Having habits can often be a good thing, and many of our good habits are meant to make our lives easier and safer. Unfortunately, we also have bad habits that can turn into addictions and self-sabotage.
If we are being honest, we all experienced this. Whether we’ve failed our latest diet (again), or felt the pull to refresh our Instagram feed instead of making progress on a work project that is past due.
The question is, why is it so hard for us to take back control of our lives when we struggle with these kinds of toxic habits? And most importantly, how do we break a bad habit for good?
In this new Ted Talk episode, Ted Ryce explains the link between stress and unhealthy habits, how habits are formed, and proven strategies to break bad habits for good. Listen now to learn how to eliminate those bad habits—whatever they may be—and interrupt the cycle.
- The reasons why it is so hard to break bad habits
- Ted’s personal story on how he broke his bad habits
- Some breaking habits stories from Ted’s clients
- Then link between stress and unhealthy habits
- How anxiety leads to bad habits
- Habits: How They Form
- Bad habits and addictions
- How do habits make us feel?
- How to push yourself through the discomfort in order to break a habit
- Relationships and habits
- The #1 Key To Break A Bad Habit
- Effective strategies to break bad habits for good
- And much more
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Podcast Transcription: Help! How Can I Break My Bad Habits for Good?
Ted Ryce: Why is it so hard to break bad habits? Have you ever asked yourself that? When you’re trying to change, you’re trying to get yourself to do something, and then the stress comes back on, and you just fall back into old behaviors? Why is it so hard to break these bad habits? That is what we’re going to talk about today.
Welcome back to the show, I’m your host, Ted Ryce, coach to business owners and busy professionals. And part of what I do is help people break these bad habits. And I have a history of having many bad habits. Now, you may see me on social media or hear me on this podcast and say, “Wow, man, that guy really must have his life together.” Well, that’s… I have my life more together than I ever have.
But I still struggle with some of these habits. And today, I want to share with you some stories that will help you understand your bad habits better; why you have them, why they’re so hard to break. And more importantly, what you can do about it.
So, here’s what I want to share with you first. I had this really bad habit in my 20s of coming home and smoking marijuana.
Now, in my 20s, in case you haven’t heard this story, I was a personal trainer in Miami Beach, I worked with a lot of celebrities, I worked with Robert Downey Jr, Ricky Martin, got to train Richard Branson one day, and a bunch of other celebrities, a bunch of very successful entrepreneurs as well, guys who have Ferrari collections, multimillion dollar mansions, high net worth people.
But the reality is, I was stuck in a lot of bad habits, and I didn’t have awareness about it. And some of my bad habits were that I needed to do some things to grow my business, but I wouldn’t do them. And because I was so stressed out from my lack of action, I had all these negative emotions. So, I was making decent money. I was charging, I forget, you know, in my 20s, I think I was charging like $100 an hour for personal training, not bad money, right?
But the problem is, I didn’t have it really organized so I wasn’t working that much. I wasn’t making even six figures a year, I wasn’t even hitting six figures a year, especially when people went away for the summer, and I was really frustrated about it, and I knew I needed to stop. I have this habit, I’ll say it like this, I have this habit of going and spending money and time going to these personal training technical seminars, in other words, how to train people better, how to coach people on nutrition, how to teach people exercises better.
And I was hoping that if I did enough of those that I would just magically have a successful business. But I ended up realizing that I needed to learn business information, I needed to understand the business structure better, I needed to put together some contracts, I needed to have my proper pricing, I needed to learn sales, I needed to learn these other things, and I was really resistant, and why? I had a habit of going to these other seminars, that was a habit. And I needed to break that habit and go learn business stuff.
In fact, kind of ironically, a bunch of years later, two decades later, really, a lot of what I study, a lot of what I learned to help my clients now actually, it’s come from learning business, learning how to keep people accountable and other things.
But I had this habit of going and learning from who I thought were the best. Let’s learn biomechanics. Let’s learn nutritional biochemistry. Let’s learn how to teach exercise for better. I’d learned all these things.
