I was inspired by a question asked from one of my clients about the subject of quitting cold-turkey. I wrote so much that I am actually splitting this blog up into 3 parts. I have been learning that more is not always better, so bear with me in my experiments of making a better me to present to you. Any suggestions or comments are always welcome. SO… stay tuned over the next two weeks as I will be starting and finishing this subject up.
Once people find out that I’m a personal trainer it’s amazing how it opens up the flood gates for people to ask all sorts of questions … from the typical ones like, “Is this (whatever-this-may-be) healthy?” and “Is the ‘shake weight’ thingy a good investment?” or “What do you think about these supplements?” to the ever-popular “How can I lose this butt?” (or maybe “get a bigger butt!”) But recently I was asked a somewhat common unusual question, “What do you think about quitting a bad habit cold-turkey?” So I decided to give this issue some thought. For the purpose of this blog I will focus particularly on the idea of quitting “sweets” cold-turkey. Though this won’t be an attempt to provide you with an exact game plan, I’d like to help you take a look at the thoughts, beliefs, and decisions that enable you to work towards your goal. While we are focusing specifically on sweets right now, we could substitute many other bad habits here, such as smoking, excessive napping [my favorite pastime ;-) ], digital addictions, (gaming, chatting, etc.), or even compulsive shopping.
Habits as Relationships
A good starting point for the quest to stop a bad habit is to look at your underlying beliefs and actions towards this commodity–sweets, for example—that you’re in some way addicted to. Another way of putting this is to ask yourself, “What is my current relationship with sweets?” Though this may sound crazy, especially when we’re talking about inanimate objects, actually any habit is a relationship between ourselves and the thing constituting our habitual behavior, whether it’s sweets, cigarettes, or playing games. And the basic follow-up question to ask is, “Does my relationship with sweets reflect a real sense of self-respect?” In other words, can you say that your sweet-addiction is compatible with truly respecting yourself as the “best that you can be?” Are you taking care of yourself well enough – healthy eating in general, adequate exercise, etc. – to be able to say that eating this piece of pie or cake or candy WILL be compatible with being your “best-self?” Or instead, do you find yourself lusting over the desert-cart that passes in the restaurant even though you polished-off a pound box of raisinettes earlier in the day? (Needless to say, this would be a sure sign of an unhealthy relationship with your habit-of-choice!) So, my suggestion for beginning this process of “quitting” is to reflect on your habit as a relationship and to ask yourself if it’s a healthy one or not. Does it promote self-respect or hinder it?
Pain or Pleasure … The Choice is Your’s
If we look at why most people have such difficulty eliminating a bad habit, it’s obvious that it involves the issue of choice – why we choose what we choose. The pain or pleasure principle states that whatever gives us pleasure, we will seek more of and whatever gives us pain, we will seek to stay away from. By the time you’ve arrived at the decision to give up a bad habit, you must have felt like it’s giving you more pain than pleasure-some have even attributed leaving a bad habit as equal to chopping off an arm or leg (which is a true metaphor since you are ridding yourself of something that has grown and become a part of who you are), the dead part of you that doesn’t work for you. But what many don’t realize is that the choice has to be repeated over and over … every day … every time, even before you’re confronted with the object of temptation. You must continually choose the thoughts and actions that are consistent with your true desires. Put simply, your goal is not a far-off place, but an ever-present destination you’re walking toward and through every day, maybe every hour. This may sound like a lot of work, and that’s true! In the beginning any change is difficult. But as your choices continue to reflect your true self and you realize you’re making consistent movement towards your goal, it gets easier and easier until the new habit is formed!
To Cold-Turkey or Not
By now, some of you may be wondering, “But what about the cold-turkey part of the equation … is THAT a good idea?” And my answer would be an unequivocal “Maybe!” Quitting cold turkey is possible … anything and everything we want to do is possible if our focus is correct. And I believe that in some situations in our lives quitting a bad habit cold-turkey IS not only possible but the most productive course to follow. But I also believe that in other cases, it may be preferable to approach a drastic change more gradually. And this will differ person by person and situation by situation. Basically what it should all come down to is a clear awareness of what we want–the specific goal we want to achieve, as well as an understanding of ourselves—physically and mentally. Only then will we be able to make wise choices about the style or process that will be best for us in changing our negative behavior pattern. This fundamental understanding of ourselves and our desires enables us to trail-blaze the path which creates a new habit, and it also ensures less slippage along the way. For some people at some times, this will mean committing to stopping a habit cold-turkey and setting a specific date for this to happen. For other people or other times, it may mean developing a realistic game-plan to cut-down gradually until the habit is eventually exterminated altogether. But either way, I believe that a particular method should be the secondary consideration, based on the essential foundation of understanding ourselves—our motives, our goals, and our current relationship with the addictive substance.
Hope I didn’t lose ya. The question is not of looking towards what you don’t want but what is your current realtionship and idea of the issue at hand for you. Also, where does your pain or pleasure fit into this equation are you still gaining something from the thing you seek to avoid even if it is a negative gain?
Perception is definitely a huge key in how we decide what we keep in our lives and I will be continuing with the Heart of the Matter- quitting cold-turkey part 2 by the end of this week. I will be talking about the mental aspects of awareness, identity, and visualization. Until then, have you had any habits that were so cumbersome you thought or still think you will never overcome them? I would love to hear your thoughts on that and also your thoughts on part 1 of this blog.If you like what you’ve read and would like to see what a Strong Within life coach can do for you, email me firstname.lastname@example.org to setup a time for a free life coaching session to help you evaluate if it is right for you as we help you put your best life forward.
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