How to Test Whether a Behavior Has Become a Bad Habit

Sometimes, I meet people who claim that one of their regular behavior doesn’t have a grip on them.

For example, they drink a can of soda every day and claim it’s not a bad habit because, at any moment, they can decide to stop with no difficulty whatsoever. They’re convinced that drinking soda doesn’t have a grip on them. That is until I issue them a challenge: “Stop for one week and see what happens.”

Some behaviors hold a grip on us, and we don’t realize it until we try to get rid of them, and then we realize how strong a grip they have on us. They entered into our lives insidiously, took residence, and now won’t leave without a fight.

One of the ways to test whether a specific behavior has become a bad habit is by going on a “fast.” Going on a fast means that you stop performing the behavior (or activity) for a period (e.g., one week).

For example, if you love watching television, try going on a TV fast for a week, and see what happens. If you’re able to do it without too much difficulty, this behavior has a weak hold on you. However, if you struggle and cheat numerous times during the week, that behavior unquestionably has a firm grip on you.

While on your fast, you observe how you react. It should give you insights into how ingrained that behavior had become and much of a grip it has on you.

As the previous example illustrate, if after the first day of fast, you can’t take it anymore and you go back to the behavior, you know that you’re dealing with a bad habit that has a strong hold on you. You may not yet know what to do to get rid of it, but at least, you’re aware that you’re not dealing with an innocent behavior that you can stop at will.

Incidentally, the “fast technique” can help you break a bad habit. In fact, in simple terms, breaking a bad habit means to stop performing that behavior. And the “fast technique” is precisely that: you stop the behavior for a period.

There are various ways to use the fast technique to help you break a bad habit. One way is by progressively increasing the length of your fast.

To go back to the TV example. Say you wanted to break the bad habit of spending your evening watching TV. Then, you could decide to go on a one-day fast. And then the next time you go on a fast, you extend it to two consecutive days. And the next time, you extend it to three consecutive days. And so on, until you get to a point where watching TV no longer has a grip on you.

A variant of this is by establishing a fixed day of fasting. For example, you could decide to fast from TV watching once a week (e.g., No TV on Thursday nights). Then, after a little while, you increase your fast to two days per week. And so on until watching TV no longer has a hold on you.

The fast technique is simple to understand but harder to implement. I recommend you use this technique, even if only to confirm that a specific behavior has indeed taken residence in your life and now exercises a strong hold on you.

About The Author

Vladimir Elie

I help people learn and apply success principles and strategies so that they can get the results they want in life.