Thursday , 21 February 2019
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How to Troubleshoot a Single Mysterious Bad Habit

How to Troubleshoot a Single Mysterious Bad Habit

Sometimes it feels like you have everything figured out except for this one, baffling problem that seems to defy all logic. For Nina, her healthstyle has always been rather straightforward. She enjoys eating healthy, she understands the value of indulgences, and can easily adjust her behavior to align with her values in almost every circumstance. Almost.

Nina reached out to me because she can’t understand why she binges on junk food during her babysitting job, despite knowing it’s a bad decision and not worth it. She has tried a few things to stop, and had a bit of success, but still doesn’t feel like she has control over her behavior in this one, specific circumstance.

As is often the case when a very specific context becomes a trigger for an intractable habit, Nina can lucidly describe her issue and the circumstances that cause it to arise. She knows she’ll regret her actions, she knows Cheetos and Cinnamon Toast Crunch aren’t special on a random Thursday afternoon, and she knows it’ll impact her ability to enjoy herself after she leaves. What she can’t figure out is why she continues to act in a way she doesn’t like, despite this self-awareness.

For Nina, solving this mystery requires reframing an old habit in a new light. Even though the circumstances have changed for her as an adult, she is acting out an old behavior she developed as a child. As a result, she lacks the perspective necessary to recognize a solution that is right under her nose.

Together Nina and I come up with a simple way for her to hit pause on the autopilot caused by the babysitting trigger and pull herself back into the present moment so she can make a more rational and value-based choice in behavior.

Wish you had more time to listen to the podcast? I use an app called Overcast (no affiliation) to play back my favorite podcasts at faster speeds, dynamically shortening silences in talk shows so it doesn’t sound weird. It’s pretty rad.

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