Why We Do What We Do: 4 Steps to Changing “Bad Habits”

Share with your friends...
Bad HabitsBec Robbins is the ‘Happiness Guru’, I enjoy her video blogs and emails about finding and sustaining happiness.  There are 5 basic biological needs that we have, things we take for granted until they aren’t there…so, here’s Bec’s article, which I resonated deeply with, I hope it helps you too…

Everything we do, we do for one reason and one reason alone.

Every word we say, every thing we buy, every struggle and bad habit we have is motivated by the same thing. Once you understand why we do what we do it’s a whole lot easier to change the bad habits that are getting in the way of our Happiness.

According to psychologist Dr. William Glasser, the man at the helm of Reality Therapy and Choice Theory, we have 5 basic biological needs hardwired into our brains that govern our every move.

1. Love and belonging – the need to feel intimacy and connection

2. Power – the need to feel valued and competent

3. Freedom – the need to feel choice and expression

4. Fun – the need for pleasure and learning

5. Survival – the need for physical and emotional security

Now, something very interesting happens when one or more of these needs are not being met: a fear response in the brain. It is this fear response that motivates us into action so that we can feel like those need are filled again.

These needs are like 5 cups all lined up next to each other. When the cups are all full, there is no fear response in the brain. There is balance, harmony, ease and peace. There is Happiness.


But life comes along and spills from our cups or worse yet drills little holes in the cups.

Every day things happen to us that trigger these needs to feel threatened. And we feel a level of fear or anxiety until we do something to fill them.

…our date cancels and our need of love and belonging feels depleted.

…we hear a rumour of staffing cutbacks and our need for security is threatened.

…our spouse storms out on us when we have something important to say and our need for freedom and expression is threatened.

…we have had a stressful work week and our need for fun needs attention.

So what would you do in these situations?

…would you call someone else to hang out with or would you binge eat?

…would you set up a meeting with you boss for information or would you pick a fight with your spouse?

…would you write your spouse a note over a good cry or would you engage in a fight, guns blazing?

…would you get tickets for some stand up comedy or would you grab a pack of cigarette and a couple bottles of wine?

Notice there are many ways to meet a need but as you can see above not all of them a healthy.

When our needs are threatened something else interesting happens: we cope.

Coping is when we are motivated to meet our needs in ways that are destructive to ourselves or others. Some people would refer to their coping behaviours as their bad habits.

Why do we have bad habits?

Because at some point in our lives we adopted a belief that if we act that way it will protect or meet one or more of our 5 basic needs. We were shown some evidence that these behaviours work to fill them, usually in childhood.

Those actions may have protected us from pain or helped us make sense of our circumstances back then, but those actions are now hurting us. If we do something consistently that causes us or others to feel poorly, chances are we are engaged in coping.

No one is exempt from this phenomenon. We each have a whole spider’s web of bad habits that work together in an attempt to fill our needs, but these behaviours are actually taking us further away from meeting our needs and keep us in a fear state for the better part of our lives. The effects of a constant fear response are a huge toll on the body, mind and spirit. It decreases our quality of life, it exhausts us, ages us, damages our relationships, depletes our effectiveness and clarity and altogether holds us at an arms length from Happiness.

So here’s what has to change:

1. Identify your coping mechanisms – ALL of them!

What are you doing that is hurting you or others, that you don’t know why you are doing it?

I classify all coping mechanisms in to 5 categories: comforting, escaping, acting out, controlling or self sacrificing.

After you’ve teases some habits out yourself, ask you friends and family openly what bad habits they see in you that are destructive or blocking.

2. Link your behaviour to the specific need(s) being threatened.

List on a big sheet of paper under:  “What I do that isn’t working for me:”

Comforting bad habits such as picking your nails or incessant TV watching mean your need for security is threatened.

Escaping bad habits such as procrastination or isolation mean your need for freedom is threatened.

Acting out bad habits like retail therapy or dramatising mean your need for fun is threatened.

Controlling bad habits like nagging or obsessing mean your need for power is threatened.

Self-sacrificing bad habits like lying and people pleasing mean your need for love is threatened.

3. Expose the childhood limiting belief that is telling you this is how to meet your need.

I  took on a limiting belief when I was six that I could not express my anger because if I did, the love of my father would be taken away – biggest lie ever – but for much of my adult life I suppressed my anger.

Exposing the belief brings it into awareness so that it can debunked.

4. Give yourself 3 new healthy ways to meet the need that is being threatened when you feel that bad habit creeping up.

Once you start to put your finger through the web of coping mechanisms and bad habits that have been woven within you, you will find that many habits you didn’t realize were linked together also start to be released. Start releasing them today using the above 4-step strategy and watch your anxiety levels go down significantly too!

Spinning new webs with you,


CEO | BecRobbins.com

Share with your friends...

Speak Your Mind