Copyright 1996 By Cordell Vail




I have learned that there are many keys that are helpful to most people in overcoming any bad habit. Here are some of those keys:

 KEY #1: You have to want to quit the habit more than you want to keep doing it.

 Now that sounds pretty simple. But you see that is one of the actual real problems of overcoming any habit. We all want to overcome the bad habits of our life. But for some reason we do not have the self control to do it. That lack of self control often comes because we do not have clear in our minds that we also WANT TO KEEP DOING IT TOO. That is why we keep doing it even when we want to stop. We want to do it! We enjoy it. So we have to get clear in our mind that there are actually two wants here. We want to quit and we want to keep doing it. And they are both a strong pull to our emotions. And which one of the two wants is the strongest is the one that will win out. The following diagram illustrates this principal:


It is true that we have the desire to stop doing the thing that we perceive as being bad. But the reason we normally can not break the habit, and the real problem is, we have another desire that is even greater than our desire to break the bad habit. That is our desire to continue to do it. And the reason we normally want to continue to do it is because it brings enjoyment or pleasure of some kind. We would not do it if we did not like it. Some habits like drinking are formed as a means of escaping from the pains of reality. Other habits like over eating may bring us a sense of false satisfaction or momentary relief from stress. Some habits like pornography even bring us substitute feelings of pleasure to replace the ones we really want but can not have. Many habits are combined with other habit like temper and swearing. We can not control our temper so we swear to try to vent the feelings of the anger. The habits we have do not come by some accident. Each one has its purpose in our lives. That is why we start these habits in the first place.  

As we resolve to stop these "BAD" habits, we find ourselves caught in a war of emotions between the two desires. And the stronger of the two desires within us will always win out. When we resolve to quit, then fall back into the habit, all we have actually done is just let the desire to do over power the desire to not do. 

KEY #2: Every little child has to gain experience by the "TOUCH BURN RELATIONSHIP". 


It has been said that when a child is born, about the only natural fears they have are a fear of falling and a fear of loud noises. Other than that they are almost fearless. Have you ever watched a little child sitting in a high chair with a bowl of baby food. And they put their hands into it and feel it. Why do they do that. It is because children are fascinated by their new sensations of feel. They want to see what the baby food feels like. It is a new sensation to their fingers to feel the slick smooth cool feeling of the food between their fingers. Then what do they do. They daub it in their hair. Why do they do that. Did they want the food in their hair? No. They did it because they did not realize that they had food on their hands and that if they put their hand on their head that it would get in their hair. That is why. They have no experience. They do not know the relationship between food covered hands and mess in the hair.  

The real question here is why don’t you do that. Why don’t you feel your tapioca pudding and then daub it in your hair. The reason is because you have learned that if you put pudding in your hair that it makes you feel bad AFTER. It makes a mess and you don’t like the feeling of a mess. So you don’t do it. You never put the butter from your bread on your face instead of in your mouth because YOU DON’T LIKE THE FEELING OF IT AFTER. You have experience. You don’t touch a hot stove because when you were young, some where in your life’s experience, you had a touch burn experience where you touched something hot and it burned you and then it hurt after. That is the "touch burn relationship". We all learn from our experiences. We could list thousands of them. Why don’t you pet a growling dog like a little child would try to do. Experience. You have gained so much experience in your life that now, you don’t even have to have had the experience to know the results and not want them. You can perceive that if you pet a growling dog, it will bite you and it will hurt. You have never been bitten by a growling dog, but you don’t pet it. You don’t even have to have had a touch burn experience to know not to do it. 

How does this relate to breaking a bad habit. When we have a habit that makes us feel bad after, we consider it to be a bad habit. If we are always feeling bad after we do it, then we gain a touch burn relationship experience and we want to stop the habit. That is where the desire to stop comes from. The bad feeling that comes after we do it. But as stated above, sometimes the pleasure that comes from doing it is greater than the "PAIN" that comes after. Many times the pain is not as great as the pleasure and so the touch burn relationship is not enough to make us stop. This applies to many habits. Swearing seems to relieve anger so we do it even though it makes us feel a little guilty after or feel sorry. But in the heat of anger, the desire to relieve the feeling of anger through swearing is greater than the fear of the little feeling of guilt or remorse that comes after. So our desire to do is greater than our desire to stop. When we smoke, the pleasure of the effects of the smoke on our body is greater than our fear of the long range loss of our health. It doesn’t hurt yet, so we don’t associate the pain of loss of health with the pleasure of the high that comes from then nicotine as we inhale the smoke. So we keep on smoking. If we are over weight, our discomfort from not being able to do the things we want, the tiredness, the embarrassment from peoples rude remarks, none of them produce sufficient pain within us to cause a greater desire to quit than the desire to eat within us that is created by the feelings of loneliness, frustration, or what ever it is that is causing you to eat to try to find a "replacement feeling" with the pleasure from eating the food. We could list most any habit that is hard to break here. They all fall basically into this same category. The touch burn relationship does not create sufficient pain to cause us to stop the habit. It only causes us to want to stop, but our greater desire to continue keeps "MAKING US DO IT". 