And I spent so much money. And I traveled a lot for this. I didn’t go on vacation, though, but I traveled a lot for this and it just never gave me the results in my business, and I had this habit of continuing to do it, even though I knew I needed to transition over and start learning business. That was a habit, and I had to break it.
And because of this habit, this struggling in my business, but not doing what I know I needed to do in studying business, and improving the structure of my business and the way I operated with my clients, I was left with all this anxiety and stress and frustration so I smoked marijuana, so I developed this other habit. And it was a habit that I had for a lot of years, and so it’s pretty easy to fall back into it.
A lot of years, meaning I used to smoke marijuana when I was in high school, and it was just sort of, you know, I just went back to it when I started getting stressed out building my business. And the way I ended up breaking the habit was I finally forced myself, after getting some coaching actually on business, I signed up for business coaching, really.
And the business coaching, I did, it was—I think I paid, to be part of my first mastermind, I paid $100. I think the guy charged me a little bit lower, he was just starting out, and he showed me some techniques that helped me increase my income right away.
He shared with me this one technique, “Hey, you know how you have clients that you’ve trained in the past, but they’re not training with you right now, here’s what you do, reach out to them, tell them you have these new training techniques, which is true, because you’ve been learning, especially you, Ted, you’ve been spending all this money learning all these tactics, strategies and training methods. So, it’s true, show them what you’ve been up to.’
And guess what, it worked, and I got a couple people signed up with me right away, and I increased my income almost immediately. And I was like, “Oh, I had a win.” And as I’m telling you this, I, want you to relate it to your story, to your habits, to the habits that you know you need to change from transition away from.
By the way, my habit of learning training techniques and nutrition, it wasn’t really what you even call a bad habit, but it was bad in the sense that it wasn’t giving me the results I want.
Because some of you right now, you want to lose fat. And what you do, instead of doing some of the things that I’ve suggested here, learning about portion sizes, learning about calories, you can’t be bothered with that. You kind of know you need to, but you’re telling yourself, “You know, I’ll just be healthy, I’ll just make healthy choices, that should be enough,” even though your green juice is 270 calories and you’re eating the 500-calorie acai bowl.
And you won’t lower yourself to go to McDonald’s and get the 300 calorie McMuffin, you’d rather eat, 800 calories from that healthy food place. Eat the wrap because it’s so healthy, but meanwhile you’re struggling to lose fat. And so you have this habit. And it’s really hard to break habits when we’ve been doing a habit for a long time. Or when we started the habit, it started because of an intense emotional experience. I’ll give you another example.
I was talking to a bikini competitor the other day, and she was telling me about her eating disorder.
And she started having an eating disorder after a death in her family. And so, there was this death, and this death rocked her entire family, created a lot of stress. Her parents didn’t deal with it well. And the stress from the parents trickled down onto her and she had all these negative emotions, and to deal with the negative emotion, she started overeating, she started binge eating. Again, now we have the formation of a habit.
And by the way, we could go into the habits of her parents. I don’t know enough about that situation to tell you, but everything we do is based on the habits that we built. A lot of where we get these habits, we’ve learned them from our parents, our friends.
So back to her story, she started this habit of binge eating, but she felt really bad from the binge eating so she’d throw up afterwards. She’d make her go to the bathroom, make herself throw up. And so do you see how the stress in her life led to this negative habit of binge eating, which led to another habit of throwing up afterwards? And that lasted for a while.
And she told me, the way she broke it was she found purpose in these bikini competitions, she got into the gym, because even though she was skinny before, she wasn’t healthy, because obviously, eating food and throwing up, I mean, that’s extremely emotionally unhealthy, even if someone’s thin.
And she broke it by finding purpose, by forcing herself to find something different. It’s not easy to break these habits, folks, especially the more extreme conditions there were in your life when the habits started, or the longer you’ve been doing it, the harder it is to break. But she broke it, she doesn’t do that anymore.
