The 3-Step Model for Disrupting Unwanted Habits

Ep. 194 - WordPress

A lot of time and attention is given to discussing research-backed strategies to build new habits.

Although this is an incredibly valuable skill to develop, it’s equally as important, if not more, to learn how to disrupt, and then eventually dismantle unwanted habits…this creates space to replace them with new habits!

In today’s episode, Micheala and Paul discuss three key action steps you can take to help bring further awareness into your mind to disrupt unwanted habits and create an opportunity for positive change. 

Episode Key Highlights:

  • Our habits directly shape our identity. Learn why crafting your identity before attempting to dismantle a bad habit helps make this process easier.
  • Learn how to leverage the power of specificity when it comes to dismantling unwanted habits and building better ones!
  • Learn five strategies you can use to make an unwanted habit harder to execute so that you can work toward stopping it altogether.

Remember that all this month we’re running a $500 promotion to join The 5% Community. Simply mention “podcast” on your call with me and we’ll take care of the rest! Schedule your call with me here.

Episode Resources:

Listen to Episode 173: “9 Things to Know To Make Building And Breaking Habits More Effective.

Apply to Join The 5% Community


Micheala Barsotti: Hey everyone. Welcome back to another episode of The 5% Way Podcast with your host, Paul Salter and myself, Micheala Barsotti. Today, we’re going to chat all about behavior change and how to eliminate unwanted habits that are working against you and your goals. And if you want more on habit and behavior change, I highly suggest you check out episode 173, because we dive into all important things to know about making and breaking habits more effective. That’s another great episode for you. Before we dive in today’s episode though, let’s bring Paul in. Paul, how are you doing today? Paul Salter: I am fantastic. And I’m incredibly excited because this morning I was able to make significant progress on updating our entire learning curriculum and transformational content in the 5% community. And as you know, Micheala it’s been a very, very long time coming, but I was able to finish two of the, whether we want to call them modules or mini courses and the framework and the details, probably four or five others already done as well, that just need to be implemented and formatted. And what we’re ultimately moving toward is almost kind of a Netflix style of content in which we have several mini courses that you can blitz through to solve a problem or challenge that you’re experiencing. And all of our mini courses of course fall under one of our four core elements of feeling, looking, and being your best. Of course, there’s a handful of sustainable nutrition strategy courses, but also a lot of mindset and positive psychology courses, a lot of behavior change strategy and habit formation information as well as emotional awareness and management information there. And we’re on the verge of, actually by the time this episode comes out, we’ll have already unveiled it and released it to our members, but just something that’s been a long time coming. This was the third iteration of the curriculum and I’m finally, the creator in me is at peace being incredibly confident about the final end product after so many iterations. That’s ultimately going to further accelerate the transformation from the inside and out that all of our members are here to achieve. So that is what I am really looking forward to. And before we do dive in just a quick reminder, all during the month of June, we would love to just say an extra big, thank you to all of you who have been listening to us, whether you’ve been listening for an episode or for all 194, we sincerely appreciate you. So for this month, if you are someone who has been on the fence about joining the 5% community, even on the fence about having a conversation to learn more about whether it is a perfect fit for you, by taking action this month and going ahead and scheduling a call with us, which you can do with the link found in the show notes, we are going to knock off an additional $500 on your invitation to join the 5% community, if in fact you’re a perfect fit for us and we are a perfect fit for you. All you need to do on your call is simply reference that you’re a podcast listener and we’ll get that all taken care of for you. And like I mentioned, you can learn more and schedule that call with us simply by visiting the link found in the show notes of this episode. Micheala Barsotti: Yeah. And if you are interested on learning more, I think by now, Paul, we should have some of those episodes aired with our 5% members, right? So we’ve been recording some episodes with our 5% members. So definitely go back a few episodes and check those ones out to hear their inspiring stories of people that are probably very similar to you that had this very same struggles and to see where they’re at now. So if you are on the fence, again would be some great episodes to check out, just to learn more about what’s