KEY #3 When we are entrapped by a bad habit, it does not come into our life by a blow out but by a series of slow leaks. 


If we were to define the word "ADDICTION" the desire to do being greater than the desire not to do is exactly what it is. It is a habit that creates such a strong desire to do, that this desire to do is so much more powerful than the pain that comes as a result of it that we can not quit. That almost seems crazy to even think about when we look at an alcoholic bum laying in the street, so drunk that he can not even get up. There he or she is sick, throwing up, totally out of control and delirious. How could that pain not be worse than the desire to have a feeling that comes from drinking. That may only be possible to understand by someone who has been in the situation. How could some one be so addicted to drugs, gambling or even pornography to such a degree that the desire to experience it is so great that it totally overpowers the pain experienced by it? These pains can become so powerful that they can actually end up destroying a marriage or causing the person to be excommunicated from the church. In some cases the person even looses all hope of going to the Celestial Kingdom. Yet they persist in doing it. WHY? How can the pain not be felt and the habit given up to avoid the pain? Why doesn’t the touch burn relationship work with us as adults, when it comes to serious sin? 

The answer to that question lies in feelings. We base much of what we do on feelings. The Holy Ghost Himself is a feeling. When we do something that is not right, we experience a feeling of withdrawal of the spirit. An emptiness. That is the first indications of the loss of the Holy Ghost. He withdraws from us to warn us that what we have just done is not in keeping with His sprit. And by withdrawing from us and giving us the empty feeling, we know that what we have done is wrong. And in many instances that is enough to make us repent and come back to the straight and narrow path. But as President Hinckley said in a talk he gave at a BYU devotional on October 26, 1965 that sometimes when we make decisions it is like turning a switch. And if we make a bad decision then it is like the switch in a rail road track.  That decision can change our life and send us off on a different track.

When the Holy Ghost warns us and we do not listen it brings a change in us.  We start to dull our senses and our ability to listen to or feel that prompting.  Then as we persist in not listening we start to feel an emptiness inside.  If continue on down that wrong path past that “switch in the tracks of life” and we do not retreat back, the emptiness turns to numbness. And if we then continue on in that course the numbness takes us past feeling. We get to where we are so used to the pain that we do not notice it as being different from normal.  We adjust to the bad feeling.   And that leads us into a vicious circle downward. A pit so deep that when some are in it they see no hope to return. The numbness turns to hopelessness. And in that state of hopelessness the desire to not do the wrong thing any more is totally done away and the desire to continue to do takes almost complete control. That is how you could see a bum lay in the street in a total drunken stupor. He has fallen into total helplessness. He has no hope in his heart to quit. He thinks that he can not quit. And in that state he is a far cry from that first feeling of emptiness that came to warn him not to start to do that. Alexander Pope said:

Vice is a monster of so frightful mien,
As to be hated needs but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.
Essay on Man. Epistle ii. Line 217.


Many habits lay us in waist and give us the feeling of total helplessness and loss of hope. Serious things like moral sin, gambling, pornography, smoking, theft or other like addictive habits that effect our standing in life have such power of control over us that if we do not retreat at the first throwing of the switch when we first feel the emptiness, we give over to Satan and his power. And in some cases people are not able to come back from those dregs of Hell with out help from others. 

In the Book of Mormon, Moroni said:


Moroni 10:22

And if ye have no hope ye must needs be in despair; and despair cometh because of iniquity.


Also we find in the Bible


Proverbs 13:12

Hope deferred maketh the heart sick; but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.


