50 goals.

For example: where you'd like to visit, who you'd like to meet, what experiences you'd like to have, what you'd like to learn such as playing the piano or learning a foreign language - anything and everything.

Then after you had your list of 50 you were to arrange them in 3, 5 & 10 year goals.

Well, I did the exercise. But a thought occurred to me, "If a written instruction could get you to do something, could it also help you to STOP doing something?"

So I decided to try a little experiment.

I'd had a habit for about 35 years.

Could a written instruction somehow influence my mind and make me give it up?

I got out my filofax organiser that I've had for years and contains some of my most important information.

In a blank page at the back I wrote down an instruction to stop doing it.

Then I closed the book and put back in the drawer where I always kept it.

How long did it take me to write that down?

About 7 seconds!

That was all I did.

Then a few days later it suddenly occurred to me that I hadn't even thought of the habit.

Then weeks went by and still hadn't done it.

Even 6 months later and I was still habit free.

This was amazing.

I'd discovered the secret to breaking a habit in seconds without struggling . But I wondered if it would work on some other habits.

And, sure enough, it did!

For example, I would sometimes get upset with my kids.

And I remembered the quote by The Buddha,

"The instant we feel anger we have ceased striving for the truth, & have begun striving for ourselves."

So I wrote down this in the back of my filofax,

"I no longer respond with anger to anything my children do but I concentrate my mind on the present moment."

I closed the book and put it back in the drawer.

Again it worked!

Now, I think I got lucky the first time I did this and managed to come up with a combination of words that were amazingly effective.

But I also have been meditating for about 30 years.

So perhaps it took a little more energy to get me to stop doing the things that I knew I shouldn't do.

And I did something else which was very important - I kept it to myself!

Don't be tempted to tell anyone of your mental instruction because if you do you'll dilute its power.

Later I thought about my method and I realised that it was very different to an affirmation.

Because an affirmation is basically lying to yourself.

For example, say you want to lose weight but you just can't resist doughnuts.

So you get up in the morning, look at yourself in the mirror, and say, "I don't want to eat doughnuts, I don't want to eat doughnuts, I don't want to eat doughnuts."

Now, even as you're saying this, there's a little voice in the back of your head saying, "But I DO want to eat doughnuts!

You know that you're lying to yourself. And then you have to put more and more effort into your affirmation in order to force it to work.

So it becomes a battle of wills between your conscious and unconscious minds which you'll eventually lose.

But my instruction method is different.

For example, if you're the type of person who's addicted to doughnuts, there is a reason that you like them so much.

That reason is because as soon as you take that first bite and the delicious taste of sugar and pastry hits your tongue, you immediately lose yourself in the pleasure.

And losing yourself in ANYTHING is addictive because it takes you away from your immediate situation into a different life - a SWEET LIFE. But that life is really an illusion.

So the mental instruction that you craft must acknowledge this fact.

It must also be worded in the future tense, as if it has already happened.

So it must start something like, "I no longer indulge in the flavour of doughnuts."

Or, "I no longer lose myself in the pleasure of eating doughnuts."

But you may have to experiment to find the most effective words.

And there may be something which is particularly poignant to you - a childhood memory perhaps.

If you discover an instruction which you find embarrassing to write down, you've probably found one which will be very effective.

The next part of your instruction focuses on what to do when you feel the urge to eat a doughnut.

Now, we know the effect of eating the doughnut is to make you lose yourself - to become unaware.

So we reverse this and say something like:

"I become aware of the present moment."

Or, "I concentrate on the present moment."

Or, I focus my mind on the present."

Now, you may not yet know how to focus your mind on the present moment but you can discover this through meditation.

So the complete instruction would be something like this:

"I no longer lose myself in the pleasure of eating doughnuts. But I become aware of the present moment."

Then you write your instruction down in a notebook or a diary, tuck it away in a safe place and keep quiet about it.

Don't just scribble it down on a scrap of paper - you want your instruction to be permanent so record it permanently in a book.

When you've come up with your instruction, you then want to repeat it to yourself a few times and fix it in your memory.

But repeat it exactly as you've written it.

Then, the next time you're passing that bakery and the aroma of freshly cooked doughnuts wafts past your nostrils.

And you feel the urge to go in and buy one, your instruction will automatically pop-up in your mind and the urge will immediately be reduced.

Although the urge may not be gone completely. But all you do is repeat your instruction in your mind and it will diminish even more.

The urge to eat the doughnut actually triggers the instruction to stop eating the doughnut.

So the urge literally defeats itself.

Here's another example. Say you're prone to worrying about things.

And you get lost in a downward spiral of worry.

Whatever it may be - your kids, wife, husband, job, boyfriend, girlfriend, school, - everything! And you need to break that spiral.

Now, worry is an ego thing - as if you had the power to change things by worrying about them.

So to construct your mental instruction you'd say something like, "I no longer indulge in worry but concentrate my mind on the present moment."

Now, let's examine this instruction;

First of all you're not lying to yourself - you are not saying that you don't worry (as clearly you do) but you're saying that you no longer indulge in worry.

And you could also experiment with the word "indulge" to find something more effective.

For example you could use the word wallow. Because to wallow in something is kind of embarrassing. And as I said before, if, when you write it down you find it embarrassing, you've probably hit a raw nerve and found an effective instruction.

Now, I'm not saying this method will work for everyone.

But if you've had a habit which you may have struggled with for years, then you're probably a perfect candidate.

It may be the thing you need to finally tip the scales in your favour.