Although some of us quit smoking on the first try, most of us have made more than one attempt. That's not necessarily a bad thing; each attempt taught us something valuable about staying quit. In fact, the more times we've 'failed' at quitting in the past, the better our odds of succeeding this time.
One reason many of us make so many quit-attempts is that we don't always have the motivation to quit, or to maintain our quits afterward. Most smokers first consider quitting because of external motivators--the pleas of spouses or loved ones, health scares, smoke-free workplaces or financial incentives by our employers, or increases in cigarette or insurance costs.
Many of us grudgingly agree to quit smoking to satisfy others, but don't really have compelling reasons of our own to do so. For us to have the best shot at quitting and staying quit, it helps if quitting is our idea. Just how do we make it so?
Some simple exercises can help to move us in that direction, at any time before or after our actual quit-day. Ask yourself:
- On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being the highest), how much do I really want to quit right now? What would need to change for me to raise that number a couple of notches? Is that a change I can work on?
- Using the same scale, how confident am I that I could quit right now? What would need to change for me to raise that number a couple of notches? Is that a change I can work on?
Next, a set of pros/cons questions can help clarify what we really think about our smoking. Ask yourself:
- What do I like about smoking? (is it a welcome break from work, a reward, or time spent with friends?)
- What don't I like about smoking? (the smell, coughing, the hassle of smoking publicly, the health risks?)
- Do the negatives outweight the positives?
- Are there healthier replacements for the things I like about smoking?
Next, a sort of Cost/Benefit Analysis will help uncover fears and other obstacles to quit-motivation. Ask yourself:
- If I continue to smoke, what's the worst thing that could happen to me? What's the best thing that could happen?
- If I quit smoking, what's the worst thing that could happen to me? What's the best that could happen?
- Does the best or worst weigh most in my analysis?
Imagining a Smoke-free Life
Finally, an effective way of making quitting your idea is to imagine all the possible advantages of quitting, and to focus on them. A dramatic improvement in health is one possibility, as is a longer life. But there are other benefits, as well. You could look younger, with fewer wrinkles, softer skin, and shinier hair. You might save a lot of money that would have gone up in smoke, or been spent on treating tobacco-related illness. You could have more stamina and endurance, sleep better, enjoy more tastes and smells, have whiter teeth, increase your self respect, be a better role-model for your children and grandchildren, save your loved ones from second or thirdhand smoke--the list of great reasons to quit smoking is potentially endless.
- What are five good reasons for me to quit smoking?
- What are my three best reasons to quit smoking? Note: Record My Three Best Reasons, and keep that list for handy reference in your phone, wallet or purse.
Motivation isn't something we can turn on and off like a light switch, but once we set our brains in motion solving a problem (like smoking), they inevitably move us toward a solution (quitting). The process may take a day, month, or a year, but as long as we're contrasting and comparing our old ways to the new way, our old desires to the new ones, our smoking life to a smoke free life, our odds of developing the motivation to get us there are greatly increased.
Good luck, and don't forget to visit the Q for more education and support.
Alan P, CTTS-M