We can not free ourselves of the chains of a bad habit if it is causing us to live in sin, as long as we continue to ignore the feelings or warnings to stop.  If we start to accept the feelings of hopelessness, numbness, or even emptiness we will bound by the powers of Satan and the chains of bad habits. To free ourselves we first must resolve to live the commandments. To listen to the feelings within us. And take faith in the hope that we can change. In the Book of Mormon Alma said:


Alma 32:27

But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.


The road back from the grip of a habit has to start with a hope that you can come back. It has to begin with the faith that the Lord will provide the way if you are willing to do the work. 


KEY #4: The human mind is extremely subject to conditioning and triggers. 

The experiment by the Russian Scientist Ivan Petrovich Pavlov, a Nobel Prize Laureate in Physiology and Medicine with his dogs is a very famous study. Who has not heard of Pavlov’s dogs. Pavlov published his findings in 1903 which he called "conditioned reflex".  Conditional reflex is different from an innate reflex, (which would be like yanking a hand back from a hot fire), in that “conditional reflex” is learned by repletion not avoidance of pain. Pavlov’s learning process is now just called “conditioning”.  That is the process  in which the nervous system comes to associate the action with some stimulus over a period of time until the actual event is not needed to stimulate our nervous system.  The bell brings hunger not the need for food.   Pavlov also demonstrated that conditioned reflex will stop  if the stimulus is removed over a period of time.  That is a key point of his study related to what we are trying to learn here.  If you start feeding the dogs long enough with out the bell eventually they forget and ringing the bell no longer makes them hungry.  That is what we have to learn to overcome a habit.  Stop allowing the trigger or stimulus to set off our emotions creating the desire to continue with that habit.

What a powerful concept – “Conditioning” a learned behavior. We could all learn a great lesson from that famous experiment. It has a great bearing on human behavior especially as it relates to habits. We are all very prone to develop a habit that is done is a certain time and a certain place. Then when we enter that place, we feel the urge to do that thing even if we don’t really want to. Ask any smoker and they will tell you about that. If they smoke every time the stop at a red light while driving the car, try to get them to come to a red light and not light up. The urge is triggered by the light not the need for the smoking.

 I had a friend that used to eat dinner every night and then go down stairs and watch TV. He always lit up when he sat down to watch the TV. I was with him one day, over 5 years after he had joined the church. He had not smoked even once in all that time. We ate dinner and went down to the TV room. When he sat down he kept putting his hand into his shirt pocket where the cigarettes used to be kept. He was not even aware that he kept reaching into his pocket. When I mentioned it to him we both had a good laugh. He was psychologically conditioned to reach for the pocket when he had eaten and was now watching TV. Conditioning is a powerful thing. And it is normally associated with a time and a place. Any good student will tell you that they study at the same time and in the same place every day, and they never study in their bedroom. They have conditioned themselves to sleep when they go into the bedroom. So if they study there too, especially on the bed, they start to send mixed signals to their body and find they can not do either very well in the bed. That is conditioning. 

When we have a habit, especially a very addictive habit that seems almost impossible to break, we will notice that we normally are taken into the performance of that habit in the same “conditions” every time, and normally under the same circumstances. So if we honestly want to break the habit, we will almost certainly have to change our habit by not putting ourselves in that circumstance any more. If you want to stop swearing you first have to stop losing your temper for example.

That is no easy thing to do. But again, if we take our alcoholic example, if a person has been addicted to drinking, and they always drank in some certain bar, it would be very dangerous for them to go to that very same bar again and sit at the same stool and just smell the froth of the beer. If you honestly want to quit a habit, you have to change the conditioning. When you go into that circumstance, it sets off a trigger inside you. The psychological triggering in your brain can actually be much stronger than the psychological triggering. You can be trained to be hungry by a bell more than by hunger from not eating for a long time. In fact if you go without eating for a couple of days you actually stop being hungry. We have to remove the triggers from our lives. Discover where it is that you do what you do that is the habit. Watch for what sets you off and causes that pulling feeling or desire to do it. Then start to avoid it. 

Triggers can be subtle things. If you are addicted to pornography and you watch a TV program that has immoral scenes in it, you will almost certainly feel the urge within you to fall back to the old habit. If that is the case, you may have to stop watching TV all together. With movies and TV, you never know when you will all of the sudden be placed in sight of a scene you do not want to see. You have almost no control over it. By the time you close your eyes, even if you could, or try to turn off your attention span, it is too late. You have seen it. If you are addicted to pornography on the internet and you feel that urge to click on the porno sites then you may have to leave the internet alone. You have to change the environment. You may have to give up some friends. You may have to stop going certain places. You may have to take a shower in a different place, or take your date to a different kind of activity. If you keep going back to the same circumstances and letting the triggers be set off, you have little hope of quitting the habit. You will feel the emptiness, then the numbness than the hopelessness and finally totally lose the desire to quit. 

