There’s a shit ton of articles in the so-called blogosphere about quitting bad habits.
Most of them are filled with generic advice that everyone who possesses some common sense (which is almost everyone, or it would be called “uncommon sense”) would be able to think of.
Things like: “If you want to stop eating unhealthy, get rid of all the unhealthy food in your kitchen that can tempt you.”, while true, do not require the brain of a genius to figure out.
In reality, there is only one important step to breaking a habit.
Do you know what it is?
Step 1: Stop doing it.
That’s it. To break a habit, just stop doing it. And whenever you feel like you really want to do it, simply make the choice to “not do it” instead.
Now, I’m well aware that this is a massive oversimplification. Then again, at the same time it’s not. Not doing what you’re trying to stop doing is literally all that’s required to stop it.
If It’s So Simple, Why Does It Feel So Hard?
If all that’s needed is to just stop doing it, why do so many people fall off the wagon or give in to the temptation of whatever bad habit they’re trying to quit again?
Again, there’s a lot of possible reasons for this on the surface, but in reality they all boil down to one simple thing:
The pain you feel while not doing the habit is greater than the pain associated with doing the habit.
We’re all biologically wired to move away from pain and towards pleasure. Unless that pain is inflicted exactly in the right amount by a handsome person of the opposite sex of course.
Think about that for a second. If you want to stop smoking because your throat hurts, but you hurt even more after 3 days of not smoking, it will cost you a lot of will power to keep going.
If you associate a lot of pain with looking at your “fat ugly body”, but feel even worse when you no longer consume sugar, it will be very hard to stop eating it. However, if the (emotional or physical) pain you feel when you are overweight, outweighs (pun intended) the pain you feel from your sugar detox, then quitting will be pretty easy.
This is why some people have a hard time quitting certain habits until suddenly they get into an accident because of it for example. Suddenly the psychological pain they feel from continueing the habit has gotten a lot worse.
How to Fix This Issue
How do we deal with fact that every fiber of our body wants to keep the habit in order to avoid a worse pain?
I see 2 possible solutions:
Solution #1: Being more committed to quitting the habit than to not feeling pain in the present moment.
Solution #2: Artificially creating a situation where the pain of indulging in the habit is 10 times larger than the pain you’re going through while quitting.
And there are easy ways to combine them both, if you have the guts to do it.
Here are 2 examples of people who did right:
• After the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ guitarist Hillel Slovak died of a heroin overdose, Anthony Kiedis wrote this song during his withdraw of drugs. The lyrics, "If you see me getting high, knock me down” have a pretty obvious message.
• Blogger Steve Pavlina repeatedly mentions in his writings the story of one Las Vegas casino manager who made the decision to quit smoking. He didn’t feel he had the personal willpower to do it alone, so he took out a billboard on the Las Vegas Strip with his photo on it along with the words, “If you catch me smoking, I’ll pay you $100,000!” Was he able to quit smoking? You bet!
Now these sound like extreme examples, telling the world to slap you, or potentially putting yourself in debt for the rest of your life. But imagine the following unlikely scenario for a minute:
There is a war between your country and whatever its arch-nemesis country is (think America vs. Russia for example). But the leaders of both country have somehow come to the conclusion that war is a horrible thing that doesn’t lead to anything good. So they decide that instead of bombing each other, they will settle the war in a way that doesn’t leave so many innocent victims.
Each country will pick one typical “Average joe(sephine)” at random to defend the honor of the one they live in. These people will get into a ring and have a highly publicized fight, not unlike the Mayweather vs. McGregor thing everyone is raving about. And you are picked for yours.
If you win the fight, your country wins the war. If you lose, the other country wins.
Now, imagine 2 possible scenarios for this fight:
Scenario #1: If you feel like you’ve been hurt too much, you can give up. Your country loses the war, but at least you don’t get injured more badly.
Scenario #2: Whether you want it or not, it’s a fight to the death.
In which of these scenarios are you most likely to stick with the fight?
Obviously the second. Because the pain of losing equals the pain of death, and the first one gives you a convenient escape route.
You could say that Anthony Kiedis, and whatever the casino guy’s name was, created a similar situation for themselves. Quitting the habit was the fight, getting knocked down by strangers or owing them 100.000 dollars was their version of making the fight to the death and eliminating the easy escape route of giving up when things got hard.
There’s 2 things to do here if you are really committed to quitting a bad habit.
First of all: What escape routes have you conveniently kept in place for yourself? Because you will use them. You need to simply eradicate every possible excuse for not quitting.
Maybe you are not famous enough to make a music video telling people to knock you down. Maybe you don’t have the money to put up billboard ads.
But you can do this:
• Post a Facebook status saying anyone who catches you engaging in the habit you want to break can kick you in the nuts (or outer labia).
• Post a picture of you saying that every time someone catches you drinking a beer you buy a round for the entire bar and encourage everyone to share.
• Shoot me a message to tell me that every time you fap, you vow to make a donation to this blog 😉
I know you probably feel a lot of resistance towards doing something like that, but that’s the point.
Do you want this or not?
Because I promise you, this is how you get it done.
When you have a whole army of people who hold you accountable for sticking with your commitment, and a whole reign of punishments waiting for you if you don’t succeed, doing so will be easy. And that’s what you want, right?
If you can't bring yourself to put such a system (that will help you quit) in place, you may have a different issue to consider:
Are you actually committed to breaking this habit for yourself, or not?
There are no wrong answers to that question, only honest or dishonest ones.
(P.S. If you wondered how the featured picture was related to this article: It's a picture of a cold turkey 😉 )
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