How to Break Bad Habits: The No Willpower Approach (Video Interview)

Do you struggle with some kind of habit you’d like to break?

Do you over indulge in food or wine, or spend hours online? Do you compulsively shop or feel consumed by self doubt? Or do you do any one of a thousand other unwanted habits?

This week I talked to Dr Amy Johnson, author of  The Little Book of Big Change: The No Willpower Approach to Breaking Any Habit (New Harbinger, Jan 2016), about her groundbreaking approach to breaking habits and addictions.

Gentle, wise and instantly reassuring, and using a mixture of neuroscience and spirituality, Amy walks us through what’s really behind our bad habit or addiction and how to stop it at source.

I read Amy’s book last year (I was lucky enough to get a pre sale copy) and I loved it! Watch the interview here:

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Or listen to it here:


We talk about…

blue bullet point smallWhy traditional methods often don’t work and can actually strengthen your habit.

blue bullet point smallWhy you feel so hijacked, and what to do instead so your urges lessen over time

blue bullet point small Why setbacks are normal and what to do if/when you have them.

blue bullet point smallOur own personal stories, successes and failures.

blue bullet point smallPlus lots more, including an unscheduled appearance by Amy’s super cute dog, Buddha, who had an urgent matter to attend to in the middle of our interview.


PLUS—A giveaway! Screen shot 2016-01-13 at 12.17.47 PM

We have 2 copies of The Little Book of Big Change to give away. (Thanks Amy)

To enter, simply write a comment below and you’ll go into the draw. We’ll pick two people at random. You can just say hi, or if you have a question for myself or Amy or a comment of any kind, pop that in.

We hope you enjoy the video:)

To order a copy of The Little Book of Big Change, click here.
Visit Dr Amy Johnson here.

Please share!

Screen shot 2016-01-19 at 12.12.44 PM

We received so much feedback about this interview, I asked Amy if she’d do a live call where you could call in and ask her questions. She said yes!

If you’d like to join Dr Amy Johnson and I in conversation in this FREE one hour Q&A call Tuesday 23rd February, 12pm PST. Sign up here.

And if you can’t make the call live, sign up anyway and we’ll send you the recording afterwards:)

Name: Email:


  1. This is a great discussion. I really like the idea that ‘our habits are not a sign that we are diseased or unhealthy and in actual fact they’re a sign of strength and resilience’. That’s very interesting and I think it’s one of the key reasons why we overindulge in anything – to try and compensate for pain in our lives and give ourselves momentary pleasure.

    Starting by thinking of habits as a sign of resilience (there has to be a reason why they are HABITS) is a very different and powerful way to frame the concept.

    The work that you both is very cool and really resonates with me – thank you! 🙂

    • You’re welcome! Since coming across Amy’s work a few years ago, I’m always so pleased to share it as I know first hand of the impact it has on people. Ideas like how our habits are a sign of our resilience! I loved that too. Such a nicer place to start from.

    • It’s a refreshing way to view it, isn’t it Roshan? And the best part is that it’s much more accurate than blaming ourselves and viewing our habits as problems with us or our psyches. We are healthy, doing the best we can see to do in each moment. Glad you enjoyed the conversation!

      • Roshan Daryanani says

        Thanks for sharing it! :Anything that gets us to view our own actions and selves in a kinder light is something that needs to be spread 🙂

  2. Dr. Goodwill says

    …..I am so happy that – both of you, Amy and Lisa – found special ways to give voice to those wonderful findings research in neuroscience and modern psychology gave to the world. The ideas are not new, i.e., the spiritual underpinnings. However, combining them with modern research and finding a voice to communicate them is an art in itself.
    Thank you to both of you!
    Kind regards from Berlin, Germany
    Dr. goodwill

    • Thank you, Dr. Goodwill! I agree—there is really a sweet spot at that intersection of spirit and science that is SO promising for all of us. Thank you for your kind words!

  3. This looks really interesting. i would love to win a copy of the book

  4. Dennis Baber says


  5. Hi!
    Can’t wait to read this!

  6. Hi! I’d love to read this book.

  7. Hi, I love the idea of this book; it is now on my ‘to read list’ 🙂

  8. Hi. I’m really good at habits – bad ones, that is. My worst habit is procrastination. Any tips you can offer are welcome. I would love to read your book!

    • Procrastination can sometimes look different, but it’s really the same as any habit–when it’s time to do some task, something shows up within you that makes you want to procrastinate. Whatever those thoughts or feelings are, they are the habit. But you are in charge, they aren’t. Just like you wouldn’t want your dog walking you, pulling you down the sidewalk, you don’t want to let your brain drag you around either.

