Eliminating Minor Vices

I don’t think I’m qualified to suggest how to kick major vices like heroin and alcohol, but I have plenty of experience with minor vices like procrastination and time-wasting activities, both with myself and people I coach.

The fundamental first step that many people skip is determining why they want to eliminate a vice. That it’s not a “good” thing to do is never enough. If you don’t have a strong reason for quitting, you’ll never actually quit.

Sometimes good reasons may exist for quitting something, but they might not be obvious to you. So dig up and find both good reasons to quit and good reasons to continue. If you don’t examine both sides, you won’t trust your analysis.

If you can’t find sufficient compelling reasons to quit the vice, don’t bother trying. It’s better to table the idea than it is to try when failure is inevitable.

The next step is to consider what is going to take the place of the existing vice. Creating vacuums in ones life is never really a good strategy. Ideally the thing that replaces the vice should be as enjoyable as possible. If you’re trying to quit video games, replace them with crosswords or reading really enjoyable books. If you’re trying to quit browsing youtube, replace it with watching documentaries or listening to podcasts.

Don’t worry if the replacement isn’t the ideal activity. You can always replace it with something better later. Vices are hard to kick, so you may as well make the process as easy as possible. Plus, the new replacement activity won’t be as entrenched, so it will be much easier to change.

Give yourself some amount of time, maybe 2-3 months to run a trial of what life is like without the vice. If I tell you to not visit reddit ever again, that’s a big ask, even if you replace it with something else. If I tell you not to do it for a couple months, that’s a lot easier to swallow. After a couple months you can hopefully evaluate with a clear mind whether it was worth kicking or not. Usually it is.

It’s important to never let your vice become part of your identity. You’re not a slacker, you’re not a gamer, you’re not a procrastinator. Those are things you may have done, but they are not part of your definition.

Last, you can eventually consider allowing some of your vice back into your life after a year or two. Playing video games isn’t inherently bad, but playing them when you should be working probably is. Once the habit/addiction is broken, you can probably reintroduce the old activity back in to a limited extent. It helps knowing this when you start kicking the addiction, because it provides a light at the end of the tunnel.


Photo is the mountains over Almaty Kazakhstan! It’s easy to get up to them via gondolas.

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