Cold Turkey

Cigarette burning in ashtray --- Image by © ImageShop/Corbis

Cigarette burning in ashtray — Image by © ImageShop/Corbis

Replacing Resolutions With Resolve, Part 6

Almost 30 years ago, my dad decided to stop smoking cigarettes—a habit he’d acquired in his youth. At the time, I was a teenager and not wholly aware of how he’d successfully transitioned from smoker to non-smoker. So, I recently asked him about his process and how he’d accomplished this feat. I had no idea that he’d devised a plan and set a deadline for himself or that he’d made several attempts before. I also