January 29, 2008

The Other Side Of Quitting

As I said in last week's article, any real change in our habits requires a change within ourselves. Quitting smoking, then, isn't about smoking -- it's about ourselves.

The Trouble With Negative Goals
Your ability to visualize the completion of a goal has a powerful effect on your ability to actually succeed at that goal. The theory is that if you can picture something in your mind with great clarity, you are already more than halfway there. It's like the difference between driving to Seattle with a map in your hand and a red line drawn on the roads you will be using versus simply hopping in the car, driving west and hoping for the best.

But what about negative goals? What about those goals where the aim is to not do something, like not wasting money, not eating too much or not smoking?

Negative goals create a unique problem, because they cannot be visualized. Negation is too abstract to visualize. We are engineered to imagine what is and what can be, not what isn't and cannot be. We can imagine light, but what about the absence of light? When we imagine the absence of light, are we not really visualizing darkness? When we visualize a person who is not kind, don't we really just see somebody who is mean?

How then are you to succeed in your goal to quit smoking, if it is impossible to visualize not smoking?

Visualizing Negative Goals
Because of the nature of negative goals, the necessity to change who we are becomes even more evident. In every case, our goal is not actually what we want to give up or end (the negative goal), but is actually what we want to receive or gain as the result of success (a positive goal). We don't want to lose, we want to gain.

This is a subtle difference, but a profound one. A negative goal, in essence, is merely a reflection of the true goal. When we seek to lose weight (a negative goal), we are actually trying to increase our health or improve our appearance (positive goals). When we seek to avoid slouching in business meetings, we are actually trying to improve our professional image and poise.

The Reflection of "Not Smoking"
So, what about smoking? When we seek to quit smoking, we are actually looking to improve our health. I would not have believed it when I was going through the process, but I now know it is surely true. The easiest way to observe this is this: when you visualize healthy living, smoking (among other things) never enters the picture!

As you can imagine, the whole process becomes easier once the negative goal of quitting smoking transforms into its true goal of creating a healthy lifestyle. You then have an easily visualized picture of what "not smoking" looks like: being healthy.

The Road Ahead
In my previous article, I showed how to crack the psychological desire to smoke. That first method, believe me, is effective in and of itself. However, you will notice that it does not do anything to address the true goal of quitting smoking: the goal to develop healthy habits. Because of this, if you do not seek to develop positive habits to replace your negative one, you will find a dull anxiety gnawing at you...and it feels a lot like cravings for a cigarette!

Most people smoke as a means of combating stress. Now that your healthy lifestyle does not include smoking, what will you do? If you do not make plans to build a healthy alternative into your lifestyle, you will surely fall into an unhealthy one!

Visualizing A Positive Future
How do you set the foundation for a brighter, healthier future? The process is much like the one you used to shatter your desire to smoke. But the emotional process is the exact opposite from before, because you will feel fantastic by the end.

This time, though, you will build your own future. As you are visualizing a happier, healthier you, consider these questions:
  • In what healthy way will you now handle stress?
  • How will your loved ones benefit from your healthy lifestyle?
  • How will your energy levels change, and what activities will you now be able to do?
  • How will taking an interest in your health impact your self-esteem?
  • You've given up smoking...what have you gained?
By the time you are done with this exercise, you will feel like you haven't smoked in ten years, and would never consider doing so again.

Enjoy the new you.

Also At Babblermouth:
You've Come A Long Way, Baby!
A Mentor For The Hopelessly Introverted
Financial Freedom Series 1 -- Cause and Effect

January 22, 2008

The Easy Way To Quit Smoking (Without Patches or Gimmicks)

Forget patches, hypnotists and insulting public service announcements. Quitting smoking could be easier than you think. It was for me...

Why Most Methods Don't Work
First of all, let's not kid ourselves. Quitting smoking is obviously not easy, as evidenced by the sheer number of smokers who have quit smoking, only to return to it within days, months or even years.

But the problem isn't that the smoking habit is insurmountable. The problem is that many of the methods for quitting smoking are inadequate. Indeed, all unsuccessful methods share one thing in common: they attempt to change the smoking, and not the smoker!

A Hard Fact About The Easy Way
Albert Einstein once said, The problems that exist in the world cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them. The problem of overcoming smoking is no different. You will be a different person after quitting than you were when you were a smoker.

This is perhaps the most difficult part about quitting smoking, and is the reason behind many failed attempts. You see, smoking is not only a habit, it is an identity. When you tell people that you are a smoker, you aren't merely describing a habit -- you're describing an image! Quitting smoking, then, denies you access to that image. And smoking is an image that, for some people, is too precious to give up.

A Mental Game
Because of this, quitting smoking is very much a mental game, far more than it is a physical one.

Not a physical problem, you might ask? What about cravings, or the agony of withdrawal? Here again, the mind reigns supreme; how can the body ache for what the mind does not crave?

Now, I'm not speaking merely about philosophy or theory. I'm talking about a technique that my own experience proves. I quit cold-turkey, and suffered no withdrawal and no cravings. In fact, I have not even had the slightest interest in smoking ever since.

Such a remarkable turnaround is possible only after the mental game has been won. Once the mental game is won, the physical need to smoke is crushed.

