Thursday, January 8, 2009

Goals & Resolutions - Quitting vs Achieving

Part 2 in a series.  I wrote about Consistency Counts earlier this month.


Many of the most common goals and resolutions people make involve quitting something.  And while there are similarities between successfully accomplishing a "quitting goal" and a more traditional, "achieving goal", there are many differences as well.


It is oftentimes much more difficult to successfully quit a bad habit than it is to successfully begin a good habit.  There are 2 primary reasons for this:

  1. Even though we know the habit is not in our best long-term interest (hence the reason for wanting to quit), it is something we enjoy immensely in the short term.  (smoking, drinking, excessive eating, sweets, frivolous spending, and half-caf mocha lattes all come to mind..)

  2. Opportunities for failure will present themselves throughout the day, everyday.  Unlike a traditional "achieving goal", which requires you to muster enough motivation and energy to do something, probably once during the day, these goals require constant energy and motivation, all day long, everyday of the week.

Here are a few ideas you can use to help you successfully quit.

Tangible Financial Reward.  Some habits are more expensive than others.  If your vice is costing you $5 a day, you stand to save $150 PER MONTH for being successful - that's a lot of cash!  You might find it motivating to keep the savings right in front of you.  Each day you successfully avoid your bad habit, put $5 cash into a box/drawer/pot on your desk or table.  You'll be amazed by how fast the money adds up, and you won't want to spend your newfound pile of dough on your old crutch.

Motivation.  Why are you quitting?  For example, many people quit smoking because they want to be around to watch their kids graduate college.  This is a very powerful motivator, but it's also very distant.  Remind yourself about it each time you feel the urge to smoke.  Place a picture of your kids in your wallet, or anywhere else you'll need to reach before you fall off the wagon.

Larger Picture.  Maybe you're quitting something as a small part of a larger goal.  For example, you might be quitting sweets, or junk food, as part of your goal to lose 40 pounds this year.  Think about that.  Talk about that.  Remind yourself about that.  Every extra bite you take is moving you away from 2 goals, not just one!

Proxy for Success.  It can be difficult to see how hard you're working on your goal, and how much success you've had, if you're simply trying to ignore cravings as they come up.  This is especially true if your quitting-item isn't costing you $5 a day.  Give yourself a penny, or a poker chip, each time you successfully avoid falling down on your goal.  Stack the pennies up at your desk at work, and tell everybody what they mean.  But if you slip up, you have to pull the entire stack down and start all over.  This works great if you have lots of opportunities for failure during the day or week.  Take pride in watching the stack grow; it shows just how hard you're working on your goal.  And the larger the stack gets, the more you're going to resist the urges and pulling the entire stack down!

Reward Yourself.  Spend a little of that money you've been saving on yourself once in awhile - maybe a manicure/pedicure or a new tech-gadget.  Or, if you're doing a great job stacking pennies, do something you enjoy but don't do very often once you've collected a pre-determined number of pennies (100, 250, 500 or more!)

How Bad do you Want It?  We all have different motivations for wanting to quit.  Regardless of the motivation, YOU made a decision that YOU wanted to quit that habit.  You know it's not going to be easy.  Sometimes success comes from wanting something so badly you're able to walk away from that little devil who pops up on your shoulder and tells you "come on, you know you want it, and nobody will know the difference - one won't really hurt you anyway."  Be strong out there.

Your would much rather attack a new goal than quit an old habit Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

Note:  this article is not meant to be a substitute for a "12-step" program, or any other professional help organization.  If you have an addiction which requires more help than what I'm outlining here, please seek professional guidance.