There is another side to this kind of  feedback that works in a opposite way.  Almost in a negative way.  It is more of the innate reflex (pulling your hand away from a hot fire).  It is actually the same as Pavlov’s “conditioning” but it is negative feedback instead of positive feed back like food when the bell rings.  It is still the same form of conditioning .  It was first taught by Mat Oxley at the University in Greensboro, North Carolina.  He called it Reticular Activation (need to xxxxx find this quote).  The principle is that you put a rubber band on your wrist and then when you think a bad thought, or you are tempted to do what ever it is that you want to stop doing, you give that little rubber band a flip.  The negative feed back is not overwhelming but your mind will start to lean to avoid the thought or action you want to quit to avoid the pain on the wrist.  It is a very effective tool.  Try it.

KEY #5 When you do quit, you have to take it one step at a time with a time frame.


Very few people ever fell into an addictive habit by a blow out. Almost no one became a smoker over night. Very few people are immoral on the first date. It normally comes by a series of slow leaks. One step builds on another. There never is a day when you can say that is enough. I am hooked. I have to quit. In the  Book of Mormon that Satan will "Carefully lead us down to hell".


2 Nephi 28: 21

And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well-and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.


He knows that we will not come if we saw how bad it was to lay in the street as a drunk. He does not start with total loss of virtue in the first night. He knows that we do what we think.  So first He start with our thoughts.  He will first expose you to little things then build upon them and build upon them until you have gone from the emptiness to the numbness. Then he can tempt you to give up and just give in. To come back from such habits also does not come with one quick explosion. We have to build one step at a time. We have to regain the touch burn relationship in our minds. We have to start to build a desire not to that can finally exceed our desire to. It is helpful if we will take those steps in a time frame. If we will say to our selves, " I can quit for one day". Then do it for one day. Then with that success, go for two days and then three. And finally a week at a time then a month. And finally a permanent solution will have been reached. 


KEY #6 Report back to someone. 


Many habits are just too addictive to overcome alone. But even little ones can be overcome easier if we have a family member, friend or religious leader to help us. It makes a great difference in your hour of temptation when you are there alone and can not stand to not do it, but then you realize that someone you know is depending on you and believing in you. It will give you great strength to “stay straight” if you know that you have to report back to someone.  It is a great tool in over coming any habit to have someone you can report back to and share you success or failure with. Someone you can gain strength from.  The more serious or powerful the habit the more often you need to report back.  That is why they started the Alcoholics Anonymous.  It gave recovering alcoholics someone to report back to.  You can create your own Habit breaking Anonymous club.  It only takes one friend who is willing to help you and let you report back to them on a regular basis.  Even by phone.  It is the embarrassment of having to report back when you have given in that will give you the strength to not do it again next time.  It is so important to report back to your friend especially when you have failed so you start to “condition” your mind to know you will have to report failures as well as successes.


KEY #7 You have to believe that oil and water do not mix.


Quite some time ago I found that oil and water do not mix. It became apparent to me that there were not two sets of rules in life. If I wanted the spirit of revelation and I was a thief, one or the other had to go.  This is pointed out in the Bible quite clearly.

James 3: 10

Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing, which ought not so to be


If I wanted to give healing blessings and liked to swear, I will discover that the scripture has quite a literal meaning,  Blessing and cursing can not come from the same mouth. I have many times had people tell me that I was too fanatical about keeping the commandments. My reply to them is always the same. How financial is the Savior. How financial is the Savior in keeping the commandments. Should I be any less careful? Oil and water do not mix. If I break the commandments I loose the spirit. There are no exceptions. There is only one set of rules, and we all play on the same playing field.

If we blame our misconduct on having a bad habit, then the keys found in this paper should be of great interest to us. If we keep the commandments strictly we will be the recipients of the great promise in the scriptures



Matthew 7: 14

Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.


I hope that is a promise to us all and not a threat.   It is important when you read this scripture to notice the spelling of the word “STRAIT”.  Strait is not spelled straight (like not crooked). The word “STRAIT” means narrow, like the straits of Gibraltar. Straight like in being careful to keep all the commandments of the Lord. There will be no excuses on the other side.

