Bad Habits Are Hard To Break..Here's One Way to Do It...

Apr 01, 2018
Behavioral Finance, Article, Research

Looking to change a bad habit? Aren't we all? Then you better know about Ironic Process Theory. Say what? Here's how the Sketch Guy, Carl Richards, of NY Times describes it:

The harder people try not to think of something, the more they end up thinking about it. Ironic, no?

Maybe it's that chocolate cake for dessert, those wasted minutes (that become hours) surfing social media for friend updates or the $4 coffee habit. These habits become ingrained and when that thought (mmm...cake) pops into our heads (boom!), we can't resist. Carl's advice..don't resist but instead replace! 

Here's the strategy:

One trick is to pull a little bait and switch on your own brain. It goes like this: When the urge comes to do the counterproductive thing, don’t resist. Instead, replace.

Let me explain with an example. I had a friend that had an urge-based habit he wanted to break. He fought with it for years using the resist, resist, resist method with predictable results. Finally, he decided to try something different. Every time he felt that urge, instead of trying to fight it he replaced the resistance with, drumroll, please …A drink of water. That’s right: A drink of water.

I'm going to be a guinea pig here and to cut down on those late night raids on the snack pantry or that 9pm bowl of cereal, I'm going to try the same...a glass of water. Drop me a line ( and let me know about your replacement strategies. 


About the Author

Tim Ranzetta

Tim's saving habits started at seven when a neighbor with a broken hip gave him a dog walking job. Her recovery, which took almost a year, resulted in Tim getting to know the bank tellers quite well (and accumulating a savings account balance of over $300!). His recent entrepreneurial adventures have included driving a shredding truck, analyzing executive compensation packages for Fortune 500 companies and helping families make better college financing decisions. After volunteering in 2010 to create and teach a personal finance program at Eastside College Prep in East Palo Alto, Tim saw firsthand the impact of an engaging and activity-based curriculum, which inspired him to start a new non-profit, Next Gen Personal Finance.