Over the last two weeks I shared some background, and then some highlights from a wonderful book, Zen Habits: Mastering the Art of Change by Leo Babauta.

As Leo explains, quitting a bad habit is harder than starting a good one because you have the urge to continue the bad habit. Here are his steps:

Have a deeper why. For example, quit smoking for your kids.

Make a commitment. Mark on your calendar the date you’re going to start and tell other people about it.

Get some accountability and support. For example, tell your friends to hold you accountable and to ask you for daily updates.

Understand your triggers. Make notes about what triggers your bad habit,. For example, among the times he found he would smoke: after eating, drinking coffee, drinking alcohol, or being around other smokers, and that awareness helped him quit.

Know what need the habit is meeting. For example, smoking around other smokers helped him with a social need and he had to create a plan to cope with that.

Replacements. He found alternate activities to do after eating or drinking coffee or alcohol.

Reminders. Leo put up visual reminders everywhere, especially around where triggers happen.

Try gradual reduction. Leo quit smoking cold turkey, but explains more recent research supports the idea of gradually reducing your bad habit. (This is something I talk about in all my speaking engagements and in my book. Smoking 19 cigarettes a day has to be better for you than smoking 20. If you’ve failed other attempts to quit, why not try 21 days of cutting down by one cigarette, and then 21 days of cutting out another cigarette. In a year you’ll be down to just a few cigarettes a day if you stick with this method.)

Learn from mistakes. I talk about this when I speak about my fifth rule, “be a lifelong learner.” Leo says, if you mess up, be forgiving, and don’t let one mistake derail. Review what happened, accept it, and figure out a better plan for next time. This way, you can see your mistakes as helping you improve your method for quitting, rather than allowing them to be a cause of frustration and stress.

Watch the urges and delay. Learn to recognize the urges as they happen and watch them rise and fall without acting. If you feel desperate to act on the urge, do something else: drink some water, call a friend, go for a walk, get out of the situation.

What do you think of Leo’s ideas? Please join the conversation with your comments…

All the best,