How To Break A Habit Quickly & Easily

Daily life in the digital age has become such a busy, stress filled scene that most people just do what they have to do to get through each day and its massive task list.

True, there are more advantages and opportunities available than ever before. But they don’t seem to be having the positive impact they should.

We’ve all had times when we’ve chugged too much caffeine, bitten our nails to shreds, smoked too much, drunk too much, eaten unhealthily, binge watched television or experienced big emotional outbursts.

Those habits are all common mechanisms for coping with stress. In small, irregular doses they’re not a big deal.

But if they’re used often, they keep people too busy to notice that they don’t feel like they’re in control of their own lives.

The behaviour, which initially served to ease some strain, has become a habit. A compulsion. A coping mechanism without which they’d be a mess.

The beer after work to relax is no longer a treat, it’s a necessity.

The cigarette that used to provide a moment of rest is now desperately needed to take the edge off.

Nails that used to be pristine are chewed and raw.

Takeaway food that was once a monthly treat is purchased twice a week because cooking is just too much.

And when the toothpaste tube gets squeezed in the middle – look out, a volcano is about to erupt…

If any of those sound like you, rest assured you are not alone.

It’s a rare person who doesn’t have a single bad habit or compulsive behaviour they’d like to be free from.


Unfortunately, most of those who try to break their old patterns grasp at ineffective straws, trying to get control of themselves before they slip back into the habits they’re not proud of.

Ultimately they fail.


Because they’re not using the right tools.

The Secret You’ve Been Missing

The single most important point to recognise with habit change (which you’ve likely missed) is this…

All compulsive behaviour is driven by emotion.


(RELATED: All Subconscious Blockages Are Suppressed Emotions)

There is not a single bad habit that doesn’t link back to an unresolved feeling of some sort, which is spectacular news for you if you’re ready to break free of compulsive behaviour.


Because while it may not feel like you’re the one in the driver’s seat at the moment, you’re absolutely capable of being in control of your emotions.

And with the right tools and information (don’t worry, you’ll find them below) you can be doing it in no time.

So what’s the big trick? The magic word? The fancy technique?

It’s actually very simple.


Thankfully, emotional intelligence is a skill that is quick and easy to learn and simple to apply.

But why should you learn a new skill, when there’s all that hustle and bustle and stress we talked about earlier?

In short, emotional intelligence is worth your time. You’ll get back what you put in, guaranteed.

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

So what, exactly, is emotional intelligence?

There are four key competencies involved in emotional intelligence, each involving a number of specific skills.

The four key competencies are also called the four quadrants, as the emotional intelligence framework is often presented in basic graph form.

As you can see the four competencies are self awareness, self management, social awareness and relationship management. The first two are inwardly focused, the second two externally focused.

Let’s take a closer look at those four quadrants…

Self Awareness

People with self awareness are those who can accurately recognise and describe their feelings. These people know their internal states, preferences, resources and intuition.

The self awareness skills are emotional self awareness, accurate self assessment and self confidence.

Self Management

People who are good at self management are those who can adjust their feelings as an act of will. They are good at managing internal states, impulses and resources.

The self management skills are self control, trustworthiness, conscientiousness, adaptability, achievement drive and initiative.

Social Awareness

People who have good social awareness skills are those who can recognise another’s feelings and respond appropriately. They are aware of others’ feelings, needs and concerns.

The social awareness skills are empathy, service orientation and organisational awareness.

Relationship Management

People who are good at relationship management are those who can persuade and influence others – with integrity. They are adept at inducing desirable responses in others.

The relationship management skills are developing others, influence, communication, conflict management, leadership, change catalyst, building bonds, teamwork and collaboration.

That’s emotional intelligence in a nutshell. There’s plenty more to learn, but the outline above is certainly enough to help you understand why EQ is so effective as a habit change tool.

(RELATED: 5 Steps to Using Emotional Intelligence)

You Don’t Even Need To Sit On A Mountaintop…

The best thing about emotional intelligence (aside from its myriad benefits!) is that it’s really easy to learn. You don’t need a high IQ or a university degree.

You don’t even need to set out hours and hours to practice.

With a little regular effort and awareness, you could be gaining the benefits of heightened emotional intelligence as soon as next week.

Sure, to truly master it you’ll need longer than a week, but with regular practice you’ll be breaking bad habits, overcoming compulsive behaviours and building an amazing, successful life in no time.

Let’s take a look at exactly what you’ll need to do, step by step…

How To Overcome Compulsive Behaviours Quickly & Easily – Step By Step!

Step 1 – Identify Unwanted Behaviours

It’s best to begin by clearly identifying the behaviours you’d like to eliminate.

Explore the behaviour itself, how often you engage in it, the circumstances that usually surround you engaging in this behaviour and any triggers you observe. For example, eating when bored or smoking while drinking alcohol.

Step 2 – Identify A Positive Alternative

A helpful tool when overcoming unwanted habits is to deliberately replace them with something better.

