Breaking Bad…Habits

I’m a nail biter.  Well, a nail picker, actually.  And I can count on one stubby-nailed hand the times I’ve grown my fingernails out in my 47 years on this earth.  I keep my nail guy happy because I even pick off the nails he glues on.  But this month, a friend and I decided to give up our addictions.  Well, most of them.  No one is touching my addiction to Netflix.  I’m not ready for that yet.  She’s tackling smoking.  I’m tackling several, including nail biting.

And here we are, halfway through the month, and I have actually let the things grow.

It hasn’t even been hard.  All it required was my being conscious of the habit and not mindlessly engaging in it.  The first few days, I noticed I would start picking when I was in deep thought, or when I was bored.  My office buddies were prepared to shoot me with a water gun or make me do squats if they caught me, but honestly, I caught myself.  And chose not to do it.

I’m not suggesting abandoning every bad habit is that simple.  But it probably starts with the very same exercise in consciousness.  And as much as I hate those articles on the internet that give you “Three simple steps to change your life,” or “The eight things you never want to do in a job interview,” this really does lend itself to some simple steps.

  1.  Identify the bad habit, and why you want to stop doing it.  I have ugly hands with chewed on fingernails, unless I want to waste money at the nail salon to have pretty nails for a little while, until I pick those off, too.  But I’d like to have nicely manicured hands.
  2. Set a time goal for yourself to kick the habit.  “They” say if you keep something up for at least three weeks, you’ve created a habit.  Or in this case, kicked one.  We chose the whole month because keeping track of our success on a handy dandy monthly calendar was easy.  Each day we get through without reverting to bad habits, we get to mark off a day.  So far, all my days are marked off.
  3. Pay attention to what makes you engage in the bad habit.  For me, boredom mostly. Stress sometimes.  I’m definitely more of a stress eater, which is the reason I also gave up snacking between meals this month.  Write them down if that helps you to recognize them.  There are patterns to uncover if you’re being mindful.
  4. Understand that your triggers will still be there after you give in to the bad habit.  My girlfriend who is quitting smoking had an epiphany about cigarettes this month:  she has stress, as we all do, but she can survive her stress without her cigarettes.  Smoking didn’t eliminate the stress she felt.  It was still there when she finished the cigarette.  Using our bad habits as crutches doesn’t make life’s struggles any easier.  Instead, you still have whatever triggered your bad habit, plus the baggage the bad habit brings.  In my case, ugly hands or extra pounds.  In hers, potential health problems from smoking.
  5. The next step is just stop.  And that’s certainly easier said than done for some habits.  Some require professional help, and I’m not a professional trained to give that help.  But there are plenty of resources available to get that help, no matter the bad habit you’re trying to kick.  If you’re committed to quitting, you’ll find the help you need to do it, whether it’s a friend armed with a water gun, a self-help book, meditation, a professional counselor, group therapy, or some combination of the above.

It sounds simple.  And steps one through four really are.  You can do those on your own, today.  Step five is where the work is, but if you’ve committed to breaking a bad habit, don’t give up at the last step.  If you feel like giving up, go back and review steps one through four again.

Now, what does quitting nail biting have to do with recruiting, or work in general?  Nothing, really, but the formula can be used for any bad habit, like spending too much time at work daydreaming of swinging in a hammock on the beach, posting to your SnapChat story, avoiding a big project you know is going to be really tough, or fighting with a challenging coworker.

I’ve got two weeks left in my May Addiction Challenge, and after growing my nails out and quitting all my mindless snacking, I can’t wait to see what bad habits I can tackle in June.