Gretchen Rubin

Trying to Quit Smoking–or Trying To Help Someone Else? Create Your Personalized Plan.

Trying to Quit Smoking–or Trying To Help Someone Else? Create Your Personalized Plan.

As I know from studying habits for my book Better Than Before, one habit that people really want to change -- in themselves or others -- is the habit of smoking. But quitting is tough.

If you're struggling, you might try to harness the strength of your Tendency, and to consider the limitations of your Tendency, to build an approach that's customized for you.

First step: Figure out your "Tendency" -- if you're an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel -- by taking the Four Tendencies quiz here.

Second step: Once you identify your Tendency, you can personalize an approach for quitting smoking (or whatever goal you're trying to achieve).

How might that work?

Obliger: The key for Obligers is outer accountability.

That's the key! The essential piece! You need to plug in some structures of outer accountability. You might...

  • Work with a health coach.
  • Consider your duty to be a role model of healthy behavior for your children, co-workers, students, etc.
  • Think of your duty to your future-self. Now-self wants to smoke, but future-self will be so disappointed that now-self didn't quit.
  • Make a deal with someone else: if you stop smoking that person will also stop smoking (or whatever habit that person wants to change). You can't smoke, or else that person will feel free to resume his or her bad habit -- and that would be terrible.

Questioner: The key for Questioners is justification.

Drill deep into your reasons for quitting. What are the justifications?

  • You'll be much healthier.
  • You'll save a ton of money.
  • Your clothes won't smell.
  • Your tennis game will improve.

Note, too, that Questioners love to monitor, so try keeping a record of how many days you've gone without smoking, how much money you've saved, etc. Questioners also love to customize, so whatever cessation strategy you use, customize it so it works for you.

Rebel: The key for Rebels is choice and freedom.

If you're thinking, "No one can tell me what to do, I don't care about 'doctor's orders,' I do what I want," frame your thoughts about smoking in a different way. Not-smoking is an expression of your identity, your freedom, your choice. Being free from nicotine is what you want.

You might reflect:

  • I'm not chained by addiction.
  • Cigarettes don't control me.
  • I'm not the pawn of the big tobacco companies. Sure, they want me to continue to pour money into their pockets, but they can't keep me hooked.
  • My son thinks an old guy like me can't quit smoking, but I'll show him how tough I am.
  • I'm an athletic, energetic, vital person who respects her body. That's who I am.

Rebels want to do things their own way, and they often enjoy flouting expectations, so maybe you want to quit in some dramatic, unexpected way, or ignore the conventional wisdom about the best way to do it.

Upholder: The key for Upholders is discipline.

The fact is, if you're an Upholder, you're less likely to be struggling with a habit like smoking. When I did my representative survey, at 24%, Upholders were the least likely to agree with the statement “I have struggled with addiction.” The other three Tendencies scored about the same (34%, 32%, 32%), so it seems likely that there’s something specific to Upholders’ nature that protects them. But of course, some Upholders do get hooked on cigarettes.

In which case...

  • Make a plan.
  • Put it on the calendar.
  • Monitor how many cigarettes you smoke each day.

In my bestselling book Better Than Before, I outline the 21 strategies that we can use to make or break our habits. For a one-pager on which of these habit-formation strategies works best for each Tendency, email me here.

The Four Tendencies framework isn't meant to be a label that confines us, but rather a spotlight that can illuminate hidden patterns in our natures. When we know the right buttons to push, it's much easier and simpler to make positive change.

The Four Tendencies give us insight to help make our lives happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative.

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