All of us have habits that either undermine or contribute to success; usually, some of both. The undermining habits need to be broken and replaced with new and better ones—a task that many find difficult. A habit is a behaviour developed over time that you have learned to do without thinking, which is why it’s so hard to break: what takes time to build takes time to break, and you have to be intentional instead of thoughtless. Often, a habit is an automatic reaction to a trigger. For example, when I was a smoker, I would automatically reach for a cigarette and light up whenever the phone rang, or whenever I had a close call while driving. Similarly, a person with an overeating habit might experience an extreme yearning for food when hearing the coffee truck horn at any time of day; unable to resist eating whether hungry or not, they’d indulge. In all of these cases, the habit controls our actions.

For those of us pursuing a specific goal in our careers or businesses, habits are of extreme importance in realizing these goals. This being the case, one is well advised to examine current habits closely to determine if they will undermine or contribute to the planned enterprise.

For instance, say you’re routinely late, and the venture you’re planning demands punctuality. Clearly, you’ll have to break the lateness habit and build an on-time one. Don’t wait to do this till after you’ve started the venture; do it before! Why? Because it’s a great diagnostic. If you discover you lack the personal discipline and perseverance to change this one habit, it will be a warning to you that you lack the even greater discipline and persistence needed to build whatever it is you’re planning to start, and that it’s unlikely to succeed.

Or suppose you’re thinking of starting your own business, but because of your poor budgeting and spending habits, you consistently fail to live within your means. Careful financial management is essential in any business. So, before you launch out, you need to break the spending habit and replace it with a new, disciplined one that sets limits in advance and then sticks to them. If you can’t do this before you start your new business venture, you certainly won’t be able to do it afterwards, with disastrous results.

Breaking negative habits and replacing them with positive ones that contribute to success is not easy. It requires, without exception, a burning desire to see the desired result produced. So you need to know what that result is; you need a clear picture in your mind of what it looks like and why you want it. In my case, to break my smoking (and later, drinking) habit, I had to have a clear vision of what my life would look like once I’d broken that habit. The picture of a non-smoking and non-drinking life was so vivid to me, and I wanted that life so badly, that it empowered me to hang in there when the going got tough in the habit-changing struggle.

One other thing is needed to replace a bad habit with a good one: prayer. Talk to God about your habit and why you want to change it, and ask him for his help. With prayer, determination, and a burning desire to succeed, you will achieve success.

To knowledge, add self-control; and to self-control, perseverance.                  —2 Peter 1:6