Dealing with Low Self-Worth, Self-Love and Self-Directed Kindness

The Very Precise Science of Reinforcing a Bad Habit

If you would like to know how to create a new, positive habit, this is not the post for you. Instead, in this post, I will be presenting The Very Precise Science of  Reinforcing a Bad Habit.

I have been refining and perfecting this science for many years now.

There is a type of subtle genius in this life strategy.

After all, creating good habits take a bit of ingenuity. But when you reinforce a bad habit, this requires much less thought and effort on our part.

And we all know that excellent character is cultivated through the path of least resistance.

Furthermore, the less effort one invests in cultivating new, positive habits, the more one has time to do important work

Like painting slug cartoons.


Here’s another one. I was on a slug kick for a while.


And also pirate cartoons.

Non-traditional prayer (2)


So, without any further ado, I present to you the Very Precise Science of Reinforcing a Bad Habit.

First, choose a bad habit and pretend, momentarily, that you actually intend to change it. Create an ostensibly positive sounding New Years Resolution pertaining to this habit. For example:

Resolution–I will be a better housekeeper.

The second step is crucial.

After have declared your ostensible resolution to create a new, positive habit, begin by focusing on all of the ways you are a complete and abject failure already in the very area you wish to change.

For example, focus on all of the dust in your house.

Meditate on the months of mail you have failed to file.

Recall (in a moment of abject self-loathing) the last time you vacuumed behind the couch and imagine the alien ecosystem that is inevitably flourishing behind it.


Think about how your mother, who lives thousands of miles away, most certainly KNOWS how you have failed to dust, file, and vacuum and is likely in the process right now of disowning you.

Me and Mom

By the way, here is a picture of me and my mom from when I was little in matching dresses she sewed from us. There are some yellow spots on this picture from age, but aren’t we so cute? 

Next, after you have worked yourself into a simmering anxious stew over all of the ways you are the complete opposite of this new habit you wish to form, kick your imagination into high gear.

Really imagine how you will never be able to change your bad habit and imagine all of the inevitably horrible things that will happen to you because of your failure.

Like how you will eventually be crushed under towers of unfiled mail.

Like how the dust in your house will morph into an insidious whirlwind that sucks you into alternative dimension in which sub-par housekeepers are put on display for people to view in horrid fascination.

Like how the ecosystem behind your couch will evolve into several very hungry carnivorous creatures that eventually devour you and your husband one night as you are sitting on the couch watching Hawaii 5-0.


Lastly, after whipping yourself into a frenzy by imagining all of the very bad, bizarre, and painful things that will happen to you because of your bad habit, reward yourself by sailing into a peaceful sea of despairing resignation and deep melancholy.

Acknowledge how you are very likely genetically incapable of being a consistently good housekeeper.

Reaffirm that you probably never really stood a chance in changing your bad habit anyhow.

Muse on the very high probability that your tombstone will eternally bear the mark of your cleaning ineptitude:


Because apparently while you were not cleaning house, you were learning Latin.

I have been refining this science over the years, and I can assure you that if you repeat this process, you will indeed reinforce all of your bad habits.

Or, you could do the opposite.


Forming good, loving habits is your birthright, Friend. You are far more powerful than you think you are.

Me in Forest

If you would like to read more lighthearted essays, you might like these

The Truth About Cats

Only Bigfoot Can Save Us

How I Survived Curly Hair and Stopped Hating Jennifer Aniston

If you would like to read about habits from the opposite perspective (like how to form a good habit), you might like this post:

The Process of Forming Good Habits

6 thoughts on “The Very Precise Science of Reinforcing a Bad Habit”

  1. I like this one Shelly! I wouldn’t be too hard on yourself that housekeeping has been low on the priority list while you were getting your doctorate degree and now that you and John are teaching full time. Have you ever thought of hiring a house cleaner to come in once a month? We do that since I can’t do the dusting up high, the showers, and it’s hard for me to mop. Nikki, Matt’s wife, is our present house cleaner and does a great job!

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