I’ve been biting my nails since I was a kid. I have no idea how young I was when I started. I also have no idea how many times I’ve tried to quit. It’s a quite a few.

What I know is I finally kicked the habit when I finally I focused on it for 21 days.

My successful habit change began last summer when my wife, Marcie, suggested that I wear a rubber band on my wrist—not only as a reminder, but also so when I felt the urge to bite my nails I could pull on the rubber band and let it go, giving myself a small snap on the wrist.

Like most habit, it started slowly. I would catch myself in the act as my awareness increased. Soon, I started to catch myself before I started to bite my nails.

During a vacation in early October, I bought a $3 string bracelet from a street vendor to replace the rubber band. It couldn’t snap like the rubber band, but I didn’t feel I needed that any longer. Still, I liked the idea of keeping the reminder in place because the habit had been ingrained in me for so long.

I worried I would slip back into the habit because I had failed at quitting so many times before. But this time was different. This time I was truly focused for the 21 days it takes to form a habit. And I didn’t do it at the same time I was working on other habits, which would have overtaxed my willpower.

A couple of additional things I did to help:

  1. I put a pair of gloves in my car to wear for long drives. Marcie and I had both noticed that I tended to bite my nails on long drives in the past.
  2. I put a nail clipper in my bathroom next to my toothbrush. For some reason, in past attempts at quitting I had tried various places to keep the nail clipper, but never next to my toothbrush, which has turned out to be the perfect place.

I’m sharing this story with you for several reasons:

  1. I’m amazed that I finally did it. Even though I have made hundreds of changes in my life, this one was a lifetime habit I had tried to kick before, which made it seem very daunting to me. I know it’s not like giving up cigarettes—nails don’t have a drug in them that makes them hard to give up and causes withdrawal sickness. (On the other hand, nails don’t cause cancer, so there isn’t as much incentive to kick the habit.)
  2. It’s a habit I finally kicked by using my own much-touted method: focusing on the change for 21 days, and doing so when I wasn’t working on another new habit at the same time, allowing me to focus my limited willpower on the one goal.
  3. Like most long-time habits, changing it wasn’t easy. But like most long-time habits that I have changed, it went like this:
  • I made a decision to make the change.
  • My awareness of the habit increased dramatically.
  • Sometimes I reverted to my old ways, but at all times I noticed what I was doing, rather than acting mindlessly.
  • Over approximately 21 days, my awareness had increased to the point where I had developed a new habit.

What are some of the habits you’ve been working on? What are your success stories? Are you breaking down your big goals into small pieces?  Join the conversation with your comments…

Best regards,