If you’ve ever tried to stop a bad habit and found yourself going back and forth between starting and stopping, this episode is for you. Whether you want to stop yelling at your kids, stop gossiping, stop worrying, stop overeating or overdrinking, stop scrolling, or something else, in this podcast you’ll learn how to stop any bad habit.
Instead of giving the typical habit advice, the way you’ll learn how to stop a bad habit in this podcast is very different. It focuses on your identity and changing your mindset first so that you can more easily and successfully stop the bad habit. You’ll get a completely different and effective approach for changing any bad habit that you can start using today.
Hi there. Welcome to the Design Your Dream Life podcast. My name is Natalie Bacon and I’m an Advanced Certified Mindfulness Life Coach as well as a wife and mom, if you’re here to do the inner work and grow, I can help. Let’s get started.
Hello my friend. Welcome to the podcast. I’m so happy to be here with you today to talk about how to stop a bad habit. How is your summer going? Have you picked up some bad habits? Hopefully not, but I know for most people, including myself, there are habits that either we’ve picked up recently or that have been around for a while or that we’ve gone back and forth with and it would be so helpful to get a different spin on how to stop a bad habit. That is what I am going to help you with today. Before we dive into that, goodness, it is the end of July when this is coming out in real time, which means it is the very last Ask Natalie, Anything that I will be hosting before baby boy number two comes along before I deliver my second son.
So I wanna make sure that you are registered if you want to try out coaching experience, what it’s like, this is the best way to do it. I get dms and emails. We get ’em often about when the doors will be open to Grow You. And we don’t have a set plan. We do it based on how we’re able to take care of our current clients with the inflow. So if you want to learn more about Grow You, if you are one of the people who have been emailing or DMing and you also are a little bit coaching curious, meaning you wanna see how it can really help you and how it’s different from both therapy and just consuming content, this is the best place to do it because I will coach you live when you join you don’t have to get coached, you can simply listen in, but it’s going to be an opportunity for you to get coached.
If you want, you can just write in whatever you wanna get coached. You will not be seen, I will not be able to see you unless I call on you, meaning, unless you have your hand up. So I always like to say that ahead of time because I’m not a fan of joining calls like this and getting on and all of a sudden everyone can see me. That is not what your experience will be like. You will get on and you’ll be able to see me, but that’s it. Everyone else is hidden. I think these are the best way to do these calls and you will learn so much about your mindset by listening to other people get coached. It is often one of the hidden gems of group coaching that is a little bit challenging to explain if you’ve never experienced it. So make sure if you haven’t experienced it before you join me at Ask Natalie Anything to see the power of group coaching.
I think it’s so impactful because when you listen to other people get coached, you are not in the thick of their challenge. And so you’re so much more clear-minded about it and you can see how these tools can be applied to someone else’s life so easily. And then you can apply that same tool to your life, even if it’s in an unrelated topic. I was coaching someone on changing her eating habits and weight loss, and then I was coaching someone on, uh, feeling overwhelmed with kids at home. And the woman I coached with, little ones at home who was feeling overwhelmed was saying how helpful the coaching was for the overeating. And that’s just one example, but I promise you the reason that I’m able to coach on so many different topics is not because of me or anything special, it’s just because these tools all get at the root cause of challenges.
That’s what coaching is all about. It’s about looking inside your brain, seeing what your mindset is, and then helping you change it. Because mindset is the most important thing. It really, really is. So if you can become mentally stronger, you can handle anything that comes your way, any challenge at all. So join me at Ask Natalie Anything. You can register and grab your seat at nataliebacon.com/askNatalie. That’s all one word.
All right, now let’s dive into today’s topic of how to stop a bad habit. Psychology research says behavior change typically precedes identity change, meaning you will run before you call yourself a runner, but I say flip this on its head, change your identity first, then watch how much faster your behavior change. So I was coaching someone recently and she was getting help with weight loss and she said, you know, I’m someone who eats fast food on Fridays, but I want to lose weight and I want to stop doing this.
So I think the typical, you know, kind of classic advice and way about attacking this challenge is to use willpower to stop eating fast food on Fridays. I say instead of trying to do that because willpower is sort of fickle, we have a finite amount of it and, and you know this, if you’ve ever tried to give up anything for a certain amount of time and, and it, there’s so much resistance with willpower, so it doesn’t really work long term. Instead what I suggested is that she start doing the mindset work of becoming someone who doesn’t ever eat fast food. So if she starts telling herself, I’m someone who just doesn’t eat fast food, when she practices this identity, it will be so much easier for her to take action that aligns with the identity she’s creating. I posted something on social media about this topic not that long ago and I got a lovely comment from a hater who said, this doesn’t work.
You can’t just go around saying affirmations like I am a you know, nuclear scientist and then expect it to be that way. And I wanna bring it up here because it addresses a really good point. What I am saying here is for you to create an identity of the actual habit that you want to change, I am not suggesting that you can go around or that I could go around just saying I’m a W N B A player and then all of a sudden magically I become that because I don’t want to become a W N B A player. So it’s not that saying a random affirmation all of a sudden becomes the behavior change. It’s that when you have an identity, you will live into that identity, meaning you will take action that reflects that identity. So for example, I have been wanting to get stronger and more fit.
I could do that from a place of thinking. I don’t really work out that much. This is gonna be really hard and sort of use willpower to force myself to do it, or I can start telling myself I am fit. Or if I don’t believe that I can do it to say I am becoming fit. The more that I tell myself the identity that I genuinely want in my heart of hearts, the more aligned I will be in taking action to live into that identity. And it’s working. I have been lifting my little weights in the morning and that then creates more momentum because I can see the actions taking place. You can do it either way, it’s just that doing it this way I think is easier. It lessens the resistance because you already have an identity that is making it hard to stop the bad habit. So let’s take one I coach on often, which is yelling at your kids. Let’s say that you yell at your kids, you have the identity, even though you’re not going around saying it out loud that I’m a mom who yells at her kids, I yell at my kids.
And the more that you say that about yourself, the harder it is to stop yelling. If you start telling yourself I’m a calm mom, or if that’s too hard for you to believe, it might be I’m working, I’m being calmer, or I’m a mom who values practicing calm, or I’ve struggled being calm in the past, but now I’m really working, I’m being calm in the future, or I’m working on improving my skill of being calm. You want to practice creating identities that feel good and true for you. And depending on how kind of quote unquote bad the habit is, this will vary. So it was very easy for me to kind of live into the identity of calling myself fit, but for you to say I am fit might be a huge stretch, or the same example with being calm, it might be a huge stretch for you to say, I’m a calm mom. So you can add some qualifiers around it that still will help you create that identity and your actions align with the identity that you create. It’s so much easier to stay calm when you’re practicing telling yourself that this is a skill you’re working on, that you are becoming that person in the future.
Contrast that with where the willpower comes in and where we really need it is like my client who is saying, no, I just eat fast food on Fridays, as if that was a fact. Now it sounds like a fact, right? But that’s not a fact, that’s a thought, that’s an identity that she was creating. The specific fact would be for the last, I dunno, 64 Fridays I have eaten, you know, McDonald’s for lunch or whatever it is. A fact is very specific and kinda provable. There’s some numbers or evidence in it. Whatever you tell yourself about yourself is typically not a fact. It’s typically a summary. And we do this in lots of ways that are really helpful.
But the ways that we do it that aren’t so helpful are when we create limiting beliefs about ourselves. And typically we do this when it comes to bad habits. I was reading a book, I think it was a book, I can’t remember where this came from, so I apologize for that. And the person was saying they had struggled with quitting smoking for years and one day they decided to start identifying as a non-smoker and practicing that identity. And from that day forward, they never smoked again. And it wasn’t until I was thinking about the relationship between actions and identity and kind of looking at some of the psychology research that I realized and thought back to this example. That’s why I can’t remember it. It was years ago that I, I remember this story and how powerful it was, but it clicked for me, oh, this is why it worked.
And I think this is why sometimes it’s been easier for me personally to change habits in some areas than in others because sometimes I change my identity and other times I don’t. So if you’re in Grow, You, you know this that I recently gave up watching tv, it’s been about a month and kind of as an aside, this is nothing against tv. I don’t hate tv, I’m not anti tv. Um, and if I’m somewhere in public or over a friend’s house, I’m all for the TV beyond, it’s totally fine. It’s just that I noticed for myself, I got into the bad habit of watching an hour of TV at night to escape.
So I decided to stop that and I decided to create an identity of I’m just someone who doesn’t turn on the tv, I don’t watch TV in my house. And from that place it was so much easier for me to stop that habit. Now contrast this with drinking some diet Coke. We have these Diet Coke minis and I was playing around with the concept of identity versus behavior change, what I’m talking about here. And I wanted to see what it would be like for me to not make the identity change with Diet Coke and just try to change my habit of having one of these pops every now and then. So I made it about a week and a half just trying to change my action of not having any at all. And then I had a really strong urge to go for it and I had it.
I just opened up the fridge and took one out. And um, again, this you know, isn’t a huge problem and I have nothing against Diet Coke, but I found it so fascinating that letting go of TV was so much easier for me. It felt like just that concrete decision because I had changed my identity first. I believed I’m someone who doesn’t turn on the TV anymore, but I didn’t believe that about drinking Diet Coke. So I actually think it could be really powerful to test this out in your own life. Now again, going back to that social media comment, it’s not about doing this for something that you’re genuinely not wanting to do or make the change in. It’s not that saying who you want to become creates it by itself. You still have to take the action. It’s just that you lessen the resistance of taking the action or not taking the action said differently.
The actions become a little bit more effortless. It’s just like if you identify as a runner going for a run as a no-brainer, if you identify as someone who doesn’t exercise, it’s really hard to get yourself to go for a run because it conflicts with your identity. And so most of the time, most of the advice that we get is about changing the behavior, changing the action. And I don’t think this is bad advice. I just think that it’s not the best first advice, meaning it’s not the thing that you should do first because of the resistance.
