We have received this anonymous challenge...
... and again we are not sure if it came from a girl or a guy, so again we came up with a name that could serve both.
Trying to break a habit that no longer serves us is a pretty universal struggle. On the internet, you can find plenty of articles on how to quit smoking, but as you know, with us it’s all about going deeper and exploring yourself. This article is not going to be so much about the particular methods that can be used to quit smoking, those you have already explored. It’s going to be about managing your mind in order to set yourself up for success.
We have prepared a 5 step process to take you from identifying the root-cause for your habit, through to shifting into your new, habit-free self. You can apply this process to work with any habit, pattern or behavior that no longer serves you.
We’re doing it here with Sam’s example of quitting smoking, but it may as well be used for those of us who have been over-working, indulging in food, sugar, wine, sex, basically any pattern that you wish to change.
The whole process is based on a premise that you have created and repeated your own habit, which is why you have the power to change it. In this article, we’re giving you the tools to change your habit in a loving way (yes, love is the answer!).
Let’s have a look at your challenge:
“The time has come and I am ready to quit smoking.
The challenge is that I have tried quitting before and I wasn’t successful. I tried going cold turkey, I have tried using Nicorette, and after a while, I was just starting to smoke again. I guess, also due to failing before I don’t believe that I can actually do it.
What can I do to quit for good?”
We see that you have already attempted quitting before. You have tried several different methods and you came right back into your habit. Smoking is not only a psychological habit, but it’s also a physical addiction, which makes the process of quitting rather challenging (yet the physical part of the addiction is much easier to manage).
Habits are not easy to change
Our brain is wired to be the most efficient. And the most efficient for the brain means to repeat the same pattern over and over again. When you learn to do something new you really have to put a lot of attention to the activities that you are performing.
After a certain amount of repetition, you start to relax and put less effort into concentrating on your actions. After a while when you’ve repeated a behavior thousands of times, you have built a strong neural pathway. A stimulus sends a signal to your brain and you are all set to react in a specific way before you get to think about it.
It's like driving a car
Let’s have a look at an example of how repeated activity transitions into an automatically performed behavior. When you are learning to drive, at first you cannot even start the car smoothly. You have to learn the whole process of seat-belt, mirror, start, clutch, gear, break, gas, before you can get the machine going. You almost need a checklist and you have to remind yourself of the steps of that process, sometimes you forget some of them.
By the time you start to get smoother and you need to remind yourself of a few actions you tend to forget. After a while, you don’t even realize when you get the car going. You are not looking nervously into the mirrors anymore, it all goes smoothly.
When you’ve driven the same car for several years, all the actions are completely automatic. You close the door, and with paying close to no attention to your actions, singing along with the song on the radio, you are on the road, enjoying the drive.
Then you get an automatic car. The first few times it doesn’t go so smoothly, even though in principle it should be EASIER. You have fewer activities to perform, but… “You must unlearn what you’ve learned” (as Yoda would say)... and you have to learn the new steps. There is no way around it, you have to start paying attention and acquire the knowledge of how to use the clutch in a new way (and stop trying to use it when it’s not needed).
It may be a struggle at the beginning
That was an easy example. You are still doing the same thing, driving a car, you only need to change the way you operate it, and yet your brain wants you to do the same sequence you’ve learned before because that’s the most efficient way.
However, when you’ve repeated your new sequence a number of times, it becomes your new pattern. Smoking is, of course, more complex than that, because an “addiction factor” plays a role here, yet to help yourself out of that habit, you need to use the same principles of managing your mind as in changing any other behavior.
No worries Sam, we’ve got you covered. We have put together an amazing process to help you change any habit that no longer serves you. There is just this one tricky thing that may work to your advantage or disadvantage:
It’s all in your head
To succeed in breaking a habit you need to be sure that it is what you really want. It’s also important that you BELIEVE that you can do it. It is your life and your habit. Therefore without a single drop of doubt, you do have the power to change it. You have developed the habit, certainly, you can undo that.
One more important thing about beliefs. Here at You’ve got 5 options, we don’t believe that trying to quit smoking by beating yourself up, hating on yourself and alike behaviors, are very efficient or helpful. It’s like a war with yourself which is very difficult to win.
However, we do believe that if you decide to go through that process as if you are your own very best friend, who wants all the best for yourself, you are already a few steps ahead.
We will, therefore, encourage you to start by digging deep down into yourself and we’ll want you to figure out why you have been smoking all this time. Then we’ll want you to determine and write down why exactly you want to quit.
Then we’ll go into choosing what you’ll be doing instead, figuring out what to do when you feel like smoking and making a fallback plan. The last step will be to shift into the new non-smoking you.
We’ll ask you to spend some time mindfully watching yourself. Take on a role of that neutral observer and notice when you feel like smoking a cigarette.
What are your main triggers?
How do you feel before and after smoking?
What are the messages you repeat to yourself about smoking?
And here, your 5 step process to beat your habit
Step 1: Inner journey (or root cause analysis)— dig deep to find out why have you been smoking all this time (read here)
Step 2: More inner journey- determine why you REALLY want to quit (read here)
Step 3: It’s all in your head- time for some solid mental clean-up (read here)
Step 4: Game plan- figure out what you are going to do instead (read here)
Step 5: Shift into your new non- smoking self (read here)