Perhaps you’ve known or been related to a long-term smoker. If so, you’ve most likely heard this statement at least a few dozen times: “I’m trying to quit.” And, for most people, unless the motivation comes from a reduction in the stress that smoking detracts from, or a real desire to just ‘give up smoking’ itself, the results have been less than … successful.
But, it’s time to change all that!
No longer should people ‘quit’ smoking, ‘give-up’ their habits, or try to change their ‘bad’ behaviors. Why? Because those are NEGATIVE WORDS! Think about it: whether or not you’re a smoker or have any such bad habits, have you ever had to “quit”, “give-up”, or accept yourself as a failure and recognize how “bad” you (and / or your actions) are … and had it be a good thing? Doesn’t sound too nice, does it? And, to make matters worse, for most people, habits like smoking are exacerbated by stress. Depression and stress go hand in hand, and ‘quitting,’ ‘giving-up’, and calling yourself ‘bad’, leads to MORE depression! Words are powerful tools that can have overwhelmingly, long-lasting influence (very cool video by the way!!), over our feelings and behaviors – and can truly cause us physical harm if used .. and taken … incorrectly.
So, let’s start something new!!
For people who want to give up a habit, be it smoking, drinking, eating, gambling, video game playing, television watching, caffeine, drugs, or anything else that can be interpreted as an addiction with some harmful consequences, here are a new series of steps to consider (and these are only “thoughts” designed to inspire you to think for yourself … this is not a guideline, an absolute, nor a definitive, scientific / psychological … “thing” … and I’m not a doctor … although doctors haven’t had much success in this field as it is … nicotine patches, anyone? ARGH!!!). Use this for yourself, or someone you care about – however it best suits you! (And, hopefully, it does inspire you!!)
Step 1: Why do you do what it is you do?
Most likely, any addiction you or someone you know has is not really all that ‘physical’ in nature. Be careful – some addictions are due to bad wiring in the brain and some physical issues that must be approached and/or dealt with by a professional and LOTS of love! For everyone else, an addiction stems from a mental need. Maybe it’s stress and needing to be distracted by smoking or eating (keeping the body busy … ever notice how much smokers fidget with their cigarette packs?). Perhaps it’s a lot of depression or stress you just can’t deal with? Regardless, the fact is, there’s something going wrong that needs some attention and your brain needs a distraction!! But – if we knew how to fix it – we wouldn’t fall back on those habits!! So….
Until the time comes that some miracle cure relieves humanity of its existing stressors compounded by the overwhelming amount of daily input all around us – we can’t just “stop” cold turkey – we have to replace the habit!! This works – very well. Unfortunately, when not done right – it has equally dire consequences (such as people who replace smoking or drinking with eating and gain tremendous amounts of weight). The problems you’re faced with are YOURS. They matter to you. They are important. Don’t compare them. And, for heaven’s sake, stop using negatives like “bad” habits. You are trying to deal with your problems in the only way you have, to date, learned how. But, let’s face it – you’ve not “yet” found success. How do you know? You’re still trying (still got that habit!!). When you want to make a change – you can – and still live in a world where rainbows don’t magically appear and make everything better!! So, regardless of your reasons – spend a little time thinking about them and considering what stresses you out … because hiding from it – doesn’t work – ever! No, you may not be at the point of facing your problems and you may not even know the ‘underlying’ problems, but that probably would require some professional intervention. However, the more superficial, and yet devastatingly stressful ones can include guilt, money, fear, relationships, and so on! Pick one and run with it – because realizing you have an issue is the first step in overcoming it (and no .. not the habit being used to divert your mind from the issue … the issue itself). As you work through these steps, the path will lead you to a little more happiness that can help dealing with those issues a WHOLE lot easier.
If your reasons are not so deep, than what’s going on? Why do you do what you do? Are you happy? Do you feel pressured just because society says so? Why are you listening to them? Look at television: you’re ugly. Why? Because every commercial tells you so: whiten your teeth, don’t be bald, lose weight, grow longer eyelashes, and so on and so on. There’s NO WAY to meet that social state of perfection. It’s impossible. Even the beautiful, hurt. Look at Twitter and the hatred and rage that dominates the social media world. If you want to make a change for yourself – then DO IT FOR YOURSELF!! Nobody else! This is the first step to success: a measurable goal. You know when you’re happy. You don’t know when other people are genuinely happy. You don’t control those people. You only have control over you. So, let’s keep it simple … let’s start with the most important person in your life – YOU!!
