Breaking a Habit: When You Don’t Feel Like Setting Boundaries

Breaking a Habit: When you don't feel like setting boundariesOne of the biggest hurdles in breaking a habit is getting to the point where you’re willing to set boundaries with that habit.

After all, what if you have the perfect opportunity to practice your habit and you have to miss out on it because of some pesky old boundaries?

Let’s face it. We want to keep our options open.

So how do we change? How do we get to the point where we’re willing to say, “Alright, I’m going to set some boundaries here. I may not be able to keep them, but I’m at least going to try.”

One of the things I’ve found helpful is to make a chart that lists the advantages and disadvantages of keeping my options open. Here’s what a chart like that might look like:

Advantages of Keeping My Options Open 

Disadvantages of Keeping My Options Open

I get to do what I want when I want. (No boundaries to stop me.) There are lots of negative consequences to doing what-I-want-when-I-want. And although I may get to control my choices, I don’t get to control the consequences of my choices.
I don’t have to use self-control. The more often I say no to self-control, the more my habit will say, “All right. I’ll control you then.” And my habit does not have my best interest at heart.
I get a quick fix of excitement. I get a lifetime of consequences: health issues, addictions, negative emotions (discouragement, self-condemnation, hopelessness, etc.), and missed opportunities because my habit is controlling me and taking up my time.
I can indulge my flesh. It hurts my relationship with God because He tells me not to indulge my flesh (Galatians 5:131 John 2:15-17.)
It’s a way to cope with life. When I consistently go to my habit to cope with life, I’m in danger of making my habit an idol. When I go to God to cope with life, He strengthens me, comforts me, loves me, and matures me. I miss out on all that when I go to my habit.

If you make a chart of your own, don’t worry about having an equal number of advantages and disadvantages – the only reason I did that is because I had all those little boxes in the chart to fill in and I thought I should fill them in! When I do my own charts in my journal I end up with 1-2 advantages  of keeping my options open and 8-10 disadvantages.

Also, it’s a lot more effective if you make your own chart specific to your own life and habit. I tried to keep this one pretty general so it could work with all habits. If you have a hard time committing to boundaries, I hope you’ll give it a try.

Note: This exercise is from Day 6 in Taste for Truth: A 30 Day Weight Loss Bible Study. The kindle version of this workbook is available for free today on Amazon. While it’s specific to breaking the habit of overeating, it can be used for breaking any compulsive habit. I’m going through it right now for the second time to break my wasting time on the Internet habit. Oops – just realized it was scheduled to be free tomorrow (Tuesday) – not today! When I was checking to see if it was listed for free today, I found this dangerous link: Free Amazon Christian books. I downloaded 5 free books before I could pull myself away long enough to see if my own book was there!


  1. says

    Setting boundaries is SO important Barb, and I think we’re often at a loss with how. I read a book called Boundaries by Cloud & Townsend years ago that introduced me to the concept. Your advice and steps are going to really help people who need some sort of practical approach.

  2. says

    What a great new habit to practice. Looking at the advantages and disadvantages of my bad habits. You’re right, until I set boundaries for myself I slide right back into doing the very thing I want to quit. For me, it means replacing the temptation with something else. Thanks for the link to the free books. I’m heading there next.

  3. says

    So I clicked on the free christian amazon books link first! oh it’s easy to get cozy in there!
    I just love what you’ve said here “…I may not be able to keep them, but I’m at least going to try…” So often the thing that keeps me from committing myself to change in a certain area is failure “i know I’ll not have 100% uptime on this one, why even try..”. It really helps to get that honest. I might not be perfect, but hey am going to try! :) Thanks for the motivation :)

    • says

      The thing is, if we could do it 100% perfectly right from the beginning, we’d already be doing it. :) It helps me to think of growth in terms of figure skating. The gold medal skaters had to fall a bunch to the point where they rarely fall. :) Can you tell I’ve been watching figure skating tonight? :)

      • says

        “if we could do it 100% perfectly right from the beginning, we’d already be doing it” has given me a long SELAH moment, Barb:) So true!

        haha yes, we trying to keep up with the games too, first time to watch W.Olympics!

