First, you recognize what you have been doing wrong. This analysis is often done after experiencing a failure or after seeing the same bad habit, but worse, in another. For example, you smoke and find yourself heading to the store in the middle of the night in order to buy a pack of cigarettes. Or you act too nice with guys and find yourself feeling abandoned and resentful. Then you hear your brother and his friends talking about a girl who behaves similarly. They question her sanity and virtue because she texted one of them ten times. Realising the similarities with your own behaviour, you feel ashamed or regretful. This drives your willpower to make a change.
Second, you make some rigid rules to keep you from showing this behaviour again. This is much like taking crooked teeth and putting braces on them. It takes plenty of willpower to follow a rigid set of rules, but it helps you break the old habit and understand that the new habit works. For example, you don’t go where the smokers are or you only text men in reply to a text they sent. Another benefit to rigid rules is that you can break the programming of others. For example the other smokers at work, who offer you cigarettes like they are used to. However, once they have missed you in the smokers section for a few months, they no longer offer. You have avoided temptation by staying out of those situations.
Third, the old habit is broken, and you have learned the guidelines and you have learned why your rigid rules work. So you understand that it is fine to send a few extra texts to your boyfriend about some good news you have, but realise it is not very seductive to let him know that you are bored or had pancakes and orange juice for breakfast. You now instinctively know that most people really don’t care what you had to eat, but they do really care about you getting your license. You can feel it because you have rewired your instincts. When you have a feeling for what works, there is neither a need to constantly break rules nor to follow them rigidly.