When it comes to reach a fitness goal or simply achieve any target in life, the first barrier we face in life is our existing daily bad habits. Be it a habit of eating sugar or a craving for any unhealthy distraction. You might get motivated once in a while by watching an inspirational video or motivational speech, first it almost always fails to translate in to a long-lasting change in your life. This is because our daily habits, especially bad ones, are acting as a barrier and holding us back from leaping towards our successful life.

Okay, so we have identified our problem, but what is the solution? How do we break away from our bad habit? How do we stop our daily craving for, let’s say, eating sweets or wasting our life away browsing the internet?

The solution is simple. But Before I dive deep into breaking it down for you, let me first tell you that building a habit is different from breaking one. And of course building good habit is key to achieving your life goals but it is especially difficult when you are already engrossed and over powered with bad ones. You can’t put a medicine on a cut before you stop it bleeding, so you need to first remove the bad habits from your life, especially the damaging one and then slowly heal your life by incorporating good habits in them.



For some people breaking a bad habit can be simply done by replacing them by a good one, like it was suggested Charles Duhigg his famous book “The Power of Habit”, however the same technique might not work for everyone. Another popular technique developed by the Author Nir Eyal is called “Progressive extremism”. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying Duhigg’s technique doesn’t work but I am trying to highlight another technique for those people for whom substituting one habit for another is not an option – just an alternative choice.



The process of “progressive extremism” utilizes what we know about the psychology of identity to help stop behaviors we don’t want. Identity helps us make otherwise difficult choices by offloading willpower. Our choices become what we do because of who we are. Let me elaborate-

Say you love eating meat, many people do and if you suddenly want to stop eating meat for any particular reason (hypothetically), it will be very difficult. Because let’s face it, its tasty and you WANT to eat it. But think of someone who is a vegetarian, surely their taste buds would also appreciate the delicate flavors of a luscious, juicy piece of steak; but how do they stop themselves from giving in?

This is where the psychology of Identity comes in to play. A vegetarian doesn’t eat meat and once someone has designated themselves to this identity, what is so appealing to people doesn’t seem to attract them. What might be loved by many simply becomes inedible to them because they have started defining themselves differently. The same concept works with for instance a Hindu who does not eat beef or an observant Muslim does not eat pork and drink alcohol–they just don’t.

Thus, Identity helps us make otherwise difficult choices by offloading willpower. Our choices become what we do because of who we are.



A recent research study published in Journal of Consumer Research  tested the effect of the words a person use on their control over temptation. In the experiment, a group was told to use the words “I can’t” while the other group used “I don’t” when considering unhealthy food choices. After the study, both group were offered a chocolate bar as a gift where 65 percent of people who used the words “I don’t” refused the bar in compared to 35 percent of the people who used “I can’t”. Just like a vegetarian tells himself, “I don’t eat meat, it’s my identity I just don’t.




To put this technique into practice, begin by recognizing the action you desire to stop doing. For instance, you want to stop eating processed sugar. Now doing all at once, cutting out all the manufactured sweet stuff is too large of a goal for most people to achieve. However, if you pick one specific form of processed sugar – something that you can actually cut from your diet and remove it from your life. Make your first choice something that you aren’t really going to miss and you can live life with it being gone forever from your diet; now this is crucial because starting with something comparatively small and easy to get rid of gets you in the flow and momentum of changing yourself for good- just like a dominos effect- the first push is fairly soft.

The key thing to remember is, it has to be something which, if removed, you won’t really miss it, something whose trigger is not present in your near environment. To give my own example, let’s say soft drinks, I have associated myself to the identity of someone who simply don’t drink soft drinks. Not something that I try to avoid or I shouldn’t drink but as something I as a person simply DON’T DRINK.

Now this might seem overwhelming, but trust me it works. It may not be easy but a simple and effective solution.

Always remember, If the commitment feels like too much, you’re doing too much. Each step should feel nearly effortless, no big deal, but involve something you can be proud to give up forever.

To give another example, say you want to stop your habit of scrolling through Facebook for hours. Leaving Facebook might prove to be too much and might always be unsuccessful. But if you simply change it up and delete the app from your phone and commit to being someone who only use it on desktop, the change might not feel too overwhelming while you actually started saving your time from digital distraction.

The process of stopping bad habits may take a long time, but progressive extremism is a very effective technique that in the long term can help get rid of behavior that are doing you no good. The initial steps may seem insignificant, and that is the key, if it seems insignificant, it won’t hurt much to leave, but with time, by slowly heightening up what you don’t do, you invest in a new identity through your record of successfully dropping bad habits from your life. It may start small, but over time, it adds up to a whole new you.


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