So, we can break our habits, but one thing I want to tell you before I tell you some more stories here is, what are habits? They’re neural connections in our brain. I’m going to say that again; habits are neural connections in our brain. They’re connections between neurons. And if you remember something I’ve talked about a lot, but maybe I haven’t talked about it a while, there’s a saying that neurons that fire together, wire together.
And I want you to think about that, because I’m not saying that to sound smart here. I want to use my friend’s example; she had a big stress in her life. The big stress led to binge eating, the binge eating led to sticking her finger down her throat and throwing up. Do you see how those neurons connected? They wired together, they fired together then they ended up wiring together. And the more you repeat that pattern, the more it becomes cemented in your brain as a behavioral pattern to run.
And if you do that for a really long time— it doesn’t matter what it is, by the way, checking your phone when you first wake up, mindlessly scrolling social media when you should be focusing on work. I’ve never done that before. No, none of us have ever done that before. Hey, look, we’re all guilty of them.
But if we get into a bad spot, we can really get hooked on them. And that’s why people talk about social media addiction. When habits become extreme, they become social media addictions, they become gambling addictions, they become sex addictions, porn addictions, food addictions. There’s still a little bit of controversy about that one. Drug addictions, alcohol addiction. I drink when Daddy yells at Mommy.
I started smoking marijuana because of the stress in my house. My parents were alcoholics. They were high-functioning alcoholics. They were both attorneys, they both made a lot of money. And when the stress from their own lives became too much, they had the habit of drinking alcohol to relax at night after a hard day’s work. And for me, I learned how to get high from them. I learned how to, oh, well when you’re stressed, what you do is you ingest some chemical.
And I tried alcohol quite early actually, like 12, 13. First time I was drunk, I was 10, found the liquor chocolates in their closet and kept eating them. Now, I wasn’t trying to get drunk then, in my parent’s defense, but I was just feeling— I just wanted the chocolate and the liquor was kind of an unusual flavor to go along with it, but I got super drunk.
And so anyway, the point is that I learned, oh, mom and dad get stressed—now, I didn’t think about this consciously, by the way. I wasn’t thinking about this consciously. But I just found myself gravitating towards using substances. Now, I don’t like alcohol that much. I’d rather smoke weed or do something different. Actually, I did drink quite a bit to be honest. But I’d always gravitate towards marijuana, because it had a different effect on my physiology. I felt better with marijuana.
And so I developed this habit, like my parents develop their habit. These are where our habits come from.
And as I tell these stories, I want you to think about the habits that you have, and where they come from. Now, you don’t need to know where they come from, but I think it’s helpful to think about it, at least challenge yourself a little bit. Sometimes we don’t know where they come from.
But if it’s like, using food as a drug, instead of—maybe you’re not a drinker, maybe you’re against drug use in general, you use food. One of my clients said, “I was never going to snort meth off a toilet seat, but hey, I’m a Christian mom, what’s the drug for Christian mom’s? Food.” We’d never do anything like drugs, but food. And people support you, people don’t look at you strange when you’re obese. I mean, they might look at you. But it’s socially acceptable behavior to eat a lot and to be overweight.
In the United States, 70% of people are obese or overweight. It’s, I don’t want to say it socially acceptable in the sense that…Well, I almost… like, people are trying to say now, hey, being fat is beautiful, being fat is healthy. You’re even starting to see that now.
So again, I tell you these things, because I want you to think about your situation. I want to tell you one more; I want to share with you about a client that I’m working with recently, he wanted to quit coaching. And he came to the call the other day, he’s like, “Listen, I’ve been at this for almost six months now. I’ve lost some weight here and I’m feeling good, but I’m feeling very frustrated right now, and I want to give up.”
And he’s a smart guy. He said, “Look, I’m not convinced that giving up is the right option here, but it’s how I’m feeling.” And I said, “Great, thank you for being honest. Now we can talk about this.” And as we began to talk, it began to become clear that the reason that he wants to quit is because he has a habit of quitting, and what is comfortable? Doing your habits, even if your habits are uncomfortable.