  4. says

    Those charts can be really helpful in identifying why I really don’t want or do want to do something. I like the fact that it makes it visual and concrete.

  5. says

    Wow, I didn’t know there was a list of free Christian books! I just read an article yesterday about Amazon making a Christian Publishing branch (Waterfall press). I’ve no clue how to submit to them (from what I gather, it’s not self publishing).

    Anyway, I like your chart. Lately I’ve been super busy and my alone time with God has suffered. Because I”m not spending as much time in His word, it’s been easy to slip back into my “worry and control” mode of dealing with life. I’m so glad God gently reminds me that HE Is what is most important. HE is so faithful and good.

    • says

      That’s interesting – I hadn’t heard of the Christian publishing branch of Amazon. I often make charts like this just for my own renewing of the mind, but sometimes it helps just to look over a chart (and it takes less time). It’s so easy to get swept up into a worry and control life, isn’t it? I know how hard it is. I’m beginning to realize that just as women start expecting too much from their husbands when they read romance novels, writers can start expecting too much from writing when we start reading about platform. I’m thinking in many ways I have to be very careful about what I watch and read in the platform building department so I don’t get the wrong motives. Why I’m rambling here, I have no idea. Your comment just made me think, I guess!

      • says

        I think you’re right about the platform thing for writers. I had to stop following certain blogs because it caused me to be discontent and worried.

        Like you say, we need boundaries!

  6. says

    I love this, Barb. How few people really get as thorough as they should be about breaking things down and renewing their minds? I know I’ve always benefitted from thinking deeply about these things when I struggle. Your book is a blessing for sure!

  7. Betty Draper says

    Barb you put a lot of work into the things you print on your blog. And we who read benefit from your hard work, thank you.

    • says

      Betty, have you ever thought of putting your blog address on your disqus profile? There should be a place to list it under your profile so that it shows up when people click on your name. For some reason, I can never find your blog! But I am an incredibly spacey and forgetful person – so I might be the only one who has that problem. :)

      • says

        Barb I just put my blog address on the disqus..honestly did not know it wasn’t but then again I am a little clueless at times to the details of blogging. I love this format where the reply is right under the comment and tried to change that but BlogSpot does not have that features.

  8. Donna B says

    I just bought “Taste for Truth” with “I Deserve a Donut” and “Freedom from Emotional Eating”. Any suggestions on which one I should read first. I’m very excited to get started. Everything I’ve read just resonates in my heart.

    • says

      Hi Donna, I would probably do the Taste for Truth Bible study first as it deals more with food than Freedom from Emotional Eating does (FFEE deals mostly with your emotions). It also shows you how to use I Deserve a Donut, which is an ongoing resource to use whenever you feel like breaking your boundaries. It sounds like you are ready to tackle the issue – good for you! I’m excited to see what God does in your life. Let me know if you get a chance!

  9. Kate says

    Hey Barb, didn’t know where to put this but I just started reading I Deserve a Donut and Taste for Truth and was just wondering where you would put stress eating. When I am stressed out, all bets are off and all I want to do is eat. Love your books btw. Thanks

    • says

      Hi Kate, Have you checked the list in end of the day stress? The one that points you to different sets of questions depending on what is going on? I had a terrible time writing stress questions for that one because it seemed like there were so many things feeding into stress. I think most of the time it’s something else driving it – if you can find out what’s driving it, that set of questions might help more than stress questions. If you can’t find any that seem to work, let me know (my email is under the about tab) – maybe I need to write a new set! I also think with something like stress, the sooner you can get on it – before the emotion gets intense – the easier it is to get it under control.

  10. Kate says

    Oops, also what about being irritated. I was so irritated with my teenage daughter today and again, all I wanted to do was eat.

Thanks for your comment!