The trouble with willpower!

Lesson 3

In the last lesson we looked at the power of expectation and how it can make you feel as though you are dependent on cigarettes. Today I'm going to talk about the best time to quit.

Now some people escape the smoking trap through sheer brute force - and good luck to them! By force of will they stop smoking and try not to smoke. They expend energy and effort in not smoking. It's a LOT of unnecessary work!


Now, don't get me wrong, this method does work for some people but the problem is that it can so easily cause the rubber band effect.

Watch out for willpowers' dreaded SNAPBACK!

If you have a rubber band nearby, grab it and stretch it. If you don't, then your creative imagination will work just as well. When you stretch the rubber band, everything in it want to return to its original shape. That's what rubber bands do.

What I've noticed is that it's often the same with human beings…

  • A concerned mother forces her teenage daughter to stop seeing her compellingly edgy boyfriend and she'll want him even more.
  • Go on a diet and suddenly there are cakes, cookies and donuts everywhere!
  • Try not to be angry with someone and within hours you're carrying on a full blown argument with them in your head!
  • Deny yourself the 'treat' of a cigarette then watch that desire build. 

I've lost count of the number of smokers who, years after quitting with willpower alone, still say "Oh I'd love a cigarette with a beer." Or they talk about the "cravings" they still get.

People who stop smoking properly never say that. They never feel like they're missing it.

Now I'll repeat - sheer force of willpower can and does work for some people, but it's exhausting and often doesn't last.

When you are "Trying not to smoke" you're still focusing on… smoking.

What if smoking felt stranger to you than purple pants on backwards
Have you ever noticed that the tasks you get done most efficiently are those which feel right to do? Not the chores you know you should do but never quite seem to get done.
Not the books you know you should read, but are still gathering dust on the shelf. 

The things that almost pull you towards them, that get done hardly without you thinking about it. That's how I want stopping smoking to be for you. I want you to stop because it starts to feel more right to be a non-smoker than it does to continue smoking.

Because when cigarettes feel so alien to you, so irrelevant then you don't need to exercise any will power at all.

Or to put it another way: Think of all the stuff you don't have to force yourself not to do:
I'm guessing here, but I doubt you have to force yourself to: 

  • not walk down the street dressed as Tinkerbell the fairy.
  • run naked through the shopping mall...
  • or steal cars for a living.

You don't even think about that stuff because it's just not who you are. You don't have to spend even an ounce of willpower stopping yourself from doing these things. Smoking can feel that way to you too.

A little more on growing out of smoking.

Remember when you were a kid and you were still growing? One sure way of knowing your feet were getting bigger was when your shoes started to pinch your feet.

You had outgrown them and so you stopped wearing those shoes, not through sheer will power but because they had started squeezing the life out of your poor feet. You didn't have to set a date and say "Okay, on Monday the 18th of January I'm going to stop wearing those damn shoes!" No, you stopped wearing them because it felt much more right and natural not to wear them now.

Smoking squeezes too. Not at first, but eventually. It squeezes years out of your precious life, it squeezes energy from your limbs, it squeezes youth from your face and blood flow from your organs. It squeezes money from your bank. It squeezes a hell of a lot more than any tight fitting shoe.

When you quit it should be because it feels more right to be free than it does to continue being squeezed.


​Only quit when it feels right.

And that's why I'm asking you right now to wait and only quit when your mind lets you know the time is now. Then it's no longer a matter of "trying to stop" but simply becoming a non-smoker, and that can be an easy step!

I've had so many clients tell me the same thing; that they just stopped without trying to stop. This is so much more natural than the "I've got to stop tomorrow morning!" high pressure approach and tends to be so much more sustainable. Instead you can look forward to the day with anticipation.

Wait until it feels right. Will power can help bridge gaps here and there but it shouldn't be the main force you use for outwitting smoking.

In the next chapter I want to ask you something about your life as a whole. The way you answer will give us an idea of whether now is the right time to Commit to Quitting.

See you in the next one!


P.S. If you feel that you're ready to quit now you can go ahead and let me know so we can schedule a Smoke-Free Life Session! These lessons will continue, and its a good idea to keep reading them to help prepare the psychological landscape for your escape 🙂