We all have things we do a little too much or a little too often. For some of us maybe it's sugar, or booze; for others it might be credit cards or fast food. For you, it might be people pleasing, beating yourself up or not speaking up for yourself.
In the pursuit of a life well-lived, I've quit many things; some easier than others. Some of my early quits were credit cards, dieting, gossiping, and lying. Some of my more difficult quits were handing my heart to people that didn't deserve it, alcohol and sugar.
What to quit
When we hear the word "addict," many of us envision a strung-out junkie, or an alcoholic who drinks vodka for breakfast, or a chain-smoker draining his paycheck into a nickel slot machine until the wee hours before dawn. But when it comes to quitting, it's imperative that we stay away from these stereotypes, so that we can take an honest inventory of our own behavior. Tommy Rosen defines addiction as "Any behavior that you continue to engage in, despite the negative consequences that the behavior leaves in its wake." I like his definition because it covers a broader spectrum than what we would typically see as "addiction." This definition doesn't just hit the Big Six (drugs, alcohol, food, people, money and technology); it also includes people pleasing, procrastination, perfectionism as well as all other varieties of compulsions.
Why to quit
Your why, or your reason behind quitting, is a large determining factor of your ultimate success. In order to get through the difficulty of change, you must have a good why propelling you forward. A good why sounds like, "I don't want to feel bad anymore," or "I want to be free," or "I love myself too much to continue this." A weak why sounds like, "I want to impress my friend/husband/kid," or "My doctor told me I should," or "I know it's good for me." Your why has to be strong enough to overcome the temporary discomfort of quitting. Without a good why, you won't survive the journey.
How to quit
1. Make a decision. This means that you make an emphatic commitment without wavering, doubt or wiggle room. There's no "I'll quit except for on Sundays." There's no, "I'll quit unless I'm on vacation." There's no, "I'll quit unless it's a special event." That's called bargaining, and bargaining is a sure-fire way to fail. Making a decision is one of the most difficult and crucial steps of this process, but it also creates more freedom and joy as you move forward. Leaving wiggle room, or bargaining room, in your decision means that you have to keep deciding over and over, which becomes exhausting and ultimately will spirals you toward failure. When you truly commit to your decision, all arguments are put to rest and you can, instead, devote your energy to succeeding.
2. You must see the temporary "high" as long-term suffering. We don't engage in crappy behavior for no reason. Typically, we reach for that glass of wine, that cigarette, that doughnut, or any other avoidance tactic because it offers a temporary high or offers us a temporary sense of relief. For change to really take place, we must understand that there's a huge difference between feeling "less bad" and actually feeling "good." The temporary high, or brief relief that we experience from the wine, cigarette or doughnut is really just a feeling of less bad, which is very different than actually feeling good. Buddhists call this confusing suffering for happiness. To permanently quit, we must put an end to our confusion and see our negative behavior for what it is: long term suffering.
3. You must see change as easy. When we're stuck in addictive behaviors, we often tell ourselves that the addiction (using credit cards, drinking, smoking, people pleasing) is easy. But for real change to take place, we must reverse the way we see this. We must see that continuing our behavior makes our life much more difficult and that to quit would actually be the easiest way forward. This requires a relentlessly honest line-item inventory of your life. Try to list at least ten specific reasons for why quitting makes your life easier. This step isn't a quick flip of a switch, it's a drastic change of perspective.
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