Step 2: DON’T QUIT
Why? Why would you quit? Are you a quitter? Isn’t quitting … losing? Look, it doesn’t matter if you’re giving up a habit that’s causing you detriment because the fact is that quitting is just that: failure. Stop trying to quit. Even the phrase, “trying” to “quit”, is an exercise in futility (there is no try … only do!! so sayeth the green one!). Don’t worry about it. Don’t use those “trying” or “quit” words anymore and don’t tell anyone that you’re going to quit. Because, if you fail, you’ll only justify to yourself that you let everyone else down and that you’re a terrible person and you’ll persecute yourself back into being a helpless victim with no control and so on and so on and blah, blah, blah! Whew. It’s called the Drama Triangle … and it sucks. Don’t get stuck in it.
Step 3: 30 In 30
That’s the rule: 30 days in a consecutive 30 day order. It’s a well established practice that works: it really takes 30 days of doing something before it becomes a habit … or replaces a habit. You have to commit to 30 days and find yourself happy with that commitment at the end of those 30 days. So … how do you “not quit” and still change the habit? Easy … (hahahaha .. nothing’s “Easy” … that was a test to see if you’re still paying attention!!) … use, SUBSTITUTION!
Yes … but not just any substitution. You need to do something absolutely selfish! That’s right … SELFISH! Everyone … every single person on the planet … is the most important person in their life. If you’re not doing something for yourself … then you may find yourself failing at a LOT of things in life. How does that work?
- “I did it for my kids, but they just started acting up about something else … I must have failed.” Why? You don’t control how your kids feel – and you can’t – no matter how much you may believe you can. If you believe your kids love you (and if you’re trying that hard for them, you must believe that), then don’t you understand that seeing you happy WILL contribute to their happiness by relieving them of that little bit of worry every child has for their parents?
- “I like making people happy.” Wow …. did you read that sentence? Read it AGAIN! You like “MAKING” people happy? What the heck? Since when did forcibly trying to pin someone down and thrust your ideas and principals on them “make” them happy? Sure … I would be VERY happy if someone bought me a Ferrari (hint hint), but it’s not because that individual “made” me happy … it’s still my life and my choice. You don’t control the world, or how others feel. You can impact them and definitely contribute to their current, mental state – but only because they choose to let it affect them!
- “I love my spouse/friend, I want them to be happy.” Well, good for you! That’s a great sentiment. And, genuinely, it’s just a nice way to be. But, unless you have some crystal ball to read into their mind – how do you know they’re really, happy? “Oh, I know …” …. you say. Sure you do. Heard that from a LOT of people, family members, church goers, and so on .. that never saw the truth in the pain in the eyes of the people they were sure … were happy.
And, the list goes on. Living for others is an absolute way to guarantee failure. I’m not talking about shoving the world away or just becoming callous to the need of others … DUH!. It’s like the old saying goes: How can you help someone else if you can’t even help yourself? I’m talking about not being able to force others to think or feel the way you may want. But, what you can do is control yourself, and find some happiness in your own life … and when others see that – it will have a positive effect!! So – you NEED to find something selfish, something crazy, and something unpredictable that you want (and for this … and ONLY for the purpose of letting go of a habit, being materialistic is perfectly fine … and even helpful). For example, let’s say you smoke two packs of cigarettes per day, or you drink a bottle of vodka every day, or you eat meals designed for two … but now you’ve thought about it and found something you really want that you previously considered unreachable? Yes .. everyone has this. A new TV? A new stereo? Going to the theater (see … something crazy you probably hadn’t thought of before??!!)? Seeing a comedian. Going to a rock concert. Staying in an expensive hotel and being treated .. NICE! A massage! C’mon folks … that list goes on … and you KNOW it! Maybe it’s just a new kitchen pan!! But … not the cheap stuff. Not the worn-out used stuff. No … this is something special … and something expensive. And, even if you’re trying to help someone else … what an AWESOME way to reach out! Send them on a cruise … that they are paying for … by paying for some other part of it, or adding on to it … but either way, incentivizing with the SELFLESS purpose of understanding … this has to be FOR THEM and BY THEM … or they’ll miss the selfish part … and if anything goes wrong, point fingers at you!!
