My quitting smoking plan has stalled out big time, and I find myself falling into the mentality of “oh, fuck it. I’ve failed. I may as well chain smoke since I’m doing so damn badly already.” I’m guessing you might be able to relate to this. Maybe you’ve vowed to control your temper, stop binge eating, start a virtuous exercise regimen. You’re going along just fine, and then one day, or maybe even one whole week, you find yourself laying on the couch, snarfing chocolate and yelling at your kids all at the same time. You, too, may be thinking you’ve failed epically and you may as well just surrender to your sucky habits. Perfect! This is the best opportunity to practice the kindness you committed to at the very beginning of our change a habit series. How? Read on!
Step #1: Remind yourself that change is hard, and setbacks, failures, and plateaus are all normal human experiences that happen to all of us. It sounds simple and obvious, but it is easy to get into disaster mentality and forget this. The only time you’ve truly “failed” is when you’ve stopped trying.
Step #2: Write down all the crappy thoughts you’re having about your setback and read them out loud. Do they sound whiny, defeatist, maybe even cruel? Take five minutes to imagine that your beloved is saying this to you about their own experience. What would you say to them? I’m guessing it wouldn’t be “Yeah, you DO suck.” Write down your kindest response and then read it out loud. Feeling any better? Good! Keep going!
Step #3: Woot! It’s time to credit yourself! This is one of my favorite tools of all time, a gift from Kaizen-Muse creativity coaching. Consider your whole habit-changing journey and write down the answers to these four questions:
What am I glad I did?
Where did I get it right?
What else might work?
Congratulations! You have just completed your first credit report! This can be an incredibly powerful tool; I’m so in love with it that I do it daily. Of course, I still had to remind myself, as I was puffing away in self-loathing, that it was time to bust it out for my stalled quitting smoking journey.
It helped me to put my “failure” in perspective – first off, I’m smoking way, way less than when I began my quitting journey. Second, I’m also walking a heck of a lot more than I ever have before. Third, I discovered that I need to go back and take my own advice about choosing rewards. I’ve been linking my smoking four day win rewards to creating a garden. This is one of those things that sounds perfect in theory – I love gardens, and I replace being outside smoking with being outside gardening. Tragically, it turns out that I hate gardening. Instead of providing a reward, I’m assigning myself another chore; no wonder it’s not motivating!
I hope you decide to give this a try – I find this tool can be a lifesaver when I’m stuck in a negative place. As always, I’d love to hear your experience with it.