There will be tomorrow.
That’s the worst lie we tell ourselves. Unfortunately, it’s also the easiest lie to believe.
I played that game with my health for years.
Once upon a time, I was a smoker. I burned through a pack a day on average for close to twenty years. Like most smokers, I remember how I got started. I did what a lot of kids do in their early teens. I lit up. I hacked, coughed, and gagged. Then I proceeded to ignore the wisdom of my body, and I kept on choking down cigarettes until one day they started tasting good. That’s what my dulled taste buds thought.
I never worried about smoking in the early years. I heard stories of people living long lives as smokers without consequences. I was a teenager anyway. Teenagers are immortal, right?
Every smoker seemed to know someone who had an uncle that chain smoked well into his eighties. My favorite stories are the ones about the Hundred year old Chinese guy on t.v doing tai chi with his cigarette hanging off the end of his lip. I, and many other smokers, would hold these people up as evidence that smoking isn’t dangerous. The smoking health scares were a conspiracy! Tobacco companies couldn’t sell cigarettes if they were really dangerous!
I tried to quit in my early twenties. I knew smoking was wrong, but I failed each time I wanted to stop. I never worried about failing. I just told myself I could do it again tomorrow. Years would go by before I made another attempt.
Then I became a Certified Professional Hypnotist. I was a smoker at the time I went through training. I kept smoking when I graduated and opened an office. I would disclose to every smoker I helped that I was also a smoker. It felt less hypocritical that way.
I would tell a smoking client, “In full disclosure, I’m a smoker. I know the time to quit is different for every smoker out there. I’m hoping that by helping you stop smoking that I might also find my way to quit.”
I wasn’t joking. I wanted something to trigger my own road to freedom.
One of my best friends died during this time. He wasn’t the first friend I buried, but he was the best of them. His death was a serious wake up call about delaying anything important for tomorrow.
I finally examined my values and discovered why smoking was a horrible decision for me. It wasn’t about health risks or money. It was about freedom. I was a drug addict. I couldn’t live another day like that. I felt the need to stop right away because I wanted to be in line with my own values.
There was my trigger.
I put myself through my own smoking cessation program a couple years ago. For the first time, quitting smoking was easy. I tossed that last cigarette away with all the farewells a slave would have given it’s master upon gaining freedom. I’m still mystified I ever smoked.
So What took so long to quit?
We all have our list of delayed dreams and desires. How many dreams are you holding off until tomorrow? How many words are you leaving unsaid? What plans are still on hold?
Two problems lay at the root of your delay.
- You believe you will have an opportunity tomorrow, next week, or some vague time in the future.
- You’re scared.
We already know that tomorrow is a lie. Tomorrow is the myth that keeps you wasting today. It works because of your fear.
I can hear you already. “Whatever! I’m not scared!”
All the times I thought about giving up smoking, I would be flooded with different fears.
I was scared to change.
What would I do after I ate? What if I got nervous? Or stressed? How would I fill in those gaps of activity? I truly didn’t think I would enjoy my life without cigarettes.
It sounds crazy, right? It isn’t.
The fear is the resistance. Your brain likes patterns. You subconsciously build routines and habits. Over time your mind starts thinking that’s what you need to stay alive. You get a little jolt of nervous fear when you even think about veering off course. The lizard brain doesn’t want any change. It wants to stay comfortable and predictable, even if it’s killing you.
That’s why your heart rate goes up when you think about asking that cute girl out on a date. That’s why you get nervous before you interview for a job. It’s why you turn down the radio driving through unfamiliar places, doubt your ability to do anything new, and fail over and over trying to change habits. Some people experience this so badly that it borders on a panic attack.
You eventually reach a point where it’s difficult to imagine a better future. You can only see the anticipated pain and loss. You essentially become blind to options and opportunities for change.
Move Through The Fear
Fear is a signal.
There are times when fear is an indicator of danger. This signal is about physical danger. Saber tooth tigers, gun fire, tornado sirens, and Teletubbies marathons. The proper response to this signal is to remove yourself from possible harm.
Most of time your fear is triggered by self doubt and limited beliefs. You start worrying about negative possibilities. You’re frozen in place by imagined outcomes. This is a signal of opportunity. Take this chance to change your mind.
- Recognize Paper Tigers: There are no more saber tooth tigers. That doesn’t mean there isn’t real danger in the world. It just means most of the danger is an illusion you create in your own mind. Notice fear as it arises. Utilize the same curiosity as an outside observer. Notice how it makes your body feel. Notice the multitude of thoughts as they race through your mind. This brings mindful awareness to the feeling, and this awareness can help the fear fizzle away. The trick is allowing the thoughts and feelings to pass by without judgment or attachment.
- Manage Expectations: Take a minute to recall a time you were worried about making a change. Remember all those negative concerns and fears. How many of those came true? I’m willing to bet few to none. It’s much more likely that you picked up a new skill, made new friends, and enriched your life with new experiences. There’s a good chance that will be the same case with your current concerns.
- Make A List: Grab a pen and paper. Go ahead. I will wait. Write down all your fears. Now for the fun part. Cross out all the ones that are irrational – yes a shark attack in your bath is irrational – as well as all of those fears that are unlikely to happen. Now put a line through all those that are out of your control, such as natural disasters. Now cross out anything left on the list that may happen in the distant future. Have another look at your list. What’s left? Next to nothing is my guess. Good. Let’s keep it that way.
It’s Your Decision
Once in while what we fear becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. It’s your decision.
I could’ve been miserable when I stopped smoking. I changed the course of my day on at least 20 different occasions. That’s a lot of change. It was scary to make that decision. All I had to do was move through the fear once I made the decision to embrace the change. Here’s just a few consequences of that decision:
- My clothes smell better.
- I save roughly $2,500 a year.
- Food tastes better.
- My sense of smell is a super power.
- Stains on my fingers are gone.
- I don’t struggle with insomnia anymore.
- I have better endurance in training and exercise.
That’s just the short list.
The best benefit is the freedom to live my life how I choose. I can enjoy a meal without worrying about where I will smoke when I’m finished. I can enjoy my time with friends and family without wondering if I can smoke. I don’t have to worry about what people might think of me when they find out I smoke.
I just enjoy the moments that life give me.
What is fear stopping you from doing? Please share in the comments below!