Have you noticed that the demands of life seem unusually cruel of late? Simply put, our plates are too damn full! To make matters worse, many of us turn to social media or the news during “down time”, only to instead find ourselves unknowingly joining an arms race of “who’s better than who” at juggling this mess we call life.
We are pulled so many directions with work, family, and an overload of information. With so much to focus on, it at times feels like we would need to add hours to the day just to catch up on everything that needs to be done.
Where is the balance?! Can any of us win back our independence while doing everything we are tasked with day in and day out?
I’ve recently come to believe the answer is NO.
In the push and pull of our day we are all trying to accomplish more than we can handle.
Thus, we need to learn how to “stop” to “start” and even quit a few things along the way if we ever hope to return to what many are calling “the new normal”.
The Year of Quitting to Win
For me, the year 2020 was to be one of quitting. The plan was to start with quitting alcohol and move my way through the clutter of life, removing all the items of little or no value along the way.
Then March came and COVID-19 hit.
Did I turn back to the bottle and “quit” on my quitting?
No, not exactly, but I did lose my footing for a bit.
While I’d been able to stick with not drinking, I seemed to have added other nuisances that got in the way. To name a few, things like joining that arms race mentioned above, eating crappy processed food, and falling victim to multitasking that seriously plagues my progress.
As it turns out quitting is hard. We seem to replace one bad habit with another.
My A-ha Moment
I recently had a realization though and I think it’s going to right the ship for me: On the path to quitting we need to be flexible and forgiving.
As they say, nothing goes exactly as planned, and this even seems to apply to the process of elimination. If we are going to quit, we need to “trust the process” while at the same time allowing for a plan that includes flexibility should things change.
I realize this sounds like competing interests or philosophies.
How can we expect to quit if we don’t stick to the plan?
But trust me when I say this, “our plans are only as good as the contingencies we set to go along with them.”
Failure is a part of life and an important step in the learning process. Our ground rules need to position us for success while also allowing for the inevitable changes that happen along the way.
So, with that said, let’s look at five ground rules for quitting that will help achieve this goal.
Five Rules of Quitting
1. Stop to Start
Before you make any change stop everything you are doing in that moment.
In yoga, practice often begins and ends with a savasana. Savasana is a practice of stopping before starting. For thousands of years the yogis have known this trick. We are only at our best when we slow everything down and find inner calmness.
Ever notice how some of your best ideas come while you're taking a shower or just about to fall asleep?
This is because we shut out the noise and slowed everything down.
So before you start to make big changes, make sure you set aside some time to shut down your mind and write out some of your thoughts. You’ll be surprised how your mindset changes and shifts and sometimes this is invaluable in the quitting game.
2. Positive Replacement
When we quit bad habits often we don’t know how or what to replace the empty space with.
Be careful here.
It’s an absolute must to set up positive replacements for any bad habit. If you don’t, you’ll fill in the void with something equally bad perhaps or worse.
Let’s say you plan to quit bad food but don’t yet have a positive replacement. The cue and reward system will leave you wanting and desiring what you’ve deprived yourself of. Remember, willpower is fine and needed in small doses, but it’s a tough way to go long term.
What is something else you can offer as a replacement to reward yourself?
3. Plan for Failure
In James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits he writes” “what separates top performers is that they get back on track very quickly.”
Notice how he doesn’t say anything about not failing?
We all fail and often make the same mistakes time and time again. Beating yourself up really doesn’t serve a purpose other than to punish yourself.
Stick to the plan and always have a process should you fail. It is this plan that will make all the difference in getting you back on track quickly and that will separate you from your peers.
4. Benchmark Yourself
“It’s very unlikely you had all these bad habits your whole life. Therefore, you already have it in you to be the person without your bad habits.” This is another great reminder from James Clear’s book.
We should always benchmark ourselves against ourselves (and only against ourselves) when it comes to breaking habits or quitting something hard. No one knows you better than you and no one knows what you need to change more than you. The truth is you’ve probably lived much of your life without needing the crutch or the habit you’re currently trying to break. Remember, if you’ve done it before you can do it again!
5. Forgive then Forget
One of my favorite self-help authors and podcasters is Hal Elrod. Hal has been on death’s doorstep twice in his life. In his early 20’s he was in the hospital for months after surviving a horrendous head-on collision with a drunk driver. The doctors weren’t sure he would live and were nearly certain he would never walk.
Hal explains in one of his podcasts: “you got five minutes and that’s all the time you need to forgive and forget.”
Now, from a practical sense, we need to process many things much longer than five minutes. The message Hal is trying to get across here is that we need to forgive before we can forget. It’s the lingering guilt, doubt, and anger that tends to envelop our subconscious mind. The moment we forgive ourselves or others is the very moment we can start getting back on track.
A 2019 Gallup poll of more than 150,000 people found that Americans are some of the most stressed people in the world. Over 55% of respondents reported feeling stressed much of their day.
And, if that was the situation in 2019, well then, what in the HELL are we up against now? Certainly COVID-19, riots, layoffs, and the strains of our economy aren’t helping that stress barometer.
I suspect we are all currently experiencing stress right now that can only be alleviated through finding a comfortable balance of work and self-care. Whether that balance allows for everything to sustain the way it is, or necessitates quitting, is entirely individualized.
Your “new normal” however, will be whatever you make it. Should you decide you need to quit a few things to win back your independence, I hope these five rules help!
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