So, 2012 is upon us. Traditionally, it is a time for reflection on how we have lived our lives for the past year, where we are, and where we wish to go. It is also the time of year when many people decide to give up smoking. But, come January the 4th, and most people´s new years resolutions have been broken, meaning many people start the year feeling disapointed in themselves, and vaguely depressed.
Why do we do this to ourselves?
The human brain is complicated. It is hard to override deeply ingrained habits with just willpower alone. It is difficult to break that habit of slobbing in front of the TV instead of going to the gym. We are told that anything can be acheived with willpower, and we are weak if we fail, where as the reality is we are setting ourselves up for failure by setting too big a task, psychologically it is overwhelming.
A good example of this is people wanting to lose weight. They set themselves a target of losing 18 kilos by the summer. There are two reasons this fails:
- summer is a long way a way, so it is easy to defer, saying we will start our diet/excercise plan tomorrow.
- 18 kilos seems like a lot. Psychologically, it is insurmountable, it is too easy to give up.
But how about if you say: lose 1/2 kilo in two weeks. That seems pretty easy, right? Hardly any effort at all. So you are much more likely to achieve that goal. You have lost 1/2 kilo, you feel good about it, you are successful, it was much easier than you thought. So you do it again.
Bit by bit, you go losing little bits of weight, you eating habits slowly improve, your tiny bit of excercise gets easier, and you are doing more without even realize it.
Soon, you are losing more than 1/2 kilo in two weeks, and almost by accident. You have freed yourself from this impossible task hanging over your head, the guilt, the bad feelings, and turned it into something easy, fun, that rewards you in the short term. By the summer, you may not have lost 18 kilos by the summer, but you have lost 12. That is much better than not having lost anything, right?
So we can do the same with smoking. Instead of going through the pain and willpower battle with yourself, instead of setting yourself up to lose, set yourself up for small, quick wins, and grow from there.
Your new years resolution should go more like: I smoke 20 cigarettes a day, now. My new years resolution is so cut down to 16 cigarettes a day, within a week. Do not think further ahead with this than next week. Just aim to cut down to that level by next week. You will hardly even notice the change, and you are moving in the right direction.
When you hit your target, you will feel good. Now, you can choose your next target. Maybe you want to only cut down to 14 a day in the next two weeks, or maybe you are feeling great and want to cut down to 10. The point is, set targets you know you can acheive easily.
So in a few months, you might be down to 10 a day, or five a day, or you might have even quit completely. The point is, you have cut down on your smoking, which is good, and you have got into the habit of keeping the promises you make to yourself. When it comes to kicking the habit for good, you will find it much, much easier.