Joseph Smith said that one of the saddest things he had ever witnessed was the resurrection of the Latter-day saints who came forth to a resurrection lower than they had taken for granted they would receive. (Quoted by President Marion G. Romney, XXX conference talk XXX 196x)

 If we say we did it because the Devil made us do it, will we be excused?  If our Mother abused us or we did it because our friends made us, what ear will be turned to hear us? Who can offer a reason that will stand as we are resurrected into a kingdom lower than we took for granted that we would receive? When will we say that the pain is bad enough that we will stop this habit and start over? What day will we say that is enough? 

KEY #8 Find something else that you want more than what you are doing that will overshadow your desire “to do”.


It is easy to say, why don’t you just stop eating to an over weight person. Have you ever tried it? It is easy to say how can you smoke when you know that it will kill you. Have you ever tried to stop smoking? Anyone can look at a person hooked on pornography and say to them, "cant you see that you have lost the spirit from doing that?" Before you point a finger, let him that is without sin cast the first stone. May we all look at the beam in our own eye before attempting to remove the mote from our brothers eye. Every weakness has its cause. Every person chained to a habit has a reason, not an excuse, why they were entrapped. Our best hope is to help them not to criticize them.

English Protestant martyr John Bradford's famous words "There But For The Grace Of God Go I" are very fitting here (he actually said: "There but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford.’ ) From the "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson, Facts on File, New York, 1997.

The slavery of an addictive habit is understood by very few, save they have been enslaved themselves. And to just say, why don’t you stop has little or no value to that person. There has to be a reason to stop. There has to be something that they want worse than the pain that they have become numb to. Something that will pull them up and out of the mire. A person who is so starved for affection which the are unable to find within their own marriage may turn to someone outside the marriage to receive that emotional and physical love. And in that instance the person would have to decide if they wanted the joy and pleasures of the emotional and physical love more than they wanted to have the glory of eternal life. You can not have both.


XXXX said that the reason France fell was because they wanted the pleasures of today more than they wanted the sacrifices of tomorrow.  (NEED TO FIND THAT QUOTE also find quote where he said they fought their way to freedom bear foot and danced their way to destruction in silk slippers....)

As a student at BYU years ago, one of the general authorities came and spoke to us. I do not remember who now. But he told us that we need to find one goal in our life that was a central goal. A goal that transcended all other goals. Then having set that goal, make every other goal in our lives stepping stones to that goal. I remember distinctly that he did not tell us what that goal was to be. For days, I examined my most dominant thoughts. I searched for what I wanted more than anything in life. I remember well the flurry of thoughts. A perfect wife. Lots of money. A good job. Positions in the Church. What silly things some of those thoughts were as I look back on them now. But finally one day as I was walking along, it dawned on me what he had said. There is only one goal in this life of any value. If we do not make it back to live with God in the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom, what else matters?  If we are not able to enter into the highest kingdom of the Celestial Kingdom what else that we did in this life would be of any concern.\? Would it matter who our wife had been? Would it matter what house we were able to build? Would it matter how much money we had? Would it matter what positions we had held, or even how many people we had converted?  If we fail at going to the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom, we have failed at everything that is important. It was a stunning discovery.

I had found my higher strength that overshadowed all my desires to do anything bad. And to this day when Satan comes tempting and I look at what he offers, I ask myself, "If I do that, can I still go back to live with God in the Celestial Kingdom"?  If the answer is no, then the discussion is over.  I constantly ask my self, “Which do I want more?” That desire to be blessed with the gift of Eternal Lives so transcends all else in this life in my mind that it builds my power “to not do” far beyond any desire that I have ”to do” things that are bad.  So here again is that chart but with a new element added.  The power of wanting something more or higher:


This concept has been interesting to over the years as I have counseled with people who are trying to overcome serious addictive habits. One of the most fascinating excuses that I have heard from members of the church is that they believe that they are doing what they are doing because of a revelation they received. This has especially been true in the case of immorality. Many times people feel that the Lord told them it was OK for them to have an affair outside their marriage because they were so lonely, or the other person involved need their help. But in each instance, as I have gotten more involved and been able to get to the true issues that were at stake, the thing that had actually happened was that Satan had convinced them that doing what they were doing would not effect their eternal salvation. They felt they could do it and still live with god some day. They could not use eternal life as a source of higher power to help them stop what they were doing, because they already felt they could have both.   Again I think the Book of Mormon so aptly describes this condition:

2 Nephi 28: 21

And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.