      So notice the pull of your brain toward other tasks and gently, kindly, come back. Play with it. The less seriously you take it, the better.

      And something really cool about procrastination–make sure you’re not being too hard on yourself. Often when we call procrastination is just us acting on our wisdom. Maybe it’s not time to do the thing you THINK you want to do? Maybe you need a distraction? Distraction and waiting aren’t all bad, but we can get used to calling them that. So maybe this applies, maybe not. But it’s something to keep in mind!

  9. A big HI ,
    As one who has a bad habit she is desperate to break , I find this whole concept fascinating . I’ve tried other methods but always cave in .I believe the strength is within me , this book I think must validate that, what I’ve heard here rings true in me and ,I’m looking forward to reading it

    • HI! It is fascinating isn’t it. And yep, the strength is within you. The willpower approach really is so tricky – like trying to use our mind to solve something our mind created and wants to hold onto more than anything. Gently gaining a new understanding seems to quietly, quietly, shift things. Thanks for saying hi, and I hope you enjoy the book:))

    • I hope it helps simplify things for you, Jan! You are habit-free already, by default. When your thinking and impulses and judgments and all of that human, mind stuff settle down, you have all the strength you need and you absolutely know how to live without your habit. It’s closer than you think!

  10. Hi – as always really thought provoking ..would love to win a copy x

  11. Want to stop smoking – is this a habit or addiction – or both? Hope to win the book for help. Thank you!!

    • I’d say it’s the same thing, and that addiction is just a fancy word for habit. Amy, what’s your take on it?

      • Yup, I agree. I think calling things an addiction can make them feel stronger and harder to walk away from. Not necessarily the case though. Keep it simple. No matter how long the habit has been around, we can all see things differently that make way for change.

  12. Julian Glowacki says

    Hi … Would love to win a copy of this book . Have problems with procrastination and have lots of self doubt.

    • Hi Julian–I like that you include self-doubt as a habit. I agree, it really is! That’s what I love about these ideas, they are helpful for behavioral habits as well as emotional or mental (thought-based) habits. I hope this conversation was helpful to you!

  13. Would love to win a copy of this book.

  14. Howdy, or hi


  16. Hi 🙂 Would love to read this book! Thx u for
    sharing it.

  17. Very significant topic. Thanks for the interview.

  18. Hi 🙂

  19. I think its wonderful to know that we are not the habits. They don’t define us. I have been so wound up in stressing over things that I thought I was just a stressed person. That the stress was me. Between me feeling stupid for worrying about things and people saying things like “You always stress about stuff” or “You stress too easily” I came to define myself as stressed. As having failed. Failed not at something like learning a new language or rock climbing but at being. I was not able to roll with things and move on. That’s a terrible feeling. This makes it different, this makes stress something that my lizard brain thinks I should do all the time but I think maybe its mistaken. My life became stressful and I just never turned it off. I was not stressed when I was younger so I think this is something my lizard brain grabbed onto and I didn’t know to tell it when we were done with that part of life. I’m sure my brain will be disappointed and not entirely convinced at first but my mind now has something to fight back with. You know I could see there was a different way to react but my lizard brain was happy with the stress so it went there first and then the other reactions seemed fuzzy and harder to see. I plan to see with my mind as well as my brain and I think I will see those other options more clearly. Oh my goodness this became long winded. But for the people like me whose habit is to go straight to stress, I think that this is something that we learned and maybe the stress was useful in that moment. But we have more than just lizard brains. We have inner wisdom. We can react to things using our whole brains and minds and guts and let our lizard brains do the things lizard brains are so good at. I will embrace my lizard brain for its usefulness but know the rest of me has knowledge and power, too!

    • WOW, Kelly…I LOVE what you’re seeing here. This is so incredibly insightful and really will set you free: “I think that this is something that we learned and maybe the stress was useful in that moment. But we have more than just lizard brains. We have inner wisdom. We can react to things using our whole brains and minds and guts and let our lizard brains do the things lizard brains are so good at.”

      That’s it exactly. That stress response is something that’s so common in many of us, but it is nothing more than habitual thought taken seriously. The more you can watch your mind go back to stress, but take it as a suggestion that you can say “no thank you” to, the more free you are. That stress is not you. Not by a long shot. That stress is you as much as rain or snow IS the sky. Weather happens through or in or over the sky, but the sky stays the sky no matter what kind of surface -level weather is showing up.

      Good stuff you’re seeing, and thanks for sharing it with everyone here!

