Do you want to stop smoking but it seems too difficult?
Is there something you want to change, but don’t know where to start?
I’ve seen it all too often. People get caught up in life and let the flow of the river take them downstream. They passively accept outcomes and try to make as few decisions as possible. After the years have gone by, they look in the mirror and don’t like what they have become. They will blame the environment, genetics, or their personality. They feel helpless to be anything other than what they are. Helpless to make a change.
But can someone change? I think so.
What you need is a system.
You can create the life you want. You can grow. You can give. You can live.
I am going to show you a 5 step system that you can use to make positive changes in your life.
I have used smoking as an example, but you could use almost anything that you either want to start doing or just change about yourself. Maybe you want to change your approach to diet. Maybe you want to exercise more often. Maybe you want to get up earlier. Maybe you want to stop procrastinating. It doesn’t really matter. Whatever it is you want, these steps can help. Let’s take a look.
1. Create a new identity
The first thing you have to do is change your identity.
Now, I am not saying you have to go out and get a fake passport and move to Thailand. I am just saying you need to look at yourself differently.
Depending on what you are wanting to change, this can be as simple as telling yourself who you are.
A non-smoker doesn’t smoke. A non-smoker doesn’t crave cigarettes. A non-smoker doesn’t decide to start smoking after a stressful day.
But a smoker does all these things. And more importantly, a former smoker may also do all these things. So, if you are trying to quit smoking, it is better to be a non-smoker than a former smoker.
But that’s just semantics you may say. No, it’s not. You create the reality inside your brain and then you either reinforce it with behavior that promotes that reality or you don’t.
Most recovery programs will hammer the mantra of self awareness. “My name is Joe and I’m an alcoholic.” This is a very important first step. You must know you have a problem in order to fix the problem. Ownership of your problems is key. But, I don’t like to stop here with my patients. I want them to move past this stage, eventually to the point where they no longer see themselves as addicts.
I want them to change their identity. And if they are no longer addicts, they will not have to fight addiction every day.
Now, I don’t want to over simplify this concept. I just want you to see that the story you tell yourself is important. It is important to know your limitations at the beginning but it is just as important to know that you can now move past these.
And it all starts with how you see yourself.
Change your identity and become the person you want to be.
2. Think in the positive
Think of your goals in the positive. In other words, create things you want to do and not things you don’t want to do.
Taking my smoking scenario, the obvious goal would be to stop smoking. But the more you tell yourself to not smoke, the more you remind yourself of smoking and the more you reinforce the fact that you are a smoker.
So what do you do? You reframe the problem.
Reframe the situation and focus on breathing clean air. Your goal is to only breathe clean, fresh air. Your goal is to fill your lungs with life-giving oxygen. Your goal is increase blood flow and to feel healthy and alive. To breathe deep and easy. Now, you start to see yourself as a clean-air breather and because you are a clean air breather you are not a smoker. And if you are not a smoker, then you won’t smoke.
You can reframe any problem or new habit in this way. Be creative and be positive.
3. Start something new
Now you need to start a new habit or process in order to interrupt the old. This can be just about anything.
I have read stories about former drug users/addicts changing their life and taking up endurance sports. They traded the “drug high” for the “runner’s high”. Sometimes, they become fixated on diet. Maybe they learn a new hobby and it starts to consume them. But the truth is, it doesn’t have to be anything huge. It can be small changes in your daily routine.
For people that come to me for help to stop smoking, I often have them take out a sheet of paper every morning prior to their first cigarette. Next I have them write down 5 reasons to quit smoking. They are to put these in positive form (see above). (Example: I want to breathe fresh air. I want to be an example to my children. I want to live to see my grandchildren grow up. I want more money in my pocket.) Now everytime they smoke a cigarette I tell them to pull out their piece of paper and continuously read it while smoking. When they finish smoking, they fold the piece of paper and place it back in their pocket. I have them read it again before bed. Then the next morning they start all over and get out a clean sheet of paper and write 5 more reasons down. (It can be the same 5 or new ones).
If they follow through with this, eventually they will build a new habit with their hands that can take the place of the previous habit of holding a cigarette. They will also reinforce their new positive goal set and help build their new identity. And, they are learning to think about why they are doing things and to think about what it is they actually want.
I give smoking as the example, but you can do this with anything. Start something new, rinse and repeat. It doesn’t have to be complicated.
4. Be aggressive
Now that you have a system, you just need to get after it and don’t let up. It is not about your end goal at this point but about the process. Learn from the process. Learn from your failures.
Every day look over your methods and adjust as needed. Maybe, the new thing you started isn’t working out. Maybe you need to add to it or take away from it. It doesn’t matter. Keep working it. Keep adjusting.
You are becoming something new. You are changing. You are creating the life you want. Be aggressive but also, be patient.
This next step is a little more advanced and may seem mysterious. It is a visualization exercise with mild hypnotic patterning. You will need to find time to read this when not distracted. Preferably in a peaceful, relaxing environment. It is specifically written by me for smokers. I would choose different wording for other habit changes. If you want to stop smoking, follow the above advice and also add this visualization exercise by reading it to yourself daily. Read it a little bit slower than you would normally read. The visualization process starts just below this break.
Now, I want you to imagine you are somewhere calm and relaxing. Maybe you are sitting in a chair by a stream or walking on the beach. You can be anywhere. Just picture it in your head. See yourself there. Allow yourself to relax. Feel the breeze, it is just the right temperature. You hear the sound of the water, the waves on the beach or maybe the wind through the trees. It is the most peaceful experience. You are as comfortable as you have ever been and because you are comfortable, you can allow yourself to relax even more. You take a deep breath in. You fill your lungs with clean oxygen and then the heart transports this oxygen to the rest of the body. You are able to take deep, clean breaths. Your body feels lighter, fresher, pure. You smile a deep, broad smile. You stretch your back, shoulders, and arms. Your muscles relax even further. A pleasant tingling sensation starts in your chest and moves to the rest of your body. You smile again. You are happy.
Next, you see yourself surrounded by those you love. Friends and family. You are loved and you give love. They are smiling and talking. Talking to each other and to you. You see yourself as if you were watching a movie. You now can see into the future. You have lived a long, healthy life. You see your grandchildren. You see your grandchildren’s children. They are playing. They are laughing. They come up and give you hugs. Your family thanks you for being there for them, for loving them. You breathe a deep breath, full of fresh clean air. It feels good.
Well there you have it. My 5 step system to stop smoking (or make any other change you want to make in life). It’s simple, but not easy. Allow yourself the freedom to use it as you will and because you have given yourself this freedom, you may now choose to live free.
Create a system.
(Scott Adams writes about systems vs goals in his book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life. I highly recommend it.)
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