The Secret to Break, Change, or Form a Habit Instantly

by RJ

in Psychology

Pile of CigarettesIt doesn’t take 21 days to break, change, or form a new habit. Forming a new habit can be done instantly.

The secret is to instantly break, change, or form a habit is triggers. Triggers are stimuli that tell your brain it’s time to perform a habit. For example, when you wake up, you brush your teeth, eat breakfast, shower, etc…

Triggers are also used for bad habits. For example,  people who only smoke when they drink. The trigger to smoking is therefore drinking.

Since triggers can be used for both good and evil, the way to change your habits is twofold. First, to make it easier to form a habit, “piggyback” the new habit off of a current  habit. Second, to break bad habits,  identify the triggers that stimulate the bad habits and eliminate them.

Example of Forming a Positive Habit

You want to start tracking your income and expenses weekly on Sunday evenings. Instead of relying on your mind, to remember to do this each Sunday, piggyback off of a current habit that already takes place each Sunday night.

Let’s say each Sunday evening, you kick back and catch up with some of your favorite shows. Watching an hour of TV, can be your trigger for tracking your income and expenses for the week. Your goal is to remember to watch TV, than track your income and expenses just once. Once you do this, a bond is formed between the two events. The second time you watch TV and then track your income and expenses, the bond will get stronger. The stronger the bond, the easier it is to continue that habit.

Example of Breaking a Bad Habit

You want to break the habit of online shopping. The triggers to online shopping could be:

  • Browsing blogs/websites that constantly link to Amazon or other sites that you spend a lot of money on
  • You get emails from daily deal sites such as Groupon, Gilt, RuLaLa, etc…
  • Your laptop or iPad is lies on the couch, were you relax and browse for an hour each night

Now that you know your triggers, you can eliminate them. Therefore, unsubscribe to the emails, block the websites that direct you towards advertising, and move your laptop so you don’t unconsciously pick it up to browse.

If you write down the triggers that make up a bad habit, you’ll be amazed. I’ve written down 20-25 different triggers, for just one small bad habit.

Instant Habit Change

Use triggers to break bad habits and start positive ones. Concentrate on forming the bonds between multiple positive habits. The longer you do this for, the stronger the bond, and the easier it is to continue with your new habit.


Photo by: hmvh


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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

20 and EngagedNo Gravatar May 2, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Great plan. I unsubscribed to e-mails from Groupon and Living Social and you’re right, it instantly changed my attitude about online shopping. I’m hoping to use the same strategy to form new habits.


RJNo Gravatar May 2, 2011 at 4:43 pm

Good luck. Let us know how it goes.


Jesse EkerNo Gravatar May 2, 2011 at 4:53 pm

I agree with you that it’s triggers that make or break the habit. Identifying the triggers is the hard part some times. Its easy to figure out what your trigger points are once you have realized what the habit is.

This post is really great for people’s finances because we are all creatures of habit and once we realize we can make or break a habit instantly then there is a good chance of being better in the money game! Thanks for the post and the reminders.


RJNo Gravatar May 3, 2011 at 10:39 am

Your welcome Jesse.


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