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How To Break Negative Patterns In 3 Steps

Have you ever felt caught in a continual loop of behavior that has had you asking, “Why me?” or saying, “Not again!”. At first, you might have seen the cycle of negative patterns as chance or bad luck, but as time passed, you had to question if you were doing something to attract those situations. We’ll look into that in a minute.

As you know, February kicks off with Groundhog Day on February 2. As a kid, I remember waiting with fingers crossed to see if Punxsutawney Phil was/was not going to see his shadow meaning six more weeks of winter or early spring. It never occurred to me that a rodent seeing his shadow in Pennsylvania had absolutely nothing to do with the weather in my neck of the woods (or elsewhere). Nevertheless, out of curiosity, even though I am older and wiser, I still check in to see if “ole Phil” sees his shadow. Of course, I always hope that he doesn’t. Old habits die hard, I guess!

Speaking of Groundhog Day, have you ever watched the movie titled Groundhog’s Day starring Bill Murray? Murray plays a snarky weatherman who’s forced to cover the story of the weather-forecasting rat (his words) in the small town of Punxsutawney, PA. Long story short, Murray’s character relives the same day repeatedly, driving him nuts until finally, one day, he wakes up to find that it’s February 3, allowing him to go on with his life.


There are many speculations about the above story’s moral, but suffice it to say Bill Murray’s character kept repeating the same mistakes over and over again until one day, he finally got it right. Take a look below at some of the most common recurring negative behaviors and see if any of them look familiar.

  • Habitually being late for appointments
  • Being absent-minded
  • Emotional eating, gaining weight, dieting, then gaining it back
  • Attracting the same (wrong) type of people in your life that results in destructive relationships
  • Constant issues with friends, family members, authorities
  • Being financially irresponsible
  • Sleeping late
  • Not exercising even though you had planned to
  • Getting into arguments or quickly losing your cool
  • Procrastination, disorganization, inability to complete projects, or failure to meet deadlines.
  • Staying too late at work, getting burnt out
  • Addictions, recoveries, and relapses
  • Any unwanted situation that repeats itself


You can only change something if you’re conscious that it’s happening.

1. Identify Your Patterns

The first step to breaking a pattern is recognizing you’re in one. Next, look for something you keep repeatedly doing even though you have vowed not to do it anymore, such as hitting the snooze button too many times (causing you to be late), arguing with co-workers (relational issues), or impulse spending (being financially irresponsible). And the list could go on and on. 

Often the behavior is followed by complaining with the same intensity as if it was the first time it ever happened. Although you know it’s been going on for years. You make statements such as, “Why does this always happen to me?”, “I can’t believe I did that again!” or “People always treat me this way!”. As soon as you hear yourself say such phrases, pause and check yourself. You are probably in a cycle. You don’t have to keep going down that road, though. When you realize what’s going on, make a conscious decision to break it.

2. Getting to the root of the pattern

Like an iceberg, so much of who we are and why we do what we do is hidden below the surface. Getting to the root of the pattern will help explain the “why” you keep doing it. So when you find yourself repeating an unwanted pattern, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What makes you feel like doing it?
  • Where are you when you feel like doing it?
  • When do you do it?
  • Who makes you feel like doing it?

You will find that the root cause isn’t external but stems from your thoughts, emotions, personality, choices, beliefs, or past. Sometimes, decisions have been made early in life to cope with or survive an existing situation. Those decisions can often be carried on into adulthood even though the difficult circumstances are no longer present. But, then, on an unconscious level, they stand in the way of achieving what you desire in life.

Understanding the reasons and emotions behind your behavior will help you focus on how to work through the issues. Because all the behaviors are yours alone, you hold the key and the power to change them.

3. Breaking the pattern

Here’s where the work really begins as you take some action steps. Instead of repeating the pattern as if on autopilot, respond more thoughtfully. Choose to react differently. In other words, do something different from what you have always done at that moment. Yes, it will initially feel unfamiliar and uncomfortable, but be encouraged; it will lead to more favorable outcomes. 

Be patient with yourself as you work through this process. You only develop your patterns after some time. Therefore, it is unrealistic to think you will overcome unwanted habits overnight. But, just like any other personal development technique, the more you do it, the easier it will become. There’s liberation ahead!

“If you change nothing, nothing will change.” — Tony Robbins

As for me? Now that I have identified my pattern of relying on Punxsutawney Phil “pfft!” to bring me an early spring, I’m going to break that pattern this year. Oh Yeah! From now on, I will be celebrating “Hoodie-Hoo Day” on February 20. What is Hoodie-Hoo day, you ask? Well, let me tell you. Hoodie-Hoo Day is a holiday somebody created to chase away winter and make way for spring. So you go outside at high noon, wave your hands over your head and yell, “Hoodie-Hoo!” And nope, I didn’t just make that up. It’s an actual holiday! Look it up. Hey, what do I have to lose, right?

Okay, being serious now, we all have patterns in our life, don’t we? And yes, some are just a silly nuisance, but others can be negative behaviors causing troublesome issues. 

If you are at the place where you want to stop the negative patterns and replace them with positive ones, I believe you can use the steps above to make some much-needed changes in your life. However, while it’s good to solve problems on our own, sometimes we all can use a little help. And working with a coach can be a great way to help you stay motivated to reach success. 

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson. I want you to know that I am here to help. If you desire more personalized support, I invite you to contact me or schedule your phone call today. 

This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions of West Michigan.

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