Step 4: The Payoff!
Now, you set a goal! Put the money aside. Buy 1 pack of cigarettes instead of two. Buy a smaller bottle of vodka. Shop for half as much food. The money you don’t spend (and you have to have it in cash, so if you use credit or debit, you need to physically draw the money), you put in an envelope. On the front of it, you write down in BIG letters WHAT you want, and how MUCH it costs. Now, you’re not quitting anything. You’re actually being productive and saving (short term, not long term – that doesn’t work for this). Sure, at first, you may crave the extra cigarettes, alcohol, food, or whatever, and you may spend other money you have to go get them – but not the money in the envelope. That’s … sacred. You will run short on money eventually and you will … as all people have had to go through with any addicting habits, cut yourself a little short (learn to span it out … which is awesome for the process of “changing” a habit).
BE CAREFUL! Your goal HAS to be reasonable and within reach. Too long of a goal … and you’ll drop it (apathy is the brother of procrastination and “quitting”). Start small, within $150 MAX (1 pack of cigarettes for 30 days, 15 bottles of $10 booze, 10 visits to McDonald’s, etc., etc.). And, make it special crazy! A new pair of jeans. Shoes you REALLY want but have seemed too expensive to “waste” your money on. Whatever it is, it HAS to be something you would NOT normally buy for yourself. Don’t buy lottery tickets, because if you don’t win, you just go back to justifying your failures! NO! Bad! Don’t do that! Maybe you haven’t gone to a nice restaurant in a very, very long time (and I mean .. NICE … aka Expensive!!). Well … GO! You deserve it! You work hard! You’ve waited long enough. You deserve to be reminded that you are important, too!
The results? Your mind is filled with a lot of apprehension … but the good kind. Where would I put my new television? What will I wear if I go out? Oh, man, I could use that massage right now! If I buy a Blu-Ray, I’ll need movies! What will people think about tinted windows on my car? All sorts of fun ideas will start filling your mind and be uplifting. Simultaneously, you’ll be cutting back on that habit. But, here’s the catch – you’re not “really” replacing a habit with a “habit”, you’re replacing a habit that’s designed to reward you by offsetting the stress you’re currently under, by simply reducing that stress through positive rewards while still offering your brain a distraction from focusing on the negative thoughts that have been weighing you down. You treat yourself a little better. You feel a little nicer. You get back some of the control in your life. And, with that, comes a little less stress … and subsequently, less of a need for that habit! You never gave up. You never quit. You never failed. The only thing that can come from this plan is – success. Even if you haven’t cut back your habit yet, you’ve already started the process of treating yourself better – and it feels AWESOME!
Step 5: Consistency!
For 30 days you saved and at the end, you got something crazy, fun, stupid for yourself. But, the world is still the same. You still feel like a drone at work. You’re still worried about the future. You feel like others don’t really see you or know you or … even care. Maybe it’s something totally different? But, that’s part of reality. Just because you made one change, the world didn’t instantly get better. Even if tomorrow you go from 400 pounds to 200, you may feel better and get positive feedback from others around you, but it doesn’t mean that suddenly life improves (no magic job, no magic Ferrari, nada). Life … takes time. Our feelings and fears are deeply embedded within us. It’s easy to fall back into “old” habits for that very reason. So … now you take the next step. And, who cares if you’re taking your time and going slowly? You’ve set no deadlines. You’re not “quitting.” That is no longer your measurement of success! So … get that “stressful” thought out of your mind. You’ll know when you’re successful … because the habit will be gone and you won’t even know it!