going on inside of our community. Cool. All right. Let’s dive into today’s topic, because we’re talking all about habits. And I think we can all think of a habit or two that isn’t serving us or that we really want to just boot and habit change is hard. Whether you’re trying to create a new habit or you’re trying to squash an old one, this is one of those things that’s very simple. We know what we should be doing, but it’s not always easy to do it. So today we’re going to talk through a couple of steps that you can start applying today to some of these unwanted habits to help you overcome them and hopefully move towards more positive behavior. So step number one is focusing on creating a new identity. We know that it’s our habits and behaviors that determine what kind of person we are. So the first thing that we need to do when it comes to ditching bad behaviors is to get really, really clear on the person that we want to be. So ask yourself, what does this person act like? How do they start their day? What are my priorities like if I were to show up as this person? What’s my self talk or how do I talk to others? When you create positive change over time, you move closer to that person that you want to become. And if you feel successful in these changes, you’re going to start to view yourself differently and you start to embrace this new identity. I know Paul, you talk about this a lot about who do you want to become? We have a whole module on it. Anything you want to add here? Paul Salter: Absolutely. Yeah. You took the words out of my mouth. It’s a core component of one of our introductory modules called the five most important questions you need to ask yourself for transformational change. And this example I’m going to share with you is not mine, it actually came from my coach and mentor. I shout him out, Sean Whalen, part of the Lions Den. And this was a story and a message I first heard from him, but took it and put our own unique spin to apply it to all of you. And the short story and example he shared when it comes to determining who you need to become to achieve X, Y, and Z, as he talks about how him and one of his mentors were walking along the beach in, I believe Malibu Beach out in California. And they look to their left. The Shore’s on their right. They look to the left and there’s this gigantic beachfront home that they’d said in the story, cost somewhere around $25 million and their conversation quickly moved from, oh, it’s actually fairly simple to acquire that house. You put X percent down, you need to pay X percent per month. You estimate Y for utilities and other house related expenses, like the math of purchasing a $25 million home is relatively simple. You just have to break it down, go through a few steps. However, where they quickly shifted their conversation was what really mattered. It’s who is the man or woman who purchases that home? What does he or she like, what does he or she think, believe, eat, do? How does he or she spend her time? Who does she spend it with? What stresses them out? What do they give their attention to et cetera. And it just is such a relatable example to what we are here, trying to help you with. Of course, feeling, looking and being your best, but also helping you to truly step into that role, that identity as someone who has lost significant weight and kept it off. And at the end of the day, losing weight is incredibly fucking simple. It’s a game of numbers that you can reverse engineer. And obviously not everything is perfect. The human body can be a bit finicky at times, as you know, from probably ample experience stepping on the scale and you’ve done all the right things and that number still goes up. But the point is we can reverse engineer and simplify weight loss and weight maintenance to a game of numbers. But 95% of the people who lose weight struggle to keep it off and end up gaining it all back. So clearly where we need to shift our focus, time, energy, and attention is to who is that person? What is the best version and identity of Micheala, of Paul, of you, the listener who has in fact lost the weight and kept it off? What does that version of you think, do, how do they act? How do they talk? How would other people describe them? You’ve got to get clear on that first so that now you create an opportunity in which you can ultimately appropriately align the effective action steps necessary to make that become your reality. Micheala Barsotti: Yeah, because what happens here too, is that like unintentionally you create less time for those bad habits because you’re so focused on showing up as that person that you want to be. So you start to wean out those bad habits that you are doing just because you’re showing up and stepping into that identity of that person. Paul Salter: Yeah. One thing I’ll add too, is like right as we’ve record this episode, it’s literally day one for me and a handful of people in the 5% community of phase one of the 75 hard 12 month experience. So there’s the 75 hard challenge that most people are familiar with. It’s that kind of introductory bootcamp. And there’s actually three additional or subsequent phases