Identify several options for positive actions you could choose to take, rather than the unwanted behaviour you’re trying to eliminate. This gives you a better choice to make that will keep you moving forward when circumstances that would normally trigger the unwanted behaviour arise.

For example, if you identify that you often eat when you’re bored, perhaps you could choose to go for walks instead. If you also noted in step one that this behaviour is particularly prevalent in the late afternoon, you could form a new habit of walking the dog as soon as you get home from work.


Step 3 – Identify Emotions Surrounding The Unwanted Behaviour

Most human behaviour is driven by emotions. Therefore, to overcome any negative habits you’ll need to be acutely aware of what emotions drive the unwanted behaviours. This can sometimes be tricky, so you’ll need to pay close attention and question yourself and your motivations, both past and present.

Spend some time reflecting on the circumstances in which you’ve engaged in the behaviour you’d like to eliminate.

What was going on?

How did you feel about it?

How strong was that feeling?

Was there more than one emotion present?

If so, which one was the dominant force?

You can do the same thing on the fly when you feel the need to engage in the behaviour you’re working on eliminating. When you feel the urge, ask yourself…

Is that really what I need right now?

Why is that what I need right now?

Am I sure that’s a choice I can be happy with long term?

What am I feeling?

Which emotions are ‘up’ at the moment?

Is that emotion/s a reasonable response to the circumstances I find myself in?

Could I make a choice I’d feel better about?

The answer to that last question will come quicker and be a lot easier to implement after you’ve completed step two above.

Step 4 – Conduct Regular Self Check-Ins

Taking the time to regularly check in with yourself emotionally is incredibly helpful. Try taking ten minutes at the end of each day to sit still and identify how you’re feeling – you can even carry a notebook with you to add emotions as you notice them arising.

Regularly checking in with yourself in this way will build your self-awareness skills, which is critical to strengthening EQ, thereby mastering habit change and overcoming compulsive behaviour.


Step 5 – Find A Healthy Way To Express Your Emotions

Once you’ve identified your emotions, it’s very important to express them. While it isn’t appropriate to yell at your boss when you’re angry, you do need to express that anger at some point so it doesn’t get bottled up.

When dealing with your emotions the goal is always balance – every feeling has its value and significance. What’s needed is appropriate emotion, that is, feelings proportionate to the circumstances. That isn’t possible if you’re out of whack because your feelings are bottled up.

The easiest way to remain balanced is to express your emotions regularly. So, find ways to responsibly and authentically express your emotions without any blame, shame or drama. Yell underwater, punch a pillow, cry during a sad movie, talk to a friend, write in a journal – the options are plenty. Just make sure you’re using them often!

Step 6 – Observe & Reflect

Constantly observe how you’re responding to different people and situations. When you have time to reflect later on, ask yourself if the response you chose was the best option or if you could learn from it and do better next time.

Identifying emotions is one of the key skills required for emotional intelligence, so you’ll need to get very familiar with them. Having the courage to recognise that you aren’t perfect and look at yourself honestly will undoubtedly improve your EQ and also help you overcome any negative habits you choose to.

Reflecting on past situations also builds your ability to recognise your emotions and will quickly clue you into any emotional patterns you may have.

Bring to mind several situations that were not ideal for you – for example, getting an email that implies your boss is displeased with your work, being cut off in traffic when running late or having your partner unfairly blame you for something.

What was your reaction to these stressful situations?

Can you see any pattern?

Do you have any regular ‘cognitive distortions’? For example, do you often jump to conclusions, view things in black and white, dwell on the negative or blow things out of proportion?

What could you learn from this reflection so you can improve your response next time? 

Step 7 – Insert The Gap

Inserting ‘the gap’ simply means pausing before you react to a situation.

When something that involves heightened emotions is going on, pause, take a deep breath and count to ten. Doing so allows you to choose how you respond, rather than reacting without thinking.

This is one of the simplest but most powerful emotional intelligence tools. Use it any time you need to, but especially when the emotions that trigger unwanted habits or behaviours come up.

Inserting ‘the gap’ when trigger emotions are high will give you the moment you need to choose to use your ideas from step two and is one of the most effective emotional intelligence tools you can use.

Step 8 – Take Responsibility

Always take responsibility for yourself and your actions. When you make a mistake, own it, learn from it and move on.

If you’re not prepared to be honest with yourself in this way, you can’t possibly master habit change or break out of compulsive behavioural patterns.

Step 9 – Look For The Lesson

When you find yourself struggling with a particularly strong urge to engage in the behavioural pattern you’d like to break free from, don’t dwell on the negative.

Instead, choose to look for the lesson. Ask yourself, ‘What is the lesson here? What can I learn from this experience?’

Step 10 – Practice!

Creating and maintaining high level emotional intelligence skills delivers super fast rewards in the short term, but mastering emotional intelligence is a life long journey and regular practice is the key!

That’s it – ten simple steps for using emotional intelligence as a master skill to overcome habitual or compulsive behaviour. They’ll work in any area, any time.

Chances are while you’re practicing emotional intelligence, you’ll change a whole lot of other things for the better too.