It was the disembodied voice of one of my neighbors barking “it smells like an ashtray back here!” that led me to writing this post. It occurred to me that, possibly, my neighbors were not enthralled with me taking up a smoking perch in our alley, and maybe I needed to find a new location for my habit.
Though I still somewhat regret not telling him to man up and confront me directly, I’m deeply grateful to this unknown neighbor, because he inadvertently led me to using one of the most bizarre but effective coaching tools – changing one thing. This was proposed in psychotherapist Bill O’Hanlon’s book Do One Thing Different. It sounds so ludicrous that I overlook it all of the time, but the times I have done it, I’ve been blown away by the results.
The basic premise is that you change one thing in relation to the habit that you are playing with. My neighbor prompted me to change one thing – the location that I smoke. Since there is really nowhere to sit in my neighborhood, I have ended up smoking while walking. This has drastically changed my experience of smoking – from zoning out, sitting, usually reading to actively walking, concentrating solely on smoking and how unpleasant it is to diminish my aerobic capacity while moving.
Some ideas that you might use in your own life… while binging on potato chips at the office, put your feet up on the desk. Toke up wearing a tiara, watch TV wielding a lightsaber, continue to berate yourself for not exercising but do so only via the use of a finger puppet – whatever. If you can make it different in an amusing way, excellent! If, like me, you can only do different, it will still work.
The key here is just break out of the trance of habit, and bring what you are doing into conscious awareness while it is happening. I would love to hear what one thing you are going to do differently – please leave a comment if you feel comfortable. If you’re not sure what to try, put it out there and we’ll see if we can come up with something!