Assumption of ease. How to quit bad habits in 5 steps
One of the things that have helped me most with my personal development is what I call the “assumption of ease.” Our brains tend to feed us a lot of negativity, but there’s no universal law that tells us we must buy into it – it’s a really bad habit. But we don’t have to buy into it! Because we are not our thoughts – we can control and choose them. It takes work, but it’s totally possible.
What if it were easy?
So let me tell you what I mean by “assumption of ease”: At a certain point in my life, I realized that most things I felt insecure about turned out to be easier than I thought. Also, if tons of people had done it before, that means it’s doable, so why wouldn’t I be able to do it.
Consequently, when I tackle a new project or habit that scares me a little (or a lot), the first question I answer for myself is, what if it were easy? I love this question because very often the answer is, then I would love to do it.
To get specific here, let’s talk about how I kicked my worst habit, smoking. I read a lot about applying the method known from any 12-step program, i.e. to work with, “Today I choose not to …” (whatever the thing is). I knew this wouldn’t work for me because the thought of having to decide against smoking every single day gave me major anxiety. I wanted to find an over-and-done-with approach for myself, and that’s what I did.
So back to how exactly I quit: Asking myself, what if it were easy, the answers I wrote down (always write that shit down!) were clear: If it were easy, I would stop right away, like this minute. I would love to never have to worry about me smelling like an ashtray and about bothering people around me. I would have less laundry and would not have to wash my hair all the time either. I would soon feel the difference in walking, running, or climbing stairs. And I wouldn’t have to stand outside in the rain or cold to satisfy some shitty craving while everybody else was cozy inside. I hate that! (Interesting that money and health didn’t even come up, right?)
Quit this bad habit: You don’t need to believe your thoughts!
I really liked what I had written down. These were the nasty things I wanted gone from my life and the good things I wanted to invite in. Of course, another part of my mind bombarded me with all these stories of people I had heard and read who had suffered badly when they quit. Not helpful. So I decided that this would not be true for me.
After all, millions of people had managed to kick the bad habit. Meaning it couldn’t be too hard for me, right? And why would I look at stories of suffering and craving? No offense, but at this point—still smoking, but getting closer to quitting—that sounded like a ton of mind drama to me. That’s when I became my own best coaching client.
I decided to quit one of my bad habits and become a non-smoker, not an ex-smoker. Because my thoughts about being an ex-smoker were exactly what I didn’t want—suffering and craving—while no non-smoker ever thinks, What I really need now is a cigarette. The thought simply doesn’t cross their mind. And that’s where I wanted to go. To make a long story short, that’s exactly where I went.
Find yourself a mantra
By making, and upholding, the decision that it would be easy for me to kick smoking, it was. I did have a bit of a headache and trouble sleeping for a few days, but compared to some migraines I’ve had in my life, this was hardly worth mentioning. So I didn’t. I journaled a bit about it, but I didn’t talk to people because my hunch was that this would invite in the mind drama I had decided against. And every time (and I really mean every single time!) a craving came up, I told myself, I am a non-smoker and I don’t crave cigarettes. That became my mantra, and it worked like a charm.
I can’t tell you exactly how long it took to get over this bad habit, but somewhere around a month would be my best guess. That was a few years ago, and while I still know smokers, I never ever envy them, but I also haven’t turned into a militant ex-smoker. It’s their decision, and if anyone wants my help to quit, I’m happy to be of service. If not, I keep my mouth shut and just stay out of the smell.
Create the energy to make it easy
Can it really be that easy? Yes, totally. If you are willing to believe two things with your whole heart:
- It is easy (because I decide to think it is).
- I control my thoughts and I don’t buy into my mind drama.
Compared to the usual, I know I have to give up smoking/booze/salt/meat/whatever and this will be sooooo hard – do you feel the different energy these two thoughts create?
If you get yourself out of the victim mentality of having to suffer through a change in your life, your actions will change as well – and this means your results will too.
Give yourself a gift goal
And one more consideration that I’ve always found incredibly helpful: How can I move from “giving up” something to giving myself a gift?
Should-goals (“I know I should stop smoking.”) don’t work because they require massive amounts of willpower. Which you don’t have. I can tell you that as a fact because people generally don’t. It’s not you, it’s all of us humans.
So you want to find yourself a positive reframe. For me, that was: “I am giving myself the gift of a healthy body and the fitness to run and climb tons of stairs.” (I actually registered for a charity race up the Space Needle here in Seattle, which is some 40+ stories, and finished in under 9 minutes. Let me tell you, I was crazy proud of myself.)
For you, the positive reframe will probably be different. But you can find it! I will find it too as I am about to tackle my next habit change: to give up sugar.
In my next newsletter, I’ll share a free PDF worksheet (and a video) to help run you through this thought process in your own time – so sign up now to make sure you won’t miss it!