“If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got.”

~ Anthony Robbins

Up until my mid-thirties, I chewed my nails down to the quick, very often until my fingers bled. It was a habit I’d learned as child when, unable to master trimming my nails with scissors, I’d resorted to using my teeth to trim them. Then one day I stopped, and I haven’t bitten them since so since. And you might be curious as to how I achieved that ….




Habits are naturally great things that free our minds to focus on new things, making them both more efficient and productive. They enable us to cope with the huge amount of information, choices, decisions, goals and emotions we experience every day. We have habits for a large part of our daily life. Many habits are initiated and performed outside of our conscious awareness – on autopilot.

Good habits make it easier for us to achieve desired results because less mental energy is required to perform default behaviours. However, undesirable habits can stop us from achieving our goals, jeopardize our health — both mentally and physically, and stop us from meeting our needs in balance.

Interestingly, all of the habits that you have right now — good or bad — are in your life for a reason. In some way, these behaviours provide a benefit to you, even if they are bad for you in other ways. For example, many people form bad habits as a way to cope with stress, with the unwanted behaviour often taking the form of smoking, drinking, or eating too much.

It's never too late to break a habit …..

"What we know from lab studies is that it's never too late to break a habit. Habits are malleable throughout your entire life.”

~ Charles Duhigg author of The Power of Habit

The key to replacing a bad habit with a new habit lies in understanding the structure of your habit and then changing one or more of the components. Fortunately, all habitual behaviour has the same three part structure:

  1. a cue, or trigger, that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and let a behaviour unfold.
  2. a behaviour or routine; and
  3. a reward. This is something that your brain likes, that helps it to remember repeat the behaviour in future. Every habit, good or bad habit provides some type of benefit in your life, so in order to break an undesirable habit you need to replace it with a new habit that provides a similar benefit.

For example, if you smoke when you feel stressed, then it's a bad plan to “just stop smoking.” Instead, you might:

  • Change the cue. Our environment is full of triggers and we can make it much easier on ourselves by avoiding the things that trigger the habit loop. So for example, if the trigger for your smoking is a particular chair you sit in at home, take that chair out of the room or consciously choose to sit in a different chair. When we change the trigger(s) we change the outcome.
  • Change the behaviour. In our stress example you would come up with a healthier behaviour to deal with stress, such as practicing diaphragmatic breathing. You would practice doing this new behaviour in response to the trigger rather than reaching for a cigarette.

Mental rehearsal and repetition

You can fast track the habit change process through mental rehearsal and repetition. Mental rehearsal is the key to learning how to change your habits without needing to physically repeat the new pattern over and over again. The most effective ways to engage your mind in this mental rehearsal – are visualisation, hypnosis, and self-hypnosis. Most great athletes and entertainers use mental rehearsal to embed new behaviours and to improve their performance. Many people have successfully broken bad habits with the help of one or two sessions of hypnosis and hypnosis has long been a popular method for smokers looking to break their smoking habit.

So how did I manage to stop biting my nails?

….. one day I was given a pair of nail clippers. The clippers meant that rather than respond automatically to the cue (my nails feel too long) by biting my nails, I could instead use the clippers. In doing so I replaced the undesirable behaviour with a behaviour which provided the same, if not better, reward (short nails).

What Next?

If you’d like to explore how I can help you break one or more of your unwanted/unhealthy habits and/or install a better, healthier, more life enhancing habit, call me on 021 056 8389, email tony@tycoaching.nz or use the Book Now button below to schedule a complimentary half hour coaching consultation.

REMEMBER - "When you change your mind you change your life."

Go well


Tony helps individuals to harness the power of their mind to achieve success and well-being in life, work and business. Tony's particular area of expertise lies in helping people to 'change their minds' so they overcome limiting beliefs and unhelpful habits and gain freedom from worry, anxiety and stress. Tony’s solution focused approach to coaching uses a range of techniques drawn from the fields of co-active coaching, hypnosis, positive psychology and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP).