Habits constitute the daily chug and churn of our lives. You go to bed at a certain time; you wake at a certain time. You brush your teeth; you take your vitamins. Ordinary life is built on routine. Unfortunately, bad habits are as much a part of that routine as the good ones. Fortunately, it doesn't have to be that way.
There are numerous steps along the road to any success, and all of those big, life-changing goals require some sort of plan. Ten pounds don't suddenly melt off your frame because of sheer force of will; your stress levels cannot be managed based on how fed up with anxiety you are; and quitting smoking isn't as simple as crushing that cigarette pack and throwing it away.
If you intend to quit smoking, starting the process by making a plan can vastly improve your chances of success.
And even if you're not a smoker, the following tips on planning can be applicable to just about any obstacle you want to surmount or bad habit you're ready to break, whether it's forming a better diet, establishing an exercise routine, or managing stress.
1) Establish your reasons for quitting
Before you quit, it's important to know why you're quitting. You wouldn't build a tree fort if you didn't have a backyard, right? The same principle applies to ceasing behaviors: there first must be purpose and intent.
Listing reasons for quitting can be the motivation to get you started and the inspiration you'll need throughout your journey. There are innumerable reasons to quit smoking — that's no secret — but if you're uncertain about your motivations, ask yourself a few questions:
What pleasurable activities am I missing out on as a smoker?
How much money will I save once I quit smoking?
How does smoking affect my health?
How does my smoking affect my loved ones?
How will my life change for the better after I've quit?
Let the answers to these questions be the foundation for your reasoning and build from there. Keep this list with you at all times. When that next urge creeps up, use your list as a reminder: this is why you're quitting. Your reasons can be anything from health, lifestyle, finance, or family; whatever it is, make sure the content of your list has enough inspirational oomphf to get you to quit for good.
2) Set your quit date
Choose a quit date that's reasonable and within reach — that doesn't necessarily mean tomorrow. Quitting requires time and patience; it's a lifestyle overhaul, and that kind of 180 demands time to adjust. Set a date within two weeks time. If you set your timeline to be ridiculously brief (I'll quit in an hour!), you're burdening yourself with near-impossible expectations. If you give yourself an absurdly long breadth (I'll quit in 17.3 years!), you're not applying enough motivational pressure on yourself — and not treating your goal seriously.
By setting a date, you'll be able to keep yourself on track, tick off calendar dates, wean accordingly, and best of all, celebrate anniversaries!
3) Identify who can help you when you need support
You're gonna need some help if you're planning to quit smoking. Do yourself a favor: before attempting a solo swim across the ocean, enlist some friends with life preservers to row alongside you. Whether it's a buddy who has previously quit smoking or an online support community, sharing both your achievements and setbacks can have a tremendous positive impact on your experience.
This is the first part of a three-part series on taking the steps to quit. Next week we'll focus on the specifics of your plan: fighting cravings, learning new coping mechanisms, priming your mind and enlisting additional help.