Many of these people have started their own churches or joined groups that caused them to do more than just have a bad habit. They had never yet learned that oil and water do not mix. There is only one set of rules. There are many people who have lost their membership in the church from the bad habits they have acquired, because they felt they were an exception to the rules. They felt that the Lord would allow them to have this particular thing in their life because of there special circumstances. If you are going to use a thing to help you overcome a bad habit, you have to know with all your heart that you can not have it if you persist with the habit. You can not have your cake and eat it too. 

There may be other goals that a person could use besides the goal to live with God in the next life to help overcome habits. That is just what helped me. That may be good for serious addictive habits like pornography, adultery, drugs or the word of wisdom that effect our standing in the kingdom, but in some instances it may be more helpful to have a closer thing that you want worse than your habit to help you overcome a habit that is not eternally threatening. For example a new dress or acceptance by your friends may be more realistic as a goal in helping overcome being over weight, or the ability to give blessings with the sprit to help overcome swearing. You have to find the thing that works best for you, for the habit that you want to overcome. What ever the habit is, you have to find something that you want worse than you want the pleasure you get from the habit, and believe with all your heart that you can not have “BOTH”.  Oil and water do not mix.  If you keep on with the habit you can not have the goal. It has to be something that you can not have if you continue that habit, even if it means that you just choose to not have that thing again until you quit the habit. You have to find what works for you. 

I have also found some other questions that I can ask myself when faced with giving in to a bad habit that help me to not give in to my base desires, or to even think about starting into a new bad habit. I ask myself if I think the Savior would do that. Would He go into that place? Would He be found in this situation? These questions of course each depend on the circumstances. I ask my self if I would do that in church or in front of my family or in the temple. If I would not do it in front of my family then maybe I should not do it at all. I ask myself often, "what would my wife or my children think if they could be here and see or hear me doing that?"  I often think about deceased relatives who are possibly watching me and would be disappointed in me. There are many such questions that a person could ask themselves. The main question being, of course, how bad do I want the thing that is better than the pleasure derived from the habit. If the answer is not, "Much, much more", then we need to find a new goal. It has to have the power to make us want to stop the habit to have it. 

KEY # 9 You have to find a way to start caring


One of the reasons that we keep doing what it is that we are doing is because we get so frustrated that you stop caring and give up so when you are frustrated you don’t care and give in anyway.  We get so discouraged that we don’t care so when we are discouraged we do it again.  We give in and smoke or eat or look at pornography or become immoral again anyway.  We get so angry that we don’t care so when we loose our temper we swear anyway.  We get so depressed that we don’t care so when we are depressed we do it anyway.  The feelings from the touch burn after we have done it again are not sufficiently painful to make us resist before we give in.  We have to find a way to care.  To remember the jam in the hair bad feeling before we do it so we don’t have the bad empty feeling after.  That is hard sometimes to remember the bad that comes after when we want the pleasure we perceive before.  Looking across the bridge to the other side of the act is a great key in helping us quit if we can do it.  I often think of what Anthony Robins said about losing weight.  He said, “Nothing tastes so good as thin feels”.  I think that can be applied to any habit breaking if we find the goal of what we want more than having what we get from the pleasure or relief of frustration from the bad habit.

KEY #10 Fasting and Prayer


The very purpose of fasting is sacrifice something that we would really like to have in order to get something that we want even more.  It is a key to building character.  It will help us to develop the feeling of humility within us and to bring an inner strength that develops self control. Fasting can be one of the greatest tools a person can use to help develop self control and overcome habits. Self control is the very point of the central issue of habits. We have habits we do not want because we do not have the self control to stop them, for what ever reason. Fasting can help us to develop that self control. President Marion G. Romney said concerning fasting:

(Need to find Marion G. Romney’s “FASTED ONE DAY A WEEK OVER LONG PERIODS OF TIME quote and put it here)

When we lived in Georgia while I was in the Army we met a man who had hunting dogs.  One night as we were visiting with him and his wife in their home we heard all the dogs barking and barking.  We asked him why they were barking.  He said they were hungry.  I asked him why he did not go feed them.  He said he never fed them the day before they went hunting.  Then he said one of the most profound things that I have ever heard in my life.  He said, “A HUNGRY DOG NEVER LOSES THE TRAIL”.  That changed my perception of fasting.

