Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Breaking habits, initiating change and creating the best version of yourself

Individual change and changing habits is highly personal and what worked for me might not necessarily work for everybody.  For full disclosure I have to mention that I am not very good at doing things halfway. Moderation often eludes me, because it opens the door for my mind to negotiate and try to nag and talk me into "just this once, because ... (enter excuse here)".  Therefore quitting something altogether seems easier to me than doing less of it. I discovered though that a few strategies are constant factors in successfully altering my ways.

Don't get cocky

The first time around I managed to quit smoking in 2001 (after having been at it for about 10 years) I lasted for roughly 17 months. My relative success the first time around was largely based on the fact that I took myself by surprise. Managing not to smoke before getting out of bed (yes, seriously), for half a day, a day, a week, a month and then a year made me feel happy and elated. I didn't actually expect myself to be able to quit. In the end I made the mistake to consider it safe to smoke just a couple of cigarettes over some beers with friends. That assumption was very wrong. The biggest take-away lesson from that attempt was to never feel like a bad habit has no power over you anymore.

Having a good time climbing peaks with friends in 2013

Create a clear image of who you aspire to be

After a few failed attempts at quitting I finally managed to kick the smoking habit for good. I signed up for the Vancouver Sun Run. Exactly 3 months prior I smoked my last cigarette and from that point on I considered myself to be officially "in training". Could I have done the same run while still lighting up. Yes, I could. Maybe  a couple of minutes slower, but still. The main point was that I created an image of myself that was incompatible with being sedentary and being a smoker. I was an athlete now and that fact trumped the habit. And we're talking about a 10 km run here. Nothing crazy or extreme. It was not the goal itself, but the decision to strive to be better that helped me succeed. I had made up my mind about becoming healthier and more active.

My idea of a good time back in the days

Identify your barriers and obstacles

Whenever possible, minimize the influence of people and circumstances that prevent you from creating the best, healthiest, happiest version of yourself. Cherish the people and situations that help you to lead a healthy and happy life. Commit to relentlessly working towards  a more positive self. Ask yourself: "What prevents me  from becoming my best version of myself?" Once you know the answer to that question, you are a big step closer to making a meaningful improvement to your life. Don't get discouraged by failed attempts. Think about what exactly prevents you from succeeding and try to eliminate this particular barrier.

Quitting smoking was the toughest habit for me to break, but there were, and still are, others to be tackled. I dramatically changed my diet and weaned myself off coffee and beer among other personal improvements.

What are the changes that you made or would like to make to your life and how did you manage to do it?

Have a happy healthy week,

Marc Schmitz