Breaking Bad Habits: How I Quit Starbucks

Here’s the deal. I used to be a Starbucks fiend. #pumpkinspicelattelife? Yup, that was me.

I would tell myself that I would start limiting how many times I went to Starbucks within a week – that I would stop whenever I really wanted to. I didn’t quite want to – not yet at least. But unfortunately for me, it became quite apparent after a while that my Starbucks habit was one I needed to break. I was wasting a ton of money (when I should have been saving it or paying off student loans). Even more importantly, my health was at stake! My sugar intake was through the roof and I was starting each morning off with a sugar bomb, leaving me feeling completely unsatisfied with my food choices the rest of the day.

When I finally tried to quit, I felt like I was using every trick in the book. I went cold turkey. I tried making my own lattes at home. I put together a strict Starbucks budget.  All of which are totally reasonable solutions. But none of them were sticking.

…until I started digging into my own ferocious habit loop. The Habit Loop, from the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, is a powerful way to examine what is really going on with your habit and replace it with something else – something healthier; something that will make you happier! If you can diagnose your habit, you can change it (and quite easily, too)!

The Habit Loop

– Cue: the habit “trigger” (this can be a time, place or emotional state)

– Routine: the behavior itself

– Reward: the feeling we get once routine is complete

The reward in this cycle is arguably the most important part. What are you getting out of this habit? What is the real driver here? What are you really craving?


So let’s take a moment to dive into my habit loop, shall we?

Zoe’s Starbucks Habit

The cue: It was time to leave for work, often in a rush, without time for breakfast or coffee at home.

The routine: Conveniently passing by the Starbucks on the way to work, I would go through the drive through and happily order my PSL (2 pumps, no whip) and a breakfast sandwich. I would savor those first couple of sips and bites with immediate satisfaction.

The reward: I felt relaxed, taking a second to marvel in the beauty of the world on the rest of the way to work, feeling like I could finally enjoy my morning.

Bahh! Hold it right there! This is where our detective skills come into play.

Digging deep to find the driving force behind your actions.

I recently signed up for a COURAGEworks course with Brene Brown and Glennon Doyle Melton, and in the second lesson, they talked a lot about examining the driving forces behind your actions. Are you craving distraction? Do you need connection and socialization? Do you want to numb and avoid your emotions? It is extremely important to figure out the why behind the actions you take. Often, avoidance, distraction and numbing can lead us to develop bad habits, or encourage us to take action that doesn’t add to our life experience (read: mind-numbing social media scrolling, drinking to forget, binge watching all of Netflix).

So how do you know the difference between good and bad habits or activities? Glennon says with the good-for-you actions, “I feel better afterwards, and not worse. There’s no shame in these things. They are things I would recommend to my kids.” I.e. taking a walk, drinking a glass of water, heading to the gym to fit in a sweat session. She further explains they are activities that “invite you back to life instead of away from your life.” And Brene adds, “it is loving yourself, it’s serving yourself.”

Ahhhhh. Yesss!

You see, through my Starbucks routine, I found that what I was really looking for was fulfillment and relaxation. Starbucks was a treat to myself, something that allowed me to enjoy my morning before heading into work and getting caught up in the action.

To break a habit, you need to disrupt your habit loop with something else that serves you.

This might require a bit more digging on your part; a bit of experimentation. For me, I found that by waking up just 15-20 minutes earlier, and having my coffee machine all prepped and ready to go, I could make a satisfying breakfast, and start my day off with a hot cup of locally sourced coffee and a good book. This provided me the fulfillment and relaxation I was looking for. And it was something that I couldn’t wait to wake up and do each day.

This new habit was worth it to me. It adds to my life experience – it makes me happy! I no longer look forward to having that Starbucks in hand – in all honesty, I don’t even give it a second thought.


Zoe Lauryn

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What bad habits are you trying to break? Have you tried digging into your Habit Loop yet? If not, it is definitely worth a shot! Email me at [email protected] or comment in the section below and let me know what you think!