So create the identity that you want to have for the habit that you want to stop doing. And this can work for any habit. I was thinking about, um, bad habits and what are some of the bad habits I coach on most. And I think yelling at your kids is definitely one. Scrolling on social media when I can totally relate to overeating or over drinking, that was another one for me that I just decided a few years ago, I’m just gonna stop drinking. I don’t identify as sober. I’m not counting days. I just decided the mom I want to be doesn’t drink alcohol. So I just stopped.
And I’m not saying that every bad habit that you want to change is going to be this easy. I just think that some of them will be so much easier with this identity change first because it’s like that quote, whatever comes after I am becomes your destiny. So whatever you tell yourself about yourself is the identity that you are creating more of in the future. And if you are pulling from your past, if you’re pulling bad habits from your past, it’s very hard to change that in the future if you just focus on changing your actions because you’re not changing your mindset, you’re not changing your identity. So other bad habits you might want to change worrying, not asking for help, maybe putting your relationships, your friendships, or your marriage on the back burner, trying to keep up with the Joneses over committing or busying.
This is when I did work on a couple years ago and it was life changing at the time. The thought of being still and doing less was terrifying. And in part we are taught too busy. We are taught that doing more equals being good. And it’s exhausting when you tie your goodness to your to-do list cuz you’ll never give yourself a break. So I think this is one of kind of the hidden bad habits that I worked a lot on and it was so worth it. So how that would look is telling yourself, I’m someone who enjoys rest. I’m good at relaxing. And again, if the I am statements are too strong for you and you just don’t believe it, your brain’s like, yeah, I don’t really believe that you can add in some qualifiers. I’m becoming someone who prioritizes rest. That is going to be a lot more effective in getting you to prioritize rest than telling yourself over and over.
I struggle with rest, I struggle with rest because that is what you will prove true. I was listening to a podcast, it was probably a year ago, and I think I’ve told this story before on here, but not through this lens, so hopefully it’s useful here as well. The host continued to reinforce the limiting belief that she was just so type A, which is why it was so hard for her to do X, Y, Z or stop doing A, B, C. She basically was justifying her actions on the identity. I’m just so type A, even if everyone would agree that she is so type A, it is not useful for her to continue to use it as a limiting belief, right? There’s a difference between awareness and a limiting belief. So calling yourself type A can be really useful if you’re using it for awareness purposes to gain understanding of you.
But as soon as you turn it into a limiting belief like I am stuck this way, the more you reinforce that your personality is fixed. And so it’s really having this fixed mindset instead of more of a growth mindset. So you’re probably not going to get all the way to I’m type B or my personality has nothing to do with why it’s hard for me to rest. But you can find identities that really do align with what you want most. I truly believe that what you want most on your heart, whatever that is, is available to you. So in this example, if she wants to be a little bit more easygoing with respect to her spouse, instead of telling herself, that’s so hard for me to do because I’m so type A and reinforcing that and then trying to use willpower to be more easygoing, what she could do is start saying, I’m an easygoing wife, or I’m practicing becoming more easygoing in my marriage.
And those are just two ways to describe it. She could come up with 10 or 20 more. So you wanna find a way to describe the identity that you want to create in the future, that you truly want for yourself, that you want to live into, that you’re having a lot of resistance doing with the current identity that you have for those of you inside Grow You. This is what we do in the Mindful Journaling course inside the library, I teach you how to create those I am statements and how to live into your future instead of creating more of the past. It’s so future focused and it helps you become the woman who you want to be. As you’re doing this work, remind yourself of why it’s so effective. It’s because you take actions that you believe only you would take. If you believe you are a perfectionist and in the back of your mind you’re thinking, gosh, I’m such a perfectionist, then you will continue to take actions that prove that true.
We take actions that we believe we would take. This is why a runner runs. They believe I’m a runner. So if you want to stop believing that you are a perfectionist, it doesn’t mean that you negate those examples that you have of perfectionism in the past. It just means you separate out your actions from your identity. You can say, yes on this date, at this time I did X, Y, Z. But separate out that action from who you are. It’s one thing to say, yeah, that was a little bit of perfectionism. It’s another thing to go around thinking I’m a perfectionist. So if you want to stop a bad habit like perfectionism, start with changing your identity. Stop calling yourself a perfectionist.
You can still acknowledge the actions that you’ve taken in the past, but create a better, more supportive and intentional identity for the future that you want to live into. The brain looks for evidence of what you tell it. So if you start telling it, I’m laid back, or I’m easygoing, or I’m grounded and connected, whatever it is that you want to become more of in the future, that’s what your brain is going to look for. Evidence of practice creating the identity that you want to have to stop a bad habit. I’m telling you, this has been life changing for me, particularly as I think about the work that I do as a coach with my clients and how it’s all about mindset and it’s really at the core of solving any challenge and becoming your best future self. And this tool just aligns with it so perfectly. So apply it. Let me know how it goes. Send me a DM over on Instagram @NatalieBaconCoaching. I would love to hear from you. All right, my friend. Take care. I will talk with you next week.
If you loved this podcast, I invite you to check out Grow You my mindfulness community for moms where we do the inner work together. Head on over to nataliebacon.com/coaching to learn more.