to this 12 month program. And as I went in preparation for this, phase one is everything you do in 75 hard, it’s only 30 days with a handful of additional tasks, including five minute cold shower or ice bath, 10 minutes of visualization, and then three additional daily tasks that are going to help you move the needle in some way, shape or form towards your biggest personal goals. And as I prepared for it, I had to really tap into who do I want to be become to ultimately get clear on what action steps I’m going to focus on for these next 30 days to move me five steps closer to becoming that person. So it all just goes back to that identity. You can create clarity on the identity you’re trying to achieve first. It does make the journey a lot easier because now you’re aware of just how hard it’s going to be, but you’re also aware of exactly what you need to do to make it happen. Micheala Barsotti: Yeah. And that’s the biggest thing about behavior changes that in the beginning, it is really challenging to adapt to these new behaviors and to really get clear on that identity. But once you are really clear, you start acting like that person every day, it does become automatic. It becomes a true habit where you’re not thinking about it. It doesn’t take as much effort. You’re just executing on a daily basis, because this is part of who you are. I love that. And then I would just say too, that the pre diet maintenance phase, I kind of thought about as I was talking about this, like that’s where we really help people get clear on their identity and the person that they want to become. And there’s a reason why when they join our program, even if they have a goal of weight loss or body composition goals, that we don’t start there because there is so much to be built in this phase, the foundation of getting so clear on what these habits and behaviors are that are going to drive them forward. Because as you’ll hear us talk about in so many different episodes, it doesn’t matter whether you’re dieting or not, your habits and behaviors do not change. So you better get really clear on those before you enter into your diet. And then two, when you exit out of your diet, nothing’s changing there except for the amount of food on your plate. So just another point I wanted to make there too. Okay. So number one, focusing on creating a new identity. Number two is getting really specific on what habit you’re trying to stop. So I wish that we could say, if you just got really clear on your identity altogether, that that would be enough for you to boot all the bad habits, but reality is it’s not. So when it comes to stopping a bad habit, getting rid of it, a common mistake is that we focus too much on general habits, but we need to get really specific. So for example, let’s say your bad habit is you go to bed too late. This is a great general habit that you’ve acknowledged. Now, what you need to do is come up with a list of very specific habits that contribute to the general habit of staying up too late. So for instance, you’re scrolling on your phone in bed at night, your binge watching Netflix episodes, you’re drinking caffeine too close to bedtime. All of these are habits that contribute to you staying up too late. So we need to get really clear on what those are, because if we focus too much on the general habit, what’s going to happen is we start to feel too frustrated and intimidated by it that it can cause avoidance altogether. So we don’t actually start to tackle this and move forward. But if you focus on the habits, the smaller habits, it’s always about the small, tiny steps that contribute to the big general one that you’re trying to overcome, it’s going to feel a lot more manageable. And Paul, I would love to hear you talk about, because when we create more awareness around some of the negative habits that we have, that can feel daunting and negative, right? Because we’re like bringing a lot of awareness to things that we’re doing that are not great. So can you talk about how that can actually benefit us, like that feeling of, I don’t know, being like down on yourself about not doing the things that you want to do and showing up as that person that you want to be? Paul Salter: Yeah, I think we’re guilty or at least maybe I definitely am. And maybe you can relate, everyone listening of overestimating just how good we are when it comes to some of these tiny habits. So this actually hits home for me and I love this section Micheala, like I think it’s such a powerful concept and example for, I have a business coach right now and he just made me audit all of my time and do the meticulous task of how am I spending this 30 minute interval and this 30 minute. And it’s meticulous, it’s obnoxious, but it’s incredibly valuable. And I know this. I’ve done this multiple times. I coach, I teach on it for all of our members as well, but it’s not fun to say the least. And one of my goals actually that’s A, is a part of this 75 hard phase one challenge that I’m committing to, but it’s been a long term goal of mine that I haven’t really made too much headway on for a long time until now is ending my work day by 5:00 PM. No if