See, people get confused about this. They’re like, “No, I’m not comfortable, Ted. I’m not comfortable.” Well, it’s like, do you think I was comfortable getting high all the time after work? It wasn’t that comfortable. I used to love the way marijuana made me feel. But after a while, it had like a 50% good, 50% kind of raised my heart rate and got me a little bit anxious, and it was hard to focus.
So, it wasn’t like, “Oh my god, I’m in heaven right now.” It’s like, Oh, I’ m stoned and I kind of feel good. But oh gosh, I kind of feel bad too”, especially smoking; smoking is oxidative stress. It’s not good for you, even if it’s marijuana.
So, I didn’t feel that good. I feel better now that I’m not high all the time. But it felt more emotionally comfortable to run the same habit instead of to change the habit, especially because I started smoking marijuana when I was young when the stress was on, when the pressure was on in my life.
And so, this client, it’s more comfortable for him to go really extreme, because he had a history of doing triathlons, working really hard doing strict diets. And then after a year or two or three of that, he would just gain all the weight that he lost back. This guy’s been 10% body fat doing those things. So, for him, part of his habit is he yo-yos through these extremes. Yo-yo dieting is a habit, my friends. The restrict binge cycle, it’s a habit.
So, let’s talk a little bit about how to break habits. This can be hard. Well, how did I break the habit of smoking marijuana? Well, I found purpose in my business, actually. I went back to school. I did a lot of things. We need to push ourselves through… I’ll just say it like this, we need to push ourselves through the discomfort. Because when we try to change a habit, it’s really uncomfortable.
I mean, think about when you want to check your phone, and you keep checking your phone. And then you’re like, “I’m checking my phone all the time, I’ve got to stop.” When you’re just like this, you’ve just got to check your email or scroll on social media, it feels bad like an itch. So, one of the things is you’ve got to bring down the stress in your life. That’s one thing I’ve learned.
I get two 90-minute massages weekly in general. In Miami, it’s a little bit more expensive so I’ll go with one massage a week, but I get massages every week. I just came from the pool right now. I don’t view…I’ll say it like this.
I don’t view relaxation as the opposite of work, I realize that it’s part of my work, especially when you work with people like I do, I can’t show up and do a crappy job, I need to be in peak state. So, I don’t have a choice but to make recovery part of my job.
Now some people, they don’t deal with people the way I deal with people, like I have to come here and make a good podcast. If I don’t show up on this podcast, and really give you all I got, you’re not going to come back and listen. You’re going to say, “Oh, this guy doesn’t have it. I mean, I can hear you. He sounds like he’s a little bit smart. He’s got some experience, but I’m just really not feeling his energy.” I need to come every single time, I don’t have…
And the same thing goes with my—it’s even more important for my coaching clients. They pay me money to show up and have the energy to solve their problem. I bring the energy, I bring the solutions, so I can’t afford not to have recovery as part of my work.
And I want you to think about yourself and your stress. Maybe your habits or how you deal with stress, maybe your habit is instead of taking a break when you’re starting to reach that burnout point, you go all the way to the point where you’re just completely fried before you take a break. Part of the thing too, is like some of us, we have a habit of quitting instead of taking a break. We don’t realize that there’s something in between quitting and going forward. It’s called taking a break. And if you take breaks, you can keep going.
Are you starting to see how this relates to your life and your behavior, your success? And it’s not just with health, it’s with your wealth, it’s with your relationships.
I had a conversation with someone who told me that they grew up very poor, and now they’re making good money, they’re running a successful business. And he felt the need to go and spend money. After he would be working a lot, he felt the need to go and spend money and what he would do, he would buy a bunch of food.
And he was telling me the story that he then realizes, “Hey, listen, I don’t need to buy food, I can buy something different, but he needed to spend money. It was him, he needed—something about something deep inside of him needed to flex his financial muscle a little bit. But then you know what, that’s okay, right? We all have like those things, those behaviors that are a little bit quirky.
For me, that’s quirky, I don’t have that sort of thing. I grew up in upper middle class. But for him, that’s what he, you know, but then he wasn’t smoking weed all the time and he’s quite sharp guy, actually. And so, he had this thing where he realized, “Oh, I have this habit of needing to spend money and then what I spend the money on, I spent it on food.”
