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The Secret to Changing Bad Habits

Ron McMillan, co-author of the book Influencer: The Power to Change Anything believes we’re just an idea or two away from overcoming our most persistent and resistant bad habits and he shares the secret.


When it comes to personal change, nearly all of us are failures. But, the good news is we’re just an idea or two away from overcoming our most persistent and resistant bad habits.

The four most common habits people have tried but failed to conquer are:

1. Physical inactivity

2. Obesity and overeating

3. Procrastination

4. Financial irresponsibility

Motivation is not the key to change. More than half of respondents have tried for 10 years to overcome the same bad habit but made little progress. And yet in spite of a decade of failure only three percent of people have completely given up. And extra motivation won’t help you succeed at change.

The secret to breaking bad habits is to learn from the times we’ve succeeded. It’s important to remember that we’ve all been successful in the past and that’s why we don’t give up. But when trying to change our current bad habits, we do get stuck. The biggest mistake we make is to look for a single “magic bullet” answer to an entrenched habit. We think one source of influence is all it will take to break free of a powerful habit. And when this magic bullet doesn’t work, we get discouraged and beat ourselves up for being weak and undisciplined.

If people can learn to spot the sources of influence that are responsible for their
current bad habits, they can create an influence plan for replacing their bad
behaviors with good ones and ultimately, make change inevitable.

Six Sources of Influence to Change Bad Habits – Once And For All

(From the co-authors of Influencer: The Power to Change Anything)

1. Tap into values. Make your intended change a “moral imperative.” Create a short description of the values you are putting at risk if you don’t change and the values you will realize if you do. Commit this to memory and re-anchor yourself to this source of motivation when the going gets tough.

2. Build skills. New habits usually require new skills. Some people need to acquire skills that apply directly to the change like specific training or coaching; while others must develop greater skill at resisting impulses in order to change tough habits.

3. Influence the influencers. Most bad habits are enabled by other people. Relationships that foster bad habits need to change in order to build and support new habits. For example, if a spouse buys the food and cooks high-fat meals, enlist his/her support to ensure you can truly adopt a healthier diet.

4. Add accountability. Make your commitments public. Build social support and even a bit of social pressure by letting people you trust and admire know about your goals. Ask them to hold you accountable and report regularly.

5. Lower costs and add rewards. Be sure your change strategies are affordable and sustainable or else you’re likely to see it through. Also, use small incentives to jump start change. Buy a new outfit when you achieve a weight loss goal, or give yourself a bit of spending money when you save as you’ve intended.

6. Enlist the environment. Much of behavior is influenced by our physical environment – the buildings, reports, tools, and things surrounding us. Smart influencers design the environment to enable new behaviors and by doing so, create an influence strategy that works 24×7. For example, if you want to overcome a drug addiction, remove any reminders and triggers from your home environment.


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