ands or buts, no negotiations other than Wednesday nights when we have our fire calls, of course. But aside from that, it is really stopping my work day, like pencils down, computers shut, done. Go do something productive with your life that has nothing to do with work. And as I went through that, the time audit, I was like, oh, holy shit, I spend that much time on ESPN or that much time surfing on YouTube, that much time on Instagram, or that much time doing whatever that was not productive. I was like, wow. I just found two hours in my day that I could save and probably end my work day by 4:30, if I have a really smooth effective day. And it was humbling because as I mentioned, I thought I was pretty good. Like I thought I was limiting my time to surf the internet while I ate lunch, limiting my time on Instagram, limiting my time in Slack and whatnot, but it turns out maybe my intention was good, but my action did not mirror my intention. And I was wasting a lot more time than I thought. And I had to eat a slice of humble pie as we all do when we are presented with this gift of awareness. And awareness truly is a gift because it is the first key ingredient to being able to make positive change. And it can be tough to digest and a challenge to actually accept. But if you can set your ego aside and just say, okay, this is going to make me better. This is going to help me. Even if it hurts, you truly can fast track yourself into positive, productive habit change, which is really the central core focus of this episode. Micheala Barsotti: Yeah. I love that. And I would just say too, making a little note to pick the easiest one first. So as you’re going through what it is that, those smaller more specific habits, pick the easiest one, start there and then start to build momentum as you go. It’s always about the small little changes. Paul Salter: I’ll add too to follow up on how I attacked mine is I found the window of time. Like every morning when I go eat my breakfast, I would go eat out on my porch by my pool. And I’d put music on, I’d have my breakfast in front of me. I’d be on Instagram, attempting to follow up with people and stuff, but also scrolling mindlessly, getting lost in a rabbit hole. So that for me was my low hanging fruit. So what I did instead is I set an alarm or a timer for 15 minutes and I put my phone completely out of reach, out of sight and just enjoyed my breakfast, which is, I know seems very simple, but I’m always doing something. I’m practicing more being. So that was low hanging fruit, number one. And then after the timer went off, I then immediately set the timer again and just did dedicated Instagram work then. So I could be in and out in 15 productive minutes. Actually it only took me like 11. And instead of mindlessly scrolling, taking a bite here and there for 30, 40, and so forth, so on and so forth. Micheala Barsotti: Yeah. I think that’s so great. Alarms are such a like undervalued part of like creating a new habit or just getting more clear on, bringing more awareness to whatever the situation is. We talk about that a lot. It reminds me of Nicole and all her, Paul Salter: I was just going to go there. Micheala Barsotti: Dang alarms. But yeah, it’s like, that can be great, but whatever it is to bring more awareness to that thing. And I think, I’m really working on how I structure my day and making my day more productive. And I can really relate to what you were saying. I did that timestamp card thing too. And oh my gosh, I had a lot of awareness brought to, room for improvement. But yeah, I don’t know. I think that it’s just taking one step at a time and starting with those easy ones. Don’t overlook the power of those easy little changes because they add up to be a lot. Paul Salter: They do and shout out to Nicole and Nicole is our 5% community member of the year who we learn is an avid alarm advocate. She has alarms going off when she spent two days with Micheala and I down here, that I felt like there was an alarm going off every hour on the hour for hydration, movement or all the above, but we loved it and we support her and admire her and respect her so much. And it was just a funny, it’s a funny concept that we can joke about with her. Micheala Barsotti: And it works. I mean, she’s a rockstar. Paul Salter: It works. Micheala Barsotti: So it works. All right. And then step three is making the habit harder to do. So if the above, what we just explained, hasn’t really worked for you, you haven’t been able to break that habit. I got this, the ability chain from the book, Tiny Habits. And he talks about the different ways that you can make this habit a barrier for you. For example, increasing the time that it takes to do this thing. So a big one here is controlling your environment. I would say like, let’s say you’re trying to kick the late night ice cream. Well, an easy way to do this is don’t have ice cream in your home, right? Like sounds super simple. But if you make it harder for you that night, you really want ice cream and you have to get in your car and go to the store. Well, then you might think twice about doing that thing. Paul, you have one, anything