Whatever endeavour you’re hoping to succeed in, the way to go is to identify the habits you need to change. Then once you’ve decided what new habits will get you to your destination, create space in your life for them and stick to doing them long term and consistently, day by day, week by week, year by year, and you will see a shift in your fortunes.
Change rarely happens overnight. Provided the new habits are appropriate to reach the end goal you have in mind, you will undoubtedly achieve results. It may happen slowly, but it’s essential that it happens one decision at a time, which is what this blog post is all about.
Let me give you an example of what that looks like when you’re trying to do something like give up smoking.
Anyone who has been addicted to smoking will understand how tough it can be to stop. I used to be a heavy smoker and desperately wanted to give up smoking. I knew smoking wasn’t doing my health any good. On top of that, it was an expensive habit and left odours around the house and on your clothes. It had nothing positive going for it.
Although I really wanted to rid myself of the habit, unfortunately, I just couldn’t do it. Nothing I tried worked. The usual remedies like Nicorette patches, reading books that promised tried and tested formulas, hypnotherapy, just relying on sheer will power, nothing succeeded.
I wasn’t prepared to give up on trying though. So, when I chanced on a program (I think it was called Full Stop), which required a 2-3 weekend commitment, I decided to give it a go.
The way the program worked was firstly to highlight what happens each time you decide to give up something dear to you like smoking.
Our brains perceive the situation as if someone has locked us up and thrown the keys away. You feel imprisoned and deprived of cigarettes. You are powerless and have no choice over the decision. So, you feel sorry for yourself because some other power has decided you may never have any more cigarettes.
What if instead of letting our brains go into deprivation mode, we stopped perceiving the decision to give up smoking as “never again being able to have a cigarette”. If instead, we conceive it as a choice we’re making for ourselves we can move forward one decision at a time.
Every time you want a cigarette you have a decision to make in the moment. Avoid thinking about all the cigarettes you will never again be able to enjoy. Instead, tell yourself that you can smoke at any time. You are in control. Then make a conscious choice. Right now, you may choose to not have a cigarette. However, you may well choose to have one next time the desire to smoke comes over you.
Instead of throwing all your cigarettes away, you carry them around with you. You leave plenty around the house and available to you so that the choice you make is a real one. You can have a cigarette any time you choose. They’re right there. Nobody has taken them away from you. So, it’s a real choice. You can light a cigarette if you choose to do so, or leave it sitting there unsmoked if you choose not to have one. You make the decision moment by moment.
Will I have this cigarette or won’t I? That’s the only decision.
However, you make the choice with full consciousness that there are consequences to your choice.
Most addicts are unlikely to have one cigarette only. So, at that moment when you make the decision to have a cigarette or not to have one you know that the choice is about more than that single cigarette. There are consequences to your choice. If you choose to smoke that cigarette, you know full well that you’re choosing all the cigarettes that will inevitably follow. Which addict ever stops at just one cigarette? So, you know that that momentary choice will lead you back to your old smoking habits.
On the other hand, you can choose the benefits you want for yourself – those that will come from making the decision to not smoke this cigarette. Saying no to this one cigarette means you’re saying yes to all those benefits which you know you will derive from not exercising your choice to smoke this one cigarette. There is no need to feel deprived. The choice is entirely yours, albeit it is a hard one. But it’s important to hold on to the knowledge that you can and may well make a different choice next time you have a desire to smoke. Nobody is forcing you to make the choice not to smoke. It’s entirely yours to make and right now you choose not to have this one cigarette, but you know you’re free to make a different choice next time you have a desire to smoke.
In this way, one choice at a time I was able to give up smoking. I’ve been an ex-smoker now for more than 30 years. I still occasionally feel a desire to smoke, and I know that if I choose to have one cigarette, I will be back to smoking a packet a day in no time. I’m one choice away from throwing away all the benefits I’ve enjoyed from making the decision to stop smoking.
The philosophy behind the course struck a chord with me and caused the shift in my thinking which was necessary for me to be able to stop smoking.
It occurred to me recently that this is the approach to use for everything else in life.
If we’re trying to lose weight, exercise more, to reach success in any area of our lives, we make the long-term choice one moment at a time.
I’ve been trying to shed 5-6 kgs (about a stone) in weight for several years now. I’ve not achieved it. So, I decided to take a long hard look to understand why I’m not managing to do something I say I want to do.
The problem with things like weight loss that don’t immediately have a consequence when you take the wrong momentary decision is that it’s all too easy to be lazy and make the “cop-out” choice. It’s easier to kid ourselves that that choice doesn’t matter. It’s just this one decision after all to have a glass or two of wine, or to stay in bed instead of getting up and doing that exercise session, or to eat that fried food dish instead of the healthy vegetable dish.
Whatever represents the “cigarette” – the thing we need to stop doing in order to reap the benefits we want in our lives, that’s the cop-out choice.
The problem with things that don’t immediately have a consequence when we make the “wrong” choice for what we’re trying to achieve long term is that it’s all to easy to be lazy about it and make the “cop-out” choice. We can kid ourselves that it doesn’t matter. It’s just this one decision after all.
It’s all too easy to make cop out choices because we kid ourselves that it’s just today that we’re choosing the easy way out. But these small exceptions mount up, so that you find you’re not achieving long term what you set out to achieve – all because of the number of short term cop-out decisions you made along the way. I know this is why I haven’t achieved my weight loss goal.
Instead of kidding ourselves when we make the cop-out choice that it’s just today that we’re choosing the easy way out it’s important to realise that these small exceptions mount up, so that you don’t achieve your long term aims. Lack of success is down to the short-term cop-out decisions we make along the way. Soon the years pass by and we see that we have not had the results we were hoping for.
Whatever area of your life, be it business or personal, that you want to achieve more success in, realise that it’s essentially not that different to giving up smoking.
Making the easy way out choice, the cop-out choice in the moment sabotages the future. Be as strict with yourself as you would be if you were giving up smoking, stop making cop-out choices, and you will reach your goal. These choices are not trivial “one-offs”. Every single decision made in favour of your ultimate goal is what leads to success.
Apply this philosophy to your business and you will be one of the 5% that succeed instead of the 95% that don’t.
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