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Finding Your Alternative Motive to Quit Smoking

Quitting smoking successfully is a mental battle, and to make it through you're going to need an alternative motive to persevere. I know that the mental motivation everyone's telling you to get behind is your health. But I'm sorry to say, that's probably not going to be enough.

There seems to be so much written implying that smokers don't actually know that what they're doing is bad for them. THEY KNOW! And they care. But the cigarettes have more of a hold on them than a long list of health concerns can fix.

You've known smoking is terrible for you for all the years you've spent doing it. If you're under 60, you knew smoking was extremely bad for you before you ever took your first puff. I knew from my very first cigarette to my last, and knowing that never helped me to not smoke.

You know that your health is the most important thing you've got, and is absolutely the most important reason you should and will quit. But knowing that you need to quit for your health isn't going to get you through the first few months. Your mind is going to try all sorts of things on you when you stop smoking. Bargaining, rationalizing, self-pitying, yadda, yadda, yadda. To fight back against that, you need something else to work for, something else to lean on, and something else to get behind.

For me, as simple and inconsequential as it sounds, it was the inconvenience. We were moving to a new building, and the set up of the new place was going to make going outside to smoke a really unpleasant experience. For every cigarette, I'd need to grab my keys, head down two flights of stairs and out the building's front door. Then I'd be out front, on a major, very busy street. I'd been accustomed to hanging out in the secluded back yard of our previous place, and having a nice relaxing cigarette break. Maybe seeing a neighbor or two, but not streams of human and auto traffic. As we prepared to move, I was dreading the new smoking situation, knowing that I was really going to hate standing out there 20 times a day. Then it finally hit me, I didn't have to deal with it. I didn't have to stand out there. Dreading that became my alternative motive, which is what I leaned on during the bad days. I didn't have to smoke. And that's when I finally quit.

I really hate feeling inconvenienced. That's my little quirk. Understanding that little quirk got me through the quitting process.

Anything you seriously hate about your smoking habit can be your alternate motive. It can be big or small. Big, like, you want to make your kids happy, because the fact that you smoke causes them so much stress. Or small, like, you love to travel but long flights are almost unbearable because you have to go so long without smoking. It could be financial, could be social, could be career related, could be concerns about your appearance. Anything that brings up that feeling of dread in your stomach. Take a while and think about that one thing, other than your health, that you really, really hate about smoking. It doesn't matter how pointless or weird it may sound to anyone else. It's just for you, nobody needs to know! You're looking for what ever turns on your "Wait, I don't have to do this" bulb.

When you've found it, hold on to it.

After a day without cigarettes, your brain will start bargaining and rationalizing with you about your health. "If I just have a couple of cigarettes a week, or maybe a day, it will be so much better than before. Right?" "C'mon, a few cigarettes now and then isn't that bad." "Mrs. Forbisher from down the road smoked and she lived to be 97."

But your alternative motive can't be bargained with. You can't rationalize away how your kids feel about your smoking, and you can't cut a deal with the airline to let you smoke on the way to New Zealand. It may be weird, but it's rock solid. Your quirky little alternative motive will help give you the extra mental strength you need to become a non-smoker.


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