How Reframing Leads to Refraining
“Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.” – Mark Twain
A month or two ago, I mentioned that it was my birthday; it was also the day that I chose to liberate myself from the habit of smoking. At the time, I’d been smoking consistently for about 4 years. When I moved to LA in early 2010 I’d been an occasional social smoker, but being thrown into a new city, where I didn’t know anyone, I somehow ended up gravitating toward smoking – I don’t know if it was needing something to help me kill time or some subconscious hope that smoking would help me to make friends, all I know is that I really enjoyed smoking.
I know that often non-smokers think that’s crazy – I mean, it’s confusing to think how anyone could enjoy inhaling rancid poison into their lungs – and so, non-smokers might think smokers are deluding themselves. BUT as a former smoker, I can say with hand-on-heart that there were some seemingly very real perks to having those stubby little guys around. For example:
- smoking breaks allowed me to step outside of whatever was going on and escape the chaos;
- smoking allowed me to stop and take a breath (a filthy one, but a breath nonetheless);
- smoking kept me occupied as I walked between meetings or social engagements;
- smoking brought me into contact with a variety of different people from all walks of life;
- smoking gave me pause for thought.
Also, even though I was a smoker, I was still very active – I ran or swam 5 days a week at the peak of my smoking. At worst, I would work out a couple of times a week regularly and I rarely felt out of breath or encumbered by my smoking in any way.
So you may be thinking, “then, why did you give up?”
Frankly, because in recent months I was starting to worry whether I could. I was smoking 10 cigarettes a day and it was rare that I smoked anything less. I found plane journeys testing. I got moody (or I should say relatively moodier) if I had to spend a few hours with my extended family and I couldn’t get out for my cigarette/time out/breather fix. I questioned how I felt about the prospect of dating a smoker and reasoned that since I wouldn’t choose that (I wouldn’t want that example for me or my kids), that meant that for me to be in integrity, it was time to put up or shut up.
It’s fair to say I was genuinely a little scared about whether I could do it. I was worried about whether I would get a pang in those little moments in my day when I used to smoke. I was worried about whether I’d put on weight. I was even worried about no longer having an excuse to escape certain awkward social situations.
I knew I needed help……..so I went to a coach. It took just one appointment.
In that coaching appointment we talked about my limiting beliefs around smoking. We examined how true it is (for me) that smoking is an addicition? If I could be shown that it’s just a habit, how much easier would it be for me to stop?
We looked at what I gained from smoking and what I thought I was losing from it to ascertain my level of buy-in for the change. We acknowledged that there had been a time (back when I went to the US) when smoking had served a purpose in my life and normalised that. We envisioned 10 years into the future to who I would be if I was still smoking and imagined what that future smoking self would say to me right now. Through that exercise I learned that if I didn’t want that to be my life, now was as good a time to stop as any. We did another visioning exercise where I fast forwarded 10 years to a smoke free me, and in contrast, I really liked what I saw.
We also looked at some of my most important values: self-mastery, integrity, inspiration, family. In short, we looked at who I was, who I am and who I wanted to be. We looked at how smoking fit into that frame of reference and it was clear that smoking just didn’t fit in with who I wanted to be any more.
Those particular exercises were chosen for a reason by this coach. He knew the importance of me being excited about that smoke-free vision, so that I could get emotionally connected to it. I needed to be able to imagine and feel the exhilaration of a life free of the craving and moodiness. That vision, along with having a clear idea of my values and accompanied by a handy accountability App that shows me exactly how long I have been smoke-free, how much money I’m saving and the incumbent health benefits, have gotten me to this point:
1 month 21 days and 7 hours
Not bad hey? And, you know what’s even more awesome? Even though I still sometimes experience a mini-craving, I know I won’t smoke. It’s just not who I am anymore.
So before next time:
- If you’ve pledged to give something up whether for lent, or for any other reason, consider taking a step back to reset your frame of reference.
- Ask yourself honestly where and how much you really see that substance, food or person in your future vision.
- Do a values exercise to decide what’s most important to you and why.
By reconsidering who you are, what’s important to you and where you’re going, you might just realise that you’re not really giving anything up after all. Rather you’re making a positive choice about who you are and the you that you’re in the process of becoming.
For now, I invite you to check out our Facebook page or connect with us on Twitter (@Anna_Margolis) to learn more about ways you can cultivate your self-awareness and increase your level of consciousness.