While I was a student at BYU we had a teacher there who gave us some very good advice.  She told us that if we would always fast for 24 hours before we took a test and then come to the test fasting we would do better on the test.  I tried it and found it to be true.  The feeling of being focused while fasting helped me to concentrate on the materials that I had learned.  I always seemed to do better on tests when I fasted first.  I have also found that when I am faced with problems in my life, if I will fast for 24 hours it will help me focus my strength on being who I know I should be.  It has greatly helped me many times when I was discouraged or needed strength.  Fasting brings moral strength to the soul. 

KEY #11 Make reporting back to yourself the final objective.


 I have tried to make saying the of Polonius in Shakespeare's Hamlet the motto of my life,


William Shakespeare - Hamlet Act 1 scene 3

This above all, to thine ownself be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man


I am the one that I have to report back to in the end. It is me who will suffer for the pain of bad habits if I acquire them. It is me, as well, who will enjoy the blessings of a pure life and the opening of the windows of heaven if I do not acquire bad habits. There are blessings that come from total self control that can not be had if I am out of control. The choice is mine.


I think of the Book of Mormon stories often when I am tempted to do something and it seems that it would be wonderful to do it and hear Satan whisper to me, "you will not get caught", or "you can change or repent later".  When I hear that little voice whispering that in my mind, then I try to think of Alma and Corahor. Corahor said that an angel had fooled him and convinced him he was right. After Alma had struck Corahor dumb he went back among the Zoromites who had been his greatest supporters. When they saw he was struck dumb, they trampled him to death in the street. Then Alma makes this wonderful statement.


Alma 30: 60

And thus we see the end of him who perverteth the ways of the Lord; and thus we see that the devil will not support his children at the last day, but doth speedily drag them down to hell.


When ever I think that the things of the world would be wonderful, or exciting, I try to remember that. And many times they do seem enticing. People would not look at pornographic things if they did not bring pleasure to the person, or fulfill a need within them. Little things can seem so innocent at the start. They seem so enticing. It is like there are two great roads leading down the same path.  

The power of the spirit and the enticing of the world many times seem to almost be equal. But I must always remember that oil and water do not mix. I must always remember that after the deed is done, with one will come the feeling of light and with the other the emptiness.


To some people the beginning enticement of anticipated feelings that will come from helping another person, fasting and praying, going to the temple, giving or receiving a priesthood blessing or other spiritual experiences can seem very equal to or even less enticing than the feeling that comes from seeing a bad movie, looking at pornography, having an affair outside their marriage, or other worldly experiences. It probably would not be possible for someone who has not had the experience to understand that the feeling of enticement before seems very equal. That is why it is called temptation. They can seem equally enticing because the feelings that follow are hidden by our desire to enjoy. We tend to forget the end result feelings. A person would not commit adultery if they felt sick inside before instead of after. It is only after the experience has been had that the realization of the difference in feelings come. One is a feeling that comes after of joy and light. The other is a feeling that comes after of darkness and guilt. For some reason we sometimes have a very hard time remembering the feelings of emptiness and guilt when being enticed by the pleasures of worldliness. Sometimes we are like a little child and we don’t associate the “after feeling of the mess of jam in our hair  with the excitement of the “before we do it” feelings in our life.

Some way we have to learn to remember that we don’t like the feeling of jam in our hair before we do it and try to resist the temptation to enjoy the pleasureful feelings of the moment at the price of loosing the glories feelings of self worth and joy afterwards. In many instances we are actually trading the pleasures of today (worldliness) for the glories of eternity (salvation). That should be enough to say no. That should be enough to say thank you, but no thank you. Oh that we could always remember the wise counsel of President Harold B. Lee who said, "Be loyal to the royal within you". (President Harold B. Lee, “Be Loyal to the Royal Within You,” BYU Devotional, 11 Sept. 1973, in Speeches of the Year, 1973. 

Every one can obtain self control if they will follow the correct course and use the above keys to help them stop bad habits. Anyone who has an addictive habit that is too big for them to stop alone can find a friend to help them. They can regain hope and gain self control. The Lord never makes promises that he does not keep. In the Bible, the Lord said that "Charity never faileth." (see 1 Cor 13:8 ) Remember that word “NEVER”!

There is not an addictive habit that is so bad that you can not overcome it with the help of your friends. And you need to be sure that one of your friends is the Savior. You can stop breaking the commandments and live them one day and one commandment at a time by finding something higher that you want more.  You can do it! Now do it.


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