But then he realized, “I don’t need to go buy steak and go eat a lot of…I can buy other things or I can buy things for other people.”
It’s weird being a human being. We feel like we’re in control part of the time, then other part of the time, it’s like where does this stuff even come from? Part of it’s the human wiring that we all come with. The other part is, although your parents loved you, they probably weren’t the best parents.
You know, why do I share the way I was brought up and some of the way my parent's kind of screwed up, it’s not to talk bad about them, I love my parents. Well, I love my dad, I love my mom. My stepmom? That’s another story for a podcast for another time.
But the point is that we’re trying to see where these behaviors come from. And they come from early childhood experiences or traumatic experiences that we went through, that maybe don’t have to deal with our parents in some respects. But that’s where they start, but changing them, we’ve got to go through the uncomfortable, we’ve got to make the uncomfortable choices.
And here’s another habit, “Oh, I don’t have time to work out.” And you see that person on Instagram, and then on Facebook, and they’re making a comment, you know, and it’s like, “Oh, you don’t have the time to work out, but you’ve got time to scroll on social media. And so, you could do a set a few sets of bodyweight squats. And then if you do a few sets of pushups, but you’re choosing to do something else, but you don’t have time.”
So, the first step in changing these behaviors is one, to become aware that they are habits and we have these habits. And maybe you can ask yourself, the deeper questions to figure out where they come from. But to be honest, we don’t need to know where they come from. It might be helpful to know, I think it’s helpful to know. But the way to change your behavior, and this is going to sound super simple, and it is, but it’s also very hard, is every time that behavior shows up, we need to do something different.
One thing that happened when I was running my…Now, the clients I deal with now are quite successful, and they’re really ready to go—or they’re not, or they just don’t know me well enough and they say, no, they don’t want to join my coaching program, which is totally fine. But when I ran a group, the group was interesting, because it was a less expensive plan, because it was group coaching.
And those people, while they had investing in themselves financially was a big deal for these people, there was a lot of heaviness with the group, not with every person. But I remember having a conversation, a breakthrough call with someone who had gone through my seven-day challenge that I used to run back on Facebook, where people would lose one to five pounds in a week, it was really great. But don’t have the time to run it anymore with what we do now.
Anyway, she hopped on a call with me and she was so anxious and nervous. And I was just like, “You’ve been listening to the podcast for a year, we’re talking right now. Why are you so nervous? What don’t you trust about this?” And she’s like, “I don’t know, I do trust you. I do believe you. I do trust you. I’ve been listening to you for a year.” And she ended up signing up. And then right after we signed up, I was like, “Listen, what do you think that was? How do you feel?” Now I feel so relieved that I signed up with you?” I said, “What do you think that was?” It was like, “Ah, I just, you know, I’ve never done this before.”
So, she had a habit of not investing in herself. Sometimes the habits are to avoid doing things. Sometimes we can have a habit of avoiding things. So, the way to break habits is you’ve got to work through the discomfort and you’ve got to push forward and change your behavior in those moments when it really counts.
For example, in my marriage with my ex-wife, we blew up at each other, terrible habit.
And so, part of what I had to do there is when it got into a fight, I needed to walk away, I need to control myself and walk away because guess what, walking away was really hard to do, extremely hard to do. I wanted to stay in it. I wanted to talk through it. I wanted to yell at her, and not because I was angry, not because I wanted to hurt her or whatever or to over yell or win by yelling, I really wanted it to resolve.
I really wanted the situation to resolve and wanted to resolve peacefully. But we kept getting into these yelling exchanges and it never did resolve peacefully. So, the thing that I needed to do is walk away or her to walk away. And eventually, we had to walk away from our relationship.
And we had a habit—and this is another great example, I think—we had a habit in our relationship of staying in this battle, staying in the fight, when we should have walked away, because there was nothing good that came from those arguments. In fact, I put my hand over my heart one time, I’m like, “Well, if I keep doing this, I think I’m going to end up with a heart attack.”
