Breaking Bad (habits): 28-Day countdown for a better next season

The hit television series “Breaking Bad” is about a chemistry teacher who teams up with a former student to make and sell crystal meth. While the show is top-rated, I’m not so hot on the addictive substances and the violence that is connected with the bad habit of drug use.

Habit: is it just another word for addiction?

My thesaurus says ‘yes’ and, even though habits and additions obviously aren’t the same thing, they’re closely related.

This article explains how similarly our brain responds to habits and addictions; how a neurological connection is formed when a voluntary action is performed enough times to move it into the reflex category, therefore making that activity somewhat hardwired into our minds.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not trying to downplay the seriousness of drug use nor give habituation more attention than it deserves, but bad habits can still be very problematic in very real ways.

Even though the show’s title is a way of saying “raising hell”, to me it also brings up questions about seemingly innocent bad habits, too, ones that might be passed over as inconsequential or unimportant that wreak havoc in our daily lives, even if only in small increments.

The truth about breaking bad (habits).

Obviously, bad habits stink. Not only literally, as with smoking or going Brad Pitt-style au natural, but because they can drag us down, causing the best of us to hide somewhere just below the surface.

Despite how hard you might try to pull that better YOU out into the open, your bad habits can really mess with your performance. Your bad habits can create little moments of suffering (hell) for you.

5 Ways bad habits can affect your performance

#1.  Bad habits cause distraction

There are habits that happen during competition and then there are habits that happen away from it.

A bad habit during competition can be distracting for you and anyone watching you play. An unpleasant behavior like excessive spitting, a bad attitude, or foul language can turn teammates and fans off from wanting to support you in your efforts.

Likewise, a bad habit in your personal life—like smoking, excessive partying, or worse—can distract you from pull you away from the game in mind, body, or both.

#2. Bad habits reduce output

Some athletes forget about the basics of their game, like Kobe Bryant and passing, which can create friction between teammates and cause the whole team as a whole to suffer.

If you’ve developed a bad habit of, say, not passing, you’re not playing to your full potential. And if you’re not playing your best you’re not contributing like you could or should be.

If bad enough, a lack of contribution can lead to increased time on the sidelines or, ultimately, getting kicked off the team.

This even applies to bad habits picked up in solo sports like golf or swimming, so if you’re in those sports don’t think you’re free and clear.

No matter what sport you play, trying harder with the same bad technique won’t get you any further; it’ll just make you more frustrated and cause you to lose focus which, in turn, will negatively affect your performance.

#3. Bad habits cause team disruption

Again, picking up bad habits can create team friction and eat away at the benefits gained from team cohesion.

What if you’re an athlete in a solo sport? Well, don’t forget that you still have teammates! Excited supporters keep you pumped during a competition. They also can be a great gauge of your potential and performance. So stay in tune with them!

#4. Bad habits impair physical fitness

It’s pretty obvious that habits like smoking or excessive drinking can negatively affect your performance by inhibiting your fitness levels. But, did you know that the pendulum swings the other way, too?

We get that you want to stay in shape, just don’t want it too badly and make working out a near obsession. Over-exercising is a terrible habit to pick up because, according to,

“Muscles grow stronger only during rest, not exercise. So if there isn’t enough rest between fitness sessions you will only keep tearing muscles, without fixing them back up.”

#5. Bad habits can create liability

This one is fairly new, but athletes who are too open about their thoughts and opinions in public forum can become liabilities to their teams and jeopardize their own athletic careers. It’s becoming such a controversy that the NCAA is scrambling to figure out how to handle student-athletes’ online postings.

I know social media is fun, entertaining, and a good way to keep in touch, but it’s also habit-forming and dangerously so, not only in its impact on athletic performance but on humanity as a whole. This writer discusses her addiction to sharing and says not sharing is “harder than [she] thought.”

And by so-obsessively documenting our experiences, we never truly have them." - Sherry Turkle, MIT professor, and author of 'Alone Together'.

Social media outlets are sometimes the dumping grounds for our frustrations. But, as an athlete, remember that you’re a public figure representing the brand you wear. That is, your team, your school, your state, your sport, and YOUR NAME. Honor it.

Also, remember that you should treat your position in your sport as a profession and not as a hobby. A teacher wouldn’t go on Twitter and rant about how stupid all his students are. He’d get in serious trouble! Same for you: Be professional, or face the consequences.

28 days to freedom!

Now that you know what bad habits can do to your performance, let’s talk about this 28 days business.

Google “28 days rehab” and you’ll come up with a shocking number of substance abuse rehabilitation programs that run barely a month long.

Why is that?

Well, while the efficacy of these programs is strongly and widely debated, according to multiple studies it takes about 28 days to break a bad habit. And that’s where my challenge comes in.

Have a bad habit? Do something about it!

#1. Share your bad habit in the comment section below.

That’s right: I’m asking for a little accountability. Don’t worry; you won’t be getting emails checking in on you and your progress. This is simply an exercise in verbal affirmations.

The first step in fixing your problem is admitting you have one, and that doesn’t only work for AA groups but for any bad habit (like procrastination, for example).

#2. Work to change it.

Maybe your bad habit is eating too much junk food. Maybe it’s not working out enough, or too much… or incorrectly!

If you need guidance on how to up your game, go to a trusted teammate or coach who might be able to give you some pointers. If you need to abstain from certain foods or moderate your time at certain functions (like decreasing your sugar intake or limiting your partying during the offseason), enlist a friend to help keep you in line and on track to a better YOU.

 #3 Check in with me in 28 days.

[Tweet "I took the 28-day challenge! Join me in breaking a bad habit!"]

I have my own bad habit to break and I’ll be working on it along with you over the next four weeks.

In 28 days (on July 6th) I’ll share my results with you, and I’d love to hear how far you’ve come in breaking your own bad habit in that time frame.

Good luck! Now go break some bad! (Habits, that is.)

What bad habit will YOU break in 28 days?

Share it in the comment section below, then get to work!


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