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Why Giving Up Habits Is Less About Discipline & More About Dialing Back Your Expectations

Over the last three years I’ve given up alcohol, beef, pork, and eggs (among many other things) – learn what superfoods and supplements your body needs – but I didn’t do it all overnight. Instead, it took years of baby steps, failures, and self-development to make it stick. Here’s one path that you can use to give up anything you want for good.

In our quest to lead healthier, more fulfilling lives, we often encounter the daunting challenge of giving up bad habits. It’s a journey that many embark on with a mix of determination and trepidation.

Over the last three years, I’ve successfully bid farewell to alcohol, beef, pork, and eggs (and a lot of other things), but it wasn’t an overnight transformation. It was a journey marked by incremental steps, setbacks, and personal growth. My experience might offer a roadmap for those seeking to make lasting changes in their own lives.


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Understanding the Role of Expectations in Breaking Habits

The common narrative around breaking bad habits centers heavily on discipline. However, through my journey, I’ve learned that it’s less about strict self-discipline and more about setting realistic expectations.

Adjusting our expectations plays a crucial role in the process of giving up detrimental habits. It’s about understanding that change is gradual, and accepting that setbacks are part of the journey.

A Gradual Departure

My process of giving up alcohol exemplifies this gradual approach. The process spanned over five years, starting with giving up certain types of alcohol, one at a time. I also gave up drinking for longer and longer periods, spanning weeks, then months (I found purpose-based periods helpful as well, like giving up for the 40 days of Lent). In 2019, I took a bold step and abstained for a whole year.

This period of abstinence was crucial; it allowed me to reset my relationship with alcohol. While I drank again in 2020, I decided to give up entirely in 2021. This phased approach helped me adjust psychologically and physically to a life without alcohol, making the final step feel less like a leap and more like a natural progression.

The Power of Factual Backing

One aspect that significantly bolstered my resolve was the factual understanding of how these habits affected my health.

In-depth research into the scientific and medical implications of alcohol and dietary choices laid a strong foundation for my decision-making.

Acknowledging the tangible health risks and benefits made the process more objective and less reliant on fluctuating willpower.

Spiritual & Personal Motivations

Alongside factual knowledge, my journey was deeply rooted in spiritual and personal motivations. These motivations stemmed from a desire for a healthier lifestyle and the responsibility I felt towards my family and personal well-being. This deeper, more intrinsic motivation provided a constant source of strength, especially during times when my discipline wavered.

The biggest driver in this regard is my 11-year-old-son Damien. Damien is severely autistic; non-verbal with the mental capacity, behavioral control, and potty-habits of a 3-4 year old child. My son will never leave my wife and I’s side as long as we live… we will directly care for him as long as we are able to. That means that I need to do two very important things: (1) stay alive, and (2) be as healthy as possible for as long as possible.

Now, you might be thinking: “Of course you want to stay alive and be healthy, we ALL do!” But you’d be wrong.

Most people draw only from self-motivation (“I want to be a better version of myself”) rather than external motivation (“I NEED to be better for my family”). This distinction makes all the difference.

Learning From Failures

An underappreciated aspect of giving up bad habits is the role of failure. My path was punctuated with setbacks and relapses. Each failure, however, was a learning experience. It was about experimenting with different approaches and understanding what worked and what didn’t in the long term.

These experiences taught me that lasting change is a process of trial and error, and success often comes after several attempts.

How to Craft a Sustainable Path Forward

Building on these insights, here’s a guide to help you navigate the journey of giving up bad habits.

#1 – Start Small: Begin with manageable changes rather than drastic overhauls. Small successes build momentum and confidence.

#2 – Educate Yourself: Understanding the facts about your habits helps rationalize your decisions and provides a solid foundation for change.

#3 – Find Deeper Motivation: Identify personal or spiritual reasons for change. These can be powerful motivators that transcend momentary urges.

#4 – Embrace the Process: Accept that setbacks are part of the journey. Each failure is an opportunity to learn and refine your approach.

#5 – Create a Support System: Surround yourself with people who support and understand your goals. A strong support system can be invaluable during tough times.

#6 – Reflect & Adjust: Regularly reflect on your progress and be willing to adjust your strategies. Flexibility is key to finding what works best for you.


This article was originally published in Magazine Mark, the personal brand magazine of Mark de Grasse. Download the full magazine for free by Clicking Here.