you can think of here with environment, because this is such a powerful one with controlling your environment. Paul Salter: Yeah. Well I love the time concept. It’s just like you mentioned that if you have to go get in your car and drive 10 minutes to the grocery store, wherever you’re getting your ice cream. That’s 10 minutes of opportunity to convince yourself, to take a different action, to get out of your own way. So I love that anything you can do to put the bad habit, you and some time between the two of you so that you do have opportunity to let the emotional charge hijacking that’s taking place on the decision making component of your brain simmer down, fade away, let your logic and rational thinking come back into play. But building off of environment too, I really think it’s incredibly important to structure your environment for success. And one of the most profound pieces of research on habit change literally shows that it is an incredibly valuable opportunity when you change your environment to completely transform, rewrite, unlearn some of your current habits. And it couldn’t be any more true when it comes to designing your kitchen, designing your bedroom, designing any other aspect of your house that you typically engage in an counterproductive habit that it’s not serving you. And it could be as simple as I love the opportunity to put the phone on a different side of the room. So if you’re a chronic snooze button participant, one of the best things you can do is put your phone alarm way out of reach, but even go one step further, make it a loud, obnoxious, blaring alarm that’s going to jolt you, scare you, and make your dog bark, et cetera, to get you out of bed. And then environmentally is so, keeping things out of sight, out of mind, out of the house, goes a really long way and designing your place of relaxation to be a place of relaxation. Don’t bring your work or anything related to stressing you out into your calm Zen space, if you will. If you can keep those positive vibes, energies, et cetera, in the rooms where you want to actually relax, it’s going to do you a lot of good. Micheala Barsotti: I heard this quote once and I don’t know who it was from, but they said that those who practice the most self discipline use it the least, or those that had the most self discipline use it the least because they set up their environment for success. And it was just kind of like a little aha moment, because it’s so true. Like you think about all the things that you do in a day that like you’re really successful at like it’s just, it’s automatic, right? Because everything you do, your life is kind of designed to set you up for just a smooth ride to do those things. That’s how we become more successful, is not having to continuously flex that willpower muscle. Next one is increasing the money required. So like making the habit more expensive. And in the book, he talks about, the example he gives, he says that this is a lot harder to do if you’re applying it to yourself because I mean, let’s be real. We got to use like the honor system here and make sure that you’re actually going to pay if you do the bad thing. But so what popped in my mind was the swear jar. Like, let’s say you’re trying to stop swearing. I don’t know. Did anyone grow up with a swear jar? Just me. Paul Salter: Maybe just you. Micheala Barsotti: But if you swear, you got to put money in the jar. So maybe that is that barrier that you need to not swear as much. But an example that he uses for other people would be like, let’s say you want your kids to not play as much video games. You charge them $5 every hour that they want to play a video game. So maybe that discourages them from playing the video games. So that’s the idea behind that one. Might not work for everybody, but it’s an option for you. And then the next one being increasing the physical effort that’s required. So making it physically harder to do that thing. I use the example of the junk food. I think that, or not keeping junk food in the house. I think this also applies here. If you’re craving something and you really want it again, the physical effort of you have to get in your car and go get it creates that barrier. And then Paul, I know you had one too. Paul Salter: I think it goes back to just the example I share earlier. Like it’s, if you have to get out of your bed to turn off a blaring alarm in the morning, Micheala Barsotti: Yeah. Paul Salter: Like you’re far less likely than actually go lay down and go back to sleep and hit the snooze button. Can you do it? Probably, but that physical effort is really going to be something that curtails that behavior. Micheala Barsotti: Next one, increasing the mental effort that’s required. So this one can really be huge in helping reduce habit frequency. What comes to mind for me here is like food journals, how they can be so powerful because it brings awareness to mindless eating. When you are logging what you’re eating, it requires more mental energy and you might find that it’s just simply not worth you having to record those handfuls of this or that. And then an example he uses in the book, which I