  20. Looks like powerful work.

  21. Habitual Offender looking to be paroled…guilty of Sax, Dogs and Rocky Road…

  22. Mary Salyars says

    Great interview !!!:):)

  23. Erika Coburn says

    Hi Lisa 😉
    I’d love another copy of the book to share, I bought one and I’m loving it. I also really love all you share! Thank you
    Erika xo

  24. Hi! Thanks for sharing this.

  25. Saying Hi in the comment section as instructed with fingers crossed in hopes to win a free copy to give away. I now have this on my amazon account to order but would like to share the wealth so to speak. Self doubt in the dictionary has my mug next to it often it seems and my OCD is an ugly trait. Thank you both for all you do.

  26. I like this site and would like to have a copy of this book (win one)

    Thanks in advance,

  27. Hi! I definitely have some bad habits that I’d like to break, without beating myself up. This sounds awesome.

  28. Hi!

  29. James Botaitis says

    Hi Lisa,

    Another great article, use of video and thanks for the intro Dr Amy.



  30. Awesome, awesome talk! I soaked up every word!

    I read the book Brain Over Binge by Kathryn Hansen (one of the books that strongly inspired Amy’s habit work) a year and a half ago and it transformed the paradigm through which I saw my binge eating. Of course, I have had slip ups since then. But I always come back to it, and I always see how brilliant of a perspective, philosophy, paradigm, whatever you might call it, that this is. The ideas here are extremely game-changing, and I’m so thankful for you, Lisa, and Amy, and Kathryn, for the groundbreaking work you are doing. This is really, really important stuff that I believe will absolutely transform the world of psychology once it gets into enough hands!

    I’m buying the book digitially as soon as I’m done typing this, and I plan to order the physical copy as well! Thank you again, so, so, much for this talk and for what you are doing in general!


    • I forgot to mention, I’ve been subscribed to Amy’s blog for about a month now (I discovered her through Kathryn Hansen’s blog), and read her 30ish page PDF which she has on her site for free – its a sort of short introduction to the ideas being discussed here. I found the PDF and her blog posts to be brilliant, so I have been anticipating the books release. This video just reminded me that I need to get it right away. Haha.

      • Thank you so much, Angie! And yes…Brain Over Binge is phenomenal for people struggling with binge eating but really with any habit. I’m so happy to hear that this work has been beneficial to you!!

    • Hi Angie! It really is a game changer isn’t it. And the cool thing is that by having a larger understanding of how we, our mind etc work, it helps us in all areas of our life. I’m sure you have found this too. Nice to meet you, and thanks so much for saying hi and sharing your story:) And you’ve reminded me to check out Kathryn’s book and blog!

  31. Hi! I’d love to read this book.

  32. Would love a copy of your book. Been biting my nails since I’ve been a kid. Help!

    • There’s a great nail biting story in the book, Paul! That person in the “backseat” (your lower brain) is getting your hands to your mouth, but YOU don’t have to listen. Slow down, get curious, notice your brain doing what it does with compassion and understanding, and soon YOU will be able to make a free choice.

  33. Thank you, Lisa, for all that you do!!! ~ Sarah

  34. I purchased “being human”, and loved it!
    My thinking is very stinking….i stand in my own way half the time!
    I am looking forward to reading your new book Amy xo

  35. Joanne Hothersall says

    I’ve been smoking most of my life, I don’t remember when I didn’t smoke (57 years old). I have pretty good willpower for most things which are usually beneficial to others (co-dependent and working on it) but for this I have failed miserably. I want to quit for myself and my family and I desperately need new motivations and help. This book seems like something that can help me. I read your site every day for motivation and it helps in all things but I’m afraid not this. PLEASE, new ideas are needed, can’t go on like this. Thanks so much.

    • Yes, do check it out. It really is a wonderful little book and, as Angie pointed out, is game changing in the world of habit breaking. Even of habits that some people think of as diseases we have to live with.

    • I hope you check it out, Joanne. I completely understand and can relate to your feelings of hopelessness. It’s worth looking in a new direction, if nothing else is working. I hope you find the insight you need and please reach out if I can support you further!

  36. Hi lisa,

    If I’m meant to read this book, then perhaps I might win a copy. Hope that doesn’t sound arrogant.

  37. inspirational73 says

    Hi, I can so relate to this.. been.trying to use ‘willpower’ all my life, there has to be another way!
    Thank you.

  38. Sherrie Kerschenheiter says

    Ooo, Ooo, pick me! Pick me!!!

    I really like this video. I love the fact we don’t have to identify with our habits-what we consider good or bad, actually. It helps us to get rid of them. I’ve wanted to weigh 120 lbs for a long time. (I need to lose about 50) I’ve identified with my eating habits. Doing that, I look at myself as being less admirable and respected than I should be. Looking forward to winning that book!

