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Positive Intention and it's Dark Side: How to Ditch a Bad Habit



Let’s start out by agreeing that all behavior has a positive intention, specifically in regards to your habits.


  • Smoke too many cigarettes? Is it possible the intention was to experience the ritual behavior of smoking or get a moment alone?


  • Skipped your workout? Is it possible the intention was to rest or get off your feet?


  • Drink too much? Is it possible the intention was to unwind after the work week and spend time with friends?


  • Sweet tooth? Is it possible the intention was to give yourself a little sweetness?


  • Binge watched an entire season? Is it possible the intention was to take your mind off something else?


  • Doom-scrolling? Is it possible the intention is to feel connected?


Listed above are common “bad habits” that may be guided by a part of you that has a positive intention. How can you separate the “bad habit” from the positive intention?


Most of us have some bad habit. Usually we don’t recognize the useful purpose behind our bad habits, but we do know that they’re not good for us. It can be helpful to recognize that at one time this bad habit was a behav

ior that was a solution to something. It served us in some way.


What’s your bad habit? What part of you is responsible for your bad habit? What is the positive intention behind that bad habit? When did you start doing the bad habit to get the result that was positive at the time?


If there were other ways to accomplish the positive intention that would work as well or better than the bad habit, would you be interested in those?


If you answered yes- it’s time to get creative! Consider several alternative behaviors that could accomplish the positive intention without doing the bad habit.


Commit to trying the alternatives. If the alternatives don’t work and the behavior comes back, that’s a signal that the alternatives weren’t good enough; it’s time to go back, check the intention, and create more and better choices.


This is a cycle: recognize the positive intention of the bad habit, and the positive intention of the part of you that is ready to change.


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