What is the most important trait a quitter needs to make sure their quit is successful? Most people would say “willpower,” or “determination,” or even “stubbornness,” but most people would be wrong.
The single most important trait of the successful quitter is mindfulness.
How many times have you “lost” a quit because you just “found yourself” smoking and didn’t immediately throw the cigarette away? For me, that exact scenario happened too many times to count. And almost every ex-smoker I’ve ever mentioned this to has told me that the same thing has happened to them at least once.
How does that happen? How is it that we can just find ourselves smoking without seeming to be aware of it?
It happens exactly because we’re not aware of it. It happens because we’re not being mindful.
So, how do you maintain mindfulness? You practice mindfulness. Here’s how I did it:
Every morning, for the first 500+ days of this quit, as soon as I got out of bed, I’d stand in front of the mirror, look myself in the eye, and tell myself: "I am a nicotine addict. I cannot afford to feed that addiction; not even one time. So, today, I choose not to smoke."
Then I’d go out to the kitchen and get my coffee started, and, while I was waiting for it to finish brewing, I would sit down at my desk and write an extended version of the same thing in my quit journal.
A typical entry would look like this:
I am a nicotine addict.
I cannot afford to feed that addiction.
Not even one time.
– so –
Today, I choose LIFE!
Today, I choose HEALTH!
Today, I choose STRENGTH!
Today, I choose SELF-CONTROL!
Today, I choose FREEDOM!
Today, I choose NOT to smoke!
Also, in those early days of my quit, whenever I’d get a craving to smoke, I’d remind myself again that I was a nicotine addict, that I couldn’t afford to feed that addiction even a single puff, and I would choose not to smoke.
Finally, every night of those first 500+ nights, just before I went to bed, I’d remind myself of my commitment one more time, and congratulate myself for sticking by the choice I’d made that morning (and, in those early days, repeatedly during the day) to stay free that day.
It’s a Lot of Work
Does that seem like an awful lot of effort to you? How bad do you want this quit? I guarantee you that I owe my continued freedom for over 10 years to developing the habit of being mindful in those early days.
But it’s Worth It
After I’d filled three journals with mostly just those daily affirmations, I relaxed my routine somewhat, but by then, I’d firmly established the habit of mindfulness about my addiction and my commitment to not feeding it any more.
And it’s that mindfulness that’s kept me free since November of 2001.
Do It Yourself
You can feel free to copy my method, or make up your own way of doing it, but, one way or another, I urge you to figure out how to establish and maintain mindfulness for yourself, because that’s what will keep you free.