Winning The Mental Game
So, how is the mental game won? It is won through the use of emotive visualization, peering into a dark and hopeless future and seizing the power to change it now.

This method is based on the pleasure/pain principle made popular by Anthony Robbins. The idea is to attach the utmost pain to smoking, and to recognize the pleasure that awaits you in a smoke-free life.

By winning the mental game, withdrawal symptoms simply do not occur. Once you have associated enough pain with the smoking habit, the only time you feel sick is when you think about smoking!

Ultimate Pain
Smokers, contrary to what public service commercials seem to suggest, are not stupid. They know that smoking isn't healthy. But smokers associate enough pleasure with smoking that, psychologically, it simply isn't worth quitting. Employing the ultimate pain principle, however, tips those scales dramatically!

The first step is to build a powerful image in your mind of exactly how painful smoking can and will be to you. Don't skimp on the details, and be sure to be brutally honest. Take the approach of "anything bad that can happen, will happen".

Here's an example of what I visualized:
I imagine that I'm looking in a mirror. This isn't a regular mirror, though. Instead of looking at myself, I am looking at myself 30 years from now. And what I see is ghastly! I am shriveled and frail. I am sitting in a wheelchair and must carry an oxygen tank with me. I can't speak at a normal volume, for any effort to speak brings about a wicked coughing spasm, which then makes it difficult to breathe -- and my regular breathing is labored as it is! I feel an emptyness as I think of the things that I shall never do, like traveling. Not only can I not go to distant lands, but even going to the local grocery store is a herculean effort. I ache with sympathy for the being I see in the mirror, my soul yearns to offer comfort or help. Then, my future self looks at me right in the eye and asks,full of anger -- full of hatred -- why did you do this to me?
If you do this right, you will never smoke again! I say the process is easy, but emotionally it can actually be quite draining. You are essentially subjecting yourself to a lifetime of pain in a very short period of time. But it is certainly worth it!

As I mentioned earlier, permanently quitting smoking literally changes who you are. In my next article, I will show you how to manage the transition from being a smoker to being a non-smoker.

Also at Babblermouth:
Who Are You?
Financial Freedom Series 1 -- Cause and Effect
The Next Big Challenge

January 3, 2008

You've Come A Long Way, Baby!

Well, another New Year's Day has come and gone. You've probably been reflecting on your life a lot lately, if only because this is the time that many other people choose to do exactly that! But where have those thoughts taken you?

A Brighter Future From A Darker Past
When people are planning a brighter future, they often find themselves looking at a dark past. Why do you want to get a new job? Isn't it because your current job just isn't satisfying you any more and the work is now longer worth the money they pay you? Why do you want to lose weight? Isn't it because you've looked in the mirror and were disgusted by what you've found? Why do you want to quit smoking? Isn't it because you've become shocked and humbled by your lack of self-control and have begun to notice some frightening health problems?

Since so many of our goals are predicated on a dark past, setting goals can be very discouraging. But this discouragement is unavoidable. You cannot set a path in a direction you want to go until you understand why you don't want to be where you are.

Half The Motivation
The question is, how do you motivate yourself to move in that new direction? Certainly the need to leave those negative emotions behind you can provide a lot of energy to fuel your march toward a new you. But the nudge of a negative past only provides half of the motivation you will need to accomplish your goal.

This, I believe, lies at the heart of all failed New Year's resolutions. How can you step into a brighter future with confidence if you have seen yourself only as a failed specimen? The answer is that it cannot be done. The negative energy of the past is not enough to create a new you. You must also discover your glorious past.

A Chance Discovery
I am frequently drawn to journaling. I don't journal consistently, but about every six months I feel the urge to write down my assessment of who I am, what I'm doing and what I want.

One day, after writing a very negative and frustrated entry in my journal, I happened to flip back and read an entry from nearly 5 years before.

As it turned out, that was also a frustrated and desperate entry. But I was shocked to find that every single problem that I complained about in that entry had been resolved over the next 5 years!

I laughed when I read that I feared I would never be able to quit smoking, because I knew that I did eventually quit -- and easily at that! I was ashamed to be a college dropout and believed that the opportunity had passed me by forever, but I returned to college only a year after I wrote that and eventually graduated. I was frustrated with my career, but I finally found exactly the kind of job I was looking for.

That journal entry was liberating!

Finding a Shining Past
By realizing how easily I had overcome things that at one time seemed insurmountable to me, I found that my confidence grew by a factor of ten! Instantly, I found the things that I had just finished complaining about in my journal's newest entry were no longer a burden. I knew I could overcome obstacles, even if they seemed impossible to me, because I had already done it in the past.

If you are having trouble finding the motivation to succeed at your resolutions this year, do yourself a favor. Take a moment right now and search for your bright, shining past. Yes, there are things about the past that you do not like.

But force yourself also to recognize that you have already come a long way. You will find moments in your history that show you at your best, able to confidently face great challenges and overcome them with ease.

And that bright, shining past will give you the power to build the brighter future you seek.

Also At Babblermouth:
A Map That's "Good Enough"
Financial Freedom Series 1 -- Cause and Effect
A Mentor For The Hopelessly Introverted