    • Yes, Sherrie! There is something about identifying with a behavior or thought, and believing it’s important, that makes it far stickier. I love that about this understanding.

      Thanks for watching!

  39. Found this amazing to listen to. I was chastising myself earlier today for a ‘bad habit’, now I see it differently. It doesn’t mean we are less or failures, we are important and awesome.

  40. Hi !!! Love love this blog, and would sure love to win a book too. Xoxo

  41. Thank you for this comprehensive video – it is precious info and generous to share it freely! I am in the middle of reading “being human” for the second time and can’t wait to read Amy’s newest! I have been personally impacted by the concept that we are not our thoughts and that they happen to us just like breath, heartbeats… Ah, I felt so much freedom in that understanding & my friends have too. Thank you so much for sharing your work ❤️ Rena

  42. I just finished reading Amy’s book and it was truly excellent. Wonderful to hear you both elaborating on it too 🙂

  43. Hi Lisa 🙂 I really enjoy getting your emails because they help me keep my spirits up and to stay realistic. I struggle with overeating and I so fed up with feeling stuck in the bad circle of self-loathing and overeating. I am looking for ressources to help me break the habit and would love to win the book <3 Michelle, Denmark

    • Hi Michelle! I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to watch the video yet, but Amy talks about her experience with binge eating, how she tried every kind of therapy and treatment you can think of and how this way of seeing things freed her. I think you’d get a lot out of the book and/or the video. Amy’s free weekly newsletter is another wonderful resource. (And thanks for reading mine, I love that you find it useful!)

  44. Heather Hall says


  45. Follow both of you and love your work. Keep it up. Best.

  46. Amazing how helpful it is to hear conversations like this. I’ve been following both of you, Lisa and Amy, for a while.Yet, just about every time I listen to to one of you speak (or read a blog post or article), I come away with a new or deeper understanding of the message you convey. Thanks for continuing to do what you do.

  47. I so love the work you both do. It feels so gentle, light, and comforting! Today I was in the car, and my lizard brain was hounding me with a common thing it fixates on…the “You should be doing more!” theme. But, after watching the video, I was able to see my lower mind sitting in the back of my car and yelling at me while I continued to cruise along. It brought me joy. Thank you!! 🙂

    • I can sooo relate to the “do more, try harder” voice. The obnoxious back seat driver is a wonderful metaphor isn’t it? It becomes more humorous and predictable than ominous. Great story, thanks for sharing!

  48. Hilary Conroy says

    Hi! Not only do I want to win this book, I need to win it!!! Thanks.

  49. Hi Lisa!
    Perfect timing as always…..would love a copy of Amy’s book! The struggle continues 🙂


  50. would love to read the book!

  51. James Keleher says

    Hi ! That book looks good………

  52. Hello! Looks like an interesting read for sure!

  53. AND THE WINNER’S ARE … Kelly and Angie! ( I’ve sent you an email so we can get your address and get your books out to you!)

    Thanks to everyone who entered and said hi. We love hearing from you. We love it so much Amy and I decided to do a live FREE CALL on the 16th of Feb 12 PST (3pm EST)—so you can call in and ask Amy questions of your own. Amy and I will email you about it in the next couple of weeks—if you’re on either of our lists, that is. Speak soon!

  54. Hi Amy- someone shared this talk and a FB page a few weeks back and I can’t stop thinking about it. I run a small non-profit in Tampa, FL and we teach the principles to middle and high school students. This talk had such a profound impact on me I’d like to talk to you about creating a lesson for our curriculum. I know this would help the students we teach.

    • Brooke, I’ve passed your message on to Amy and she’s going to contact you directly. What a great idea to make a lesson for your students. Best of luck.

  55. Love synchronicity! I already have the book so give the chance to others.
    Was actually planning to start reading it today and some how I got to this video in Facebook. Don’t even know how I got there lol lol lol lol . Love the talk lots of insights! I can’t believe I’ve been treating and seing my self as an overweight person. I’ve been dieting since I was 12 and I am 48. I even trained as a health coach looking for the answer, but now I see that is just that I’ve been in the habit of thinking I am overweight, even when I’ve been really low on weight! What a liberation. Thank you!

  56. Hi.. The book was like a smack in the head. Kinda like being forced to look in the mirror and ask why are you doing this. It made me realize that change is so simple. I’m in control nowl and I can fix this. It’s working and I’m a better person for it… Thank you for writing it and for a great interview..


  1. […] a conversation I had with my friend, colleague, and almost-fellow author, Lisa Esile (her book Whose Mind is It Anyway? co-authored with her husband Franco, is coming out in June) […]

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