Thanking Your Bad Habits

We all have bad habits.  And we all beat ourselves up about them.  But, here’s the deal: We must stop beating ourselves up.

So, in place of beating ourselves up, I suggest: Thanking our bad habits!

The way that I have found to truly get rid of a bad habit, whether it is personal or professional, is to acknowledge it, thank it, and release it. That may sound crazy. Why on earth would I thank my bad habits? They are precisely what are holding me back?! Because without first acknowledging why they were created we miss the opportunity to deal with the need that they fill.

All bad habits are created for good reasons. Yes, they are! But if you acknowledge why it is that the bad habit is happening, you give yourself the opportunity to deal with the initial catalyst for the habit. If you then thank and release your habit, you create a space where a new, chosen, and desired action can take its place.

Below is your 3-step method for getting rid of a bad habit (take nail biting as an example):

  1. Acknowledge the bad habit: “I am biting my nails because I am anxious!”

  2. Thank the habit: “Thank you for providing relief for my anxiety when I didn’t know how else to handle it.”

  3. Release it: “I release my need to bite my nails. I give myself permission to have clean hands free from bite marks.”

At first this may seem a bit hokey, but habitual actions happen when we are not paying attention, and when we are paying attention it is nearly impossible to knowingly engage in them.

When a habit is hindering you, releasing it creates a tremendous amount of potential energy, which, when focused the right way, can be a vitalizing force for choosing actions that positively impact our careers.  Consider the example of one of my clients, Amanda (the name has been changed), who was able to use this method to release one of the most common bad habits I see — micromanaging.

Amanda was a newly promoted vice president in the music industry. And she was a typical micromanager. She routinely found herself spending nearly 90 hours a week at work, and still she felt behind. Email was taking up far too much of her time because Amanda felt the need to read every email that she was cc’d on and to check in with each of her direct reports on their task lists for the day. This left almost no time for her own work, and to get it all done, she routinely found herself logging off way past 1 am. She also found that, though she had worked very hard to get her new position, she found little joy in it.

I asked Amanda to make a list of all the ways that her micromanaging had served her, and then to make a list of all the ways it was holding her back. In this seemingly simple task, Amanda realized that to thrive in her new position she would have to find ways to delegate. Micromanaging had at one point served her, but now it was making thriving impossible.

This may sound odd, but Amanda wrote her bad habit a thank you note. She thanked the habit for getting her where she was; she was grateful for her painstaking nature that had allowed her to rise to the top of her industry. She then released the habit and threw away the card.  In the space that was created by releasing the habit of micromanaging, Amanda began working on the new and more useful action delegating that would positively impact her career!

By allowing herself the freedom to delegate, Amanda had the time necessary to do the creative work that she had not only been promoted for but truly enjoyed. Her level of satisfaction at work skyrocketed, the time-out on project completion was halved, and her rapport with her direct reports was strengthened. Amanda was grateful for her bad habit, but was equally as grateful to release it.

If you feel as though you have a professional habit that once served you and is now holding you back, it may be time to let it go and see where that takes you. You may be surprised by the potential energy that is created, and by what you can then accomplish.

Alexandra Phillips