Did you buy new shoes or new clothes? Go OUT! Use them. Find places where YOU enjoy – not where you’re impressing others because again .. you can’t control them. What is beautiful to you could be ugly to them. But hey, just because I like black doesn’t mean I should be offended by someone who likes white (and yes, I do like black for whomever wants to buy me that Ferrari!!). This is YOUR moment. Your reward. YOU get to enjoy it! And, yes, as long as you did it for you, you can share it with a friend or loved one and still have just as much enjoyment … as long as you don’t let yourself forget this is for YOU! Next on the list … DO IT AGAIN!
Maybe you don’t go too much bigger … at least not yet. Maybe you slowly work your way up. Today, you set your goals on a new blender ($129.99 NICE Ninja blender!!)! And, that was fun … but you don’t want to spend all your time in the kitchen, cooking. So, next you set your goals on something a little bigger. Maybe a $389 big screen television (unless your addiction is to television … then work on a $389 bicycle!!!). Sure, you’ll have to cut back on that habit a little more to make it work, but it really wasn’t all that hard last time … so this … will be a piece of cake! Remember .. you’re not “quitting”, you’re just shifting around your priorities and treating yourself!! Do you “need” a new television (for example). No – no one does (okay … maybe I do … hahaha!). But, walk around Best Buy and look at those gorgeous, huge, television screens and you too, will soon realize … it would something that would be “nice” to have. So … DO IT! Make that your new goal. You wouldn’t just go out and do it otherwise … so it fits the bill!
Of course, you don’t want to get into the habit of just spending money (and this was just one example of how to start this change). What you want to do is get into the process of valuing yourself … because that’s what you’re doing when you do something for yourself, with YOUR money, that YOU earned, because YOU work hard!! So, let’s say you get a new television … and now you clean your house (something else that keeps your mind busy and off of those habits) … and, you invite someone over and share in it! You can feel good now sharing with someone else if that’s what you’d like to do because – you helped yourself first by finding value in who you are, so now, you can accept that others will find value in you, too! When they ask how you afforded it, explain that you’ve set new goals for yourself to improve your life and that you’re trying to do a little better each day. Wow! You will get nothing but positive feedback! (Except from idiots … ignore idiots…). And, it won’t be long before you start to think about the bigger picture … retirement? Do you want to work, forever? How much stress could you relieve by not having to work until you’re 115 years old!?! Just remember … that’s still a ways down the road, once you wake up one morning and realize … the habit’s gone … and you’re still here!!
Look – there is no magic answer to dealing with stress and a bogged down brain that’s fallen on addictive habits to try and manage stress. If there was, and if what I wrote above was it, I would be buying my own Ferrari. But, the habit started with you … and it will only end, with you. Don’t be bullied, shamed, or pressured. People trying to push you to quit are not people who are thinking about “you.” Trying to “make” you do something is no different than, well, trying to “make” someone happy! People who do this are typically thinking about themselves and what makes them happy … not you! We don’t control other people, only ourselves … and the same is true in reverse: other people don’t control us, we have the mental power to choose how we feel. The world is so full of drama and chaos constantly blasting us from all directions that sometimes it just feels like there’s nowhere to go! Sometimes, we all surrender to our own little corner and just stop to think, to feel, and to breathe! You are not alone … everyone has stress!
So – DON’T QUIT! You don’t “need” to. Yes, drinking, eating, smoking, bankrupting yourself, or rotting out your brain WILL harm you. But, if you have these habits … you already know this. The warning labels are there along with all the feedback yelling at you to stop (even from your own body). But, life’s not about quitting. It’s about progressing. So … move forward! Treat yourself right. Re-appropriate the resources you would have to support a habit … and make it a rewarding experience that pays off RIGHT now! Heck … I just learned how much tickets to Disneyland cost two weeks ago (thinking I was cool and was going to plan a trip for $35 per day tickets until I choked on the number and woke up to the horrifying reality of the commercialism that’s turned them into $100 per day tickets)!! But, if I had a habit that cost me an extra $50 per week … it might take a few months, but I could cut that down by half (as a long term goal under Step 5), and then – blamo! Disneyland!!! (unless some loving reader wants to send me there in my new ferrari they also buy for me ... :)!! The payoff – HUGE! The sacrifice – minimal. And, you’d never quit – only succeed and then some! (even though your habit .. would be long forgotten by then!).
Wouldn’t that be … awesome?