The power of routine

A friend of mine recently lost his leg to a really bad case of sepsis. Previously, he smoked two packs a day, and had for forty years. Since he couldn’t smoke in the hospital anyway, and he thought he’d recover faster if he didn’t start again, he decided to quit. Cold turkey. He said it was easy.

No patches, no Chantix, no gum. No help at all other than one thing.

I was amazed! Then he told me how he did it.

You don’t have to suffer a major injury like

he did –

– but you can still change any habit you want to.We all have things we’d like to stop doing. We all have things we’d like to improve. It might be something like smoking or eating sugar, or it might be stopping negative thinking. It can be so hard to quit!

Luckily, my friend’s secret works. This one trick makes a bad habit much, much easier to stop.

Change your routine.

That’s it.

The reason why my friend was able to quit smoking, was because routine changed entirely as he coped with life with one leg. By the time he got back to work and started dealing with a more normal routine, the habit was already beaten.

Your mind often operates with preset “programs” that it runs during the day. Your daily routines happen almost without thought on your part, and that’s the secret. For example, a person might get up, brush their teeth, hit the shower, have a cup of coffee with a cigarette, head out the door, drive to work, have another smoke outside before going in, then go to their work station. If the routine contains a bad habit, then the bad habit is going to “run” along with the rest of the routine.

How to change your routine if your life is already set

It can seem impossible to change your routine. You’ve lived the same way for a long time, and what’s to change about it anyway? You have more control than you think. There’s always something to change. Here are some ideas. They are simply suggestions, meant to spur your own creativity.



Eat different foods or eat them in a different way. Change the color of the dishes you use. Wash up right away if that isn’t your normal habit. This tells your brain your circumstances have changed.

Morning Chores

If you usually make your bed, brush your teeth, and watch TV while eating breakfast, try brushing your teeth, making your bed, and eating breakfast while reading the paper or a book, for example.

Take a walk

Leave your shoes in an obvious place you can’t miss, so you don’t forget. If possible, do this before your shower – that way you don’t have to shower twice.

Make your bed

If you already make your bed, use a different colored top blanket.

Change your music

Listen to different music while you commute. Or listen to a book on CD.

Change your route

If there’s another way to get to work, try it. Or try another method for a while. I snacked in the car less when I started carpooling.

Rearrange your furniture

Changing the environment you live in, and changing your travel patterns within your home can also signal your brain that things are different.

Watch your triggers

If there’s something you always do near the time you do your unwanted habit, see if you can change that. If you eat a candy bar every day, for example, change your route so you don’t see the vending machine. Leave healthy snacks for yourself. If you always have a smoke with coffee, try tea for a while. Changing the flavor of the coffee might be enough. If you have problems with always being grumpy when you come home, for example, try a couple minutes of deep breathing and meditation.

The more you interrupt the usual pattern, at the same time that you are changing your habit, the better off you will be.