I mean, I’m a healthy guy, but this amount of stress, I feel like pain in my chest. I don’t have blocked arteries, I should get a calcium score, just to make sure. But I’ve had my heart checked out a bunch of times and an echocardiogram, and my heart pumps really well, but still, you can have these problems. Anyway, the point is this, that was a habit.
Sometimes the relationship that people are in is a bad habit. For my ex-wife and I, that was the case. Breaking the habit meant breaking the marriage, we couldn’t fix it. We’re both beyond that at that point, it was a bad habit.
And as I share these stories with you, what is coming up for you? What is the story of your life? What are those bad habits that need to be broken, but you find yourself trapped in this cycle, like a hamster on a wheel, or the record player that is stuck repeating itself, like the proverbial broken record? What are those things?
And then understanding, the way to break habits is to work through those uncomfortable, it’s to be aware of them and to want to change, and then to do the hard work of when the argument happens. Or when you feel like having that drink after work. Or when I used to want to smoke the marijuana. I mean, I could get marijuana anytime I want. I just don’t even have the desire anymore. You have to work through them.
And if you do that, you can have what you want, you can achieve it. But oh my gosh, is it hard. Oh my gosh, was it hard to divorce. Incredibly difficult. I felt like someone died in my family. I cried like crazy when I was in Thailand at the time, Giselle and I were in Thailand at the time and I went to a hotel on my own. I cried like crazy that night. But it was necessary, and I knew it was necessary. And so many of us we know we need to do it, but it’s so hard, we can’t get leverage on ourselves.
And I’ll finish up like this: some of us we need therapy. And by the way, I did six months of therapy. No, I’m sorry, a full year of therapy after Giselle and I split up, after we moved out, did a full year of therapy.
Sometimes we need a coach. Therapy helps us with the emotions and with some of the deeper issues we’re struggling with; coaches help us achieve specific results, is the way I look at it. Some do a bit of both. I feel like some clients have called me their therapist, but I don’t do therapy. It’s not what I do. They’re really just joking. But we’re not afraid to go deep and to talk about things and to show up and be honest.
Sometimes the habit is not being honest. I told one of my clients, “If you come here and you feel like I’m not the guy and I can’t make this happen for you, I want you to tell me that. I want you to feel 100% comfortable, like you can tell me whatever it is. You can call me a fucking asshole. I don’t care but as long as you’re being honest” Because if you’re honest, we can work with that, but if you’re holding back, if you have a habit of not telling people what you know you need to tell them, that’s another bad habit that you need to break.
More high level this one, a little less tactical, but a really important discussion that needs to be talked about again and again until you change your habits, “Oh, I know this stuff.” “Really? Then why haven’t you changed it?” is the question, right? Because if you haven’t, then you don’t know it. You have a—you’ve heard it before. You understand the words and the syntax, the sentences, the way they formed paragraphs and concepts. But if you haven’t done the work, then you don’t know it yet.
So, what I want to leave you with is this: what are those bad habits that you need to break? What is the path forward? What are the things, the behaviors that when the pressure comes on, you need to start to implement, and you don’t have to get it right 100% the first time it happens. But you need to start to show up, start to inch your way towards breaking that bad habit. If you do that and work through the emotional ups and downs that come up, it is breakable, you can do it.
I’ve done it and you can too. But it’s true, we’re all human beings. We can all do this. Maybe some of us with severe mental illness can’t. But that’s not your case, is it? Not my case either, and I’m pretty fucked. I don’t want to say I’m pretty fucked up, but I’ve had a pretty fucked up life, been through some crazy stuff. I’m not that special. I’m no genius, and I’m certainly not a natural talent when it comes to this stuff, I’ve had to work very hard.
And with that hard work and showing up when you don’t want to and doing those things, especially when you feel the need to stay in the argument or to have the drink or whatever. And then, of course, asking for help, getting help when you need it when you can’t do it on your own, you can get where you want to go.
That’s what I want to leave you with. Love you lots. Have an amazing weekend. Speak to you on Monday.
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