thought was great was like, let’s say, you’re trying to not go on like social platforms during the day, make your password like really tricky. So that it’s something that takes a while for you to plug it all in. I think of like a wifi password, like those random letters and numbers, just mumbo jumbo together, something like that. Again, it’s just the barrier that you need to make that task harder so you think twice before you do it, because that’s really what we want to do. We want to create something that’s going to, or create the barrier that’s going to allow us to pause and have some awareness come into that situation so we can decide if we actually want to do it. So that we can lead with logic and not just our emotions in that moment. And then the last one here is making the habit conflict with important routines throughout your day. So this one is the hardest, but it’s looking for ways to make your unwanted habit conflict with an important habit that you do, a routine that you value more than this habit that you’re trying to stop doing. For instance, I have grown to absolutely love my morning routine. Like my first hour of the day is my favorite hour in the whole day. And I actually like gets me up in the morning. That’s how excited I am, because I love that hour. But with that being said, I know that when I don’t go to bed on time, like if I watch that extra episode of Netflix, I don’t have to get up at the time that I do. So I can easily snooze the alarm 10 minutes, 15 minutes, but that cuts into my favorite hour of the day. So it’s often not worth it for me. So I don’t even think twice about watching TV before bed, if it’s after a certain time, because I know that that’s going to negatively impact a routine that I love. So that’s just an example for me. I don’t know, Paul, if you can kind of think of anything for you that really might throw a wrench in a negative habit that you’d easily be able to kick. So you just know it’s not worth it. Paul Salter: I second yours, like I feel the same way about my morning, but I also feel the same way about my evening routine because they’re so interrelated and connected to one another and that’s part of further motivation to stop working at an earlier and earlier time is so that I can truly spend the remaining few hours before my old man, early bedtime, doing whatever I want, connecting with friends, family, my dog and still having the appropriate amount of time to wind down stress free. I mean, there’s no work on top of my mind. I’ve done my brain dump. I’ve left it for tomorrow. I’ve washed my hands of it so I can slowly get ready, wind down, do my journaling, meditation, reading, hang out with the dog, et cetera, and have a peaceful environment as I wind down for the day. Micheala Barsotti: Love that. Okay. So I think just kind of recapping here. Number one is that we have to own the identity of the person that we want to be. And we have to be really, really clear on that. So if there is a gap there and you’re not super clear on that person, then it’s going to be harder to act like them. Right. Second one is getting really specific on what the habits are that you’re trying to break. Create the, or identify the general habit first and then break it down into smaller habits and start tackling those one by one, starting with the easiest ones first. And then if needed, if you still can’t break that habit, then try any one of those different barriers to make that habit harder using the ability chain. Any last thoughts Paul, when it comes to breaking habits? Paul Salter: Reverse engineering is your best approach. Get clear on that identity first. And it makes all of the nuance strategic changes that much clearer and that much simpler to actually execute and make headway with. Micheala Barsotti: Love it. Cool. Well, we thank you guys so much for listening today. We hope that you found this discussion valuable. If you did, we would very much appreciate it if you share it with somebody who you also think would find it valuable. And don’t forget to leave us a genuine rating and review on Apple Podcasts or wherever it is that you listen to this. This helps us get to more ears and more people so we can help spread our message. So thank you guys. And we will see you next week.

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Paul Salter

Paul Salter is a Registered Dietitian and Founder of The 5% Way. Since 2013, Paul has worked one-on-one with nearly 1,500 men and women, helping them to collectively lose tens of thousands of pounds of body fat and keep it off for good. He’s also published nearly 1,000 articles, two books, and 175 podcast episodes (and counting) on all things related to our five core elements of sustainable weight loss.



Micheala is a Transformation and Community Success Coach. She specializes in bringing out the absolute best in you and helping you see that you already have everything you need to achieve the transformational results you desire. Micheala will be an incredible asset for you on your journey since she went through the process herself and has seen long lasting results.

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