Picture your greatest addiction. Is it alcohol? Cigarettes? Pot? Porn? Pad-Thai? Take a second and really confront that one thing you know you should’ve quit a loooong time ago but for some reason still haven’t kicked for good.(I know…it’s hard.) Now think of the reason why.
If you’re entertaining any of the reason below—
You don’t have enough will power,
You’re too weak,
You’re too dumb,
There’s a deep psychological problem preventing you from changing your habits,
Or you’re just not ready—
You’re flat out wrong. And thank God that’s the case, because if you actually were right about these reasons then you’d have absolutely no power to quit! And that’s just not realistic or useful thinking.
The longer you go without making a successful behavior change, the more toxic crap you say to yourself:
All these thoughts decimate your self-esteem and determine how hard and how often you work, which limits your potential for success as an entrepreneur and as a person. So if you’ve been delaying an important quit, and you really want to hit that next level of success in life and business, you’ve got to get a strategy today.
Even the smartest people in the world will be unsuccessful in quitting things that make their lives horrible if they don’t have a strategy in place to ensure a successful quit. So if you’re still struggling to quit anything, it’s not for lack of potential. It’s because you don’t have a strategy.
I’m not the smartest person in the world by any stretch, but I’m not a mental pygmy either. I read at a college reading level by first grade and I could solve puzzles at a very young age that neither my parents nor my adult siblings could master—and they’re not slouches! Yet I found myself constantly berating myself last year for not successfully quitting a habit I’d sworn off for good:
Whether you think it’s the healthiest thing in the world (like everyone says today) or not, this habit was my bane. I’d go on again off again for weeks at a time and feel like I was this close to quitting for good, but then I’d always find some excuse like insomnia or stress to cave in on myself. I used masturbation as an escape when there were a million and one more important things to do that would much more effectively relieve my stress.
Then earlier this year I reached my breaking point.
After yet another moment of weakness and more negative self talk, I realized how profoundly unhappy I was. I was masturbating to escape things I knew I really needed to be doing, it was making me extremely undisciplined, and I knew that if I didn’t quit for good, I would not only continue my declension as an entrepreneur and person, but I would engage in another toxic relationship where I used someone else for the happiness I hadn’t been man enough to make myself. And I couldn’t accept that.
It’s been over half a year and I’m proud to say that I’ve been 100% successful at quitting—plus I’m more on fire in my business than I’ve ever been. This isn’t a coincidence, and it wasn’t because the timing was right…
It’s because I had a failsafe strategy.
To tell you the truth, I probably had twenty of those rock-bottom moments where I promised myself to never ever fall back into my bad habit again. Because I didn’t create a strategy, though, my willpower always broke, and I always went back on the promise I’d made. This utterly destroyed my confidence.
But when I outlined,
a) the reasons I had for quitting (the impact of my behavior, the success I wanted)
b) the excuses I had made
c) my triggers for undesired behavior, and
d) the positive actions I would take in place of the undesired behavior…
I created an action plan that guaranteed success.
Today masturbation is simply not an issue for me. I don’t crave it like I used to; I don’t worry about it. And because I’ve mastered it, I’ve unlocked a new level of confidence and self-esteem that has increased my success as a solopreneur and also my happiness as a person. I thank God every day for guiding me to a quit-strategy that worked. And I’d like to share my success with you.
First, you need at least an hour—preferably two—to yourself with a computer or a pen and pad. This will give you enough time to reflect and brainstorm an effective strategy for your biggest issues. (Most people won’t take this much time—or any time at all. But you aren’t most people!)
You’re going to keep this strategy on one page or in one document so that you’ll always have it with you. This strategy doubles as a mission statement and manifesto, so you’ll be reading it at the beginning of each week to stay true to your path and be 100% accountable!
Now it’s time to break down each level of your strategy:
(Write each section out just like the picture below)
You can have the most elaborate strategy in the world. But if you don’t have strong reason driving your change, you’re not gonna change. We’re emotional beings and we need to be emotionally stimulated (whether positively or negatively) in order to consistently act towards our most important goals. Otherwise, we’ll always find an excuse to be weak.
For me, my reasons to be strong were really strong. My bad habit had led to lustful thoughts, which eventually led to me breaking some promises I’d kept for many years and objectifying women, which made me feel absolutely horrible about myself–which I hated. I didn’t want to feel horrible about myself anymore, so that was reason #1. (Sometimes negatives can be positive!)
I also knew that if I continued my behavior, I’d slide back into a toxic relationship and use a beautiful woman for her body—the prospect of which was abominably bleak. I’d been there, and it was not a happy or fulfilling road. Lastly, I knew that I had to be 100% consistent with my values if I wanted to be happy and if I wanted to have any influence and success as a coach.
I got very detailed with my reasons, making sure I wouldn’t forget the pain which my actions had caused me, and being very clear about the positive outcomes which would come through a successful quit. I finished this section with a strong promise that left me no outs:
I will never masturbate again.
I encourage you to do the same.
For every bad decision, there’s always an excuse—a reason to be weak. But when you write out each excuse for your undesired behavior, realize that they’re not reality, and commit to never making those excuses again, you eliminate your easy outs and quintuple your chances of a successful quit.
For my case, insomnia had been my biggest excuse. When the stress of sleeplessness was ‘just too much’, I’d always rationalize the behavior that made me feel small and unhappy—even if I had made a hardcore promise to myself just a week before. I told you…willpower doesn’t last!
But when I outlined my strategy, I realized how pathetic that excuse had been; and that instead of using insomnia as an excuse to be weak, I could actually use it as a reason to be confident and successful. Secondarily, I promised myself that any time I experienced insomnia, I would automatically start working or writing or handling anything I’d procrastinated on for the past several months.
So list your biggest excuses that are directly tied to your undesired behavior under this heading. Commit to not only never making them again, but to instead use them as reasons to be the strongest, most congruent version of you that you’ve ever been.
Think of a wannabe non-smoker used to smoke every time he drank coffee, or someone trying to quit drinking who’d always have two or three beers with buddies after work: the coffee would be a trigger for the smoker, and dinner after work would be a trigger for the drinker. Once you identify each particular one that leads to undesired behavior, you will consciously avoid the pitfalls that sabotaged your prior quitting efforts.
And it’ll be a piece of cake.
For me, when I was up late at night, I’d automatically start watching YouTube videos or amazon prime—trigger #1. (My lame excuse was, “What else can I do?”) And when I was surfing for a new video, I’d inadvertently come across some half naked girl on some movie cover which would arouse lustful thoughts (trigger #2); and those lustful thoughts, left unchecked, always led to me going back on my promise to myself. There were many other triggers far too embarrassing to mention in this article, but I listed them all out, wrote out a strategy for avoiding each of them, and committed to never doing them. And it was really freakin’ easy.
I encourage you to do the same in you third section.
Think deeply on this! Because the more triggers you identify, the more awareness you will have to make better decisions and to avoid weak decisions. And after you come up with this list of triggers, write them out as “not-to-dos” on a 3×5 card.
When you really think about it, your lack of self-improvement is the main reason you’ve been stuck in bad habits! Because when you’re busy kicking ass and bettering yourself, you don’t have time for weak decisions, and you’re so confident in doing the right stuff that the wrong things just don’t have any appeal.
Once you identify your excuses and triggers, you’re ready to fill all that negative space with purely positive action.
So write out a list of high-value actions to take instead of excuses or triggers. This prepares you to make exclusively good decisions, and it reminds you that there’s always a better option available to you. This is how you stay strong when your willpower fades—you fall back on your plan!!
For me, I transferred my list of high value actions to take instead of excuses or triggers on the back of my 3×5 “trigger” card. I filled my list with stuff like “study French”, and “practice vocab” and “write” and “play guitar”, and “work on coaching”—this way I’d always have something positive to do when I was thinking about doing a trigger activity. I made sure I always picked a good habit by placing my strategy card on my nightstand and reading it every morning before I started the day and every night before I fell asleep. You’ll get the same results if you do this too!
Like I said at the beginning of the instruction, this strategy page also doubles as a manifesto—which you’ll read at the beginning of every week to stay mission oriented. So once you’ve listed out your strategy, you’re going to finish up with a strong mission statement. Here was mine:
I reject sin. I’m embracing God’s grace, and I’m accepting full responsibility for my life and my actions. I have no more excuses to masturbate, but instead, I have an opportunity to better myself and to become more of who I want to be each day and night. Instead of being the reason I’m weak, insomnia will be my golden opportunity to be the man I know I can be. I have to be strong. I have to stay committed to my promises, to my routines, to my strategy. But I know this will work.
This last graph was extremely important in keeping me true to my mission of quitting. It filled me with confidence and courage; it showed me the light at the end of the tunnel. And more than anything, it gave me absolute certainty in a successful quit. So make yours short and sweet like mine.
No matter how hard or long you’ve struggled, quitting can actually be really easy. If you put all the energy previously spent on willpower into creating a water-tight quit strategy, if you read your trigger/high value activities card each morning and night, and if you commit 100% to a lifestyle of self-improvement and success, then you have a 100% chance of quitting successfully. Just make sure to read your quit strategy to yourself out loud at least once per week longterm, and once each morning for the first week.
And if you want to further increase your odds of a successful quit, find someone to keep you accountable. Your happiness and fulfillment are worth it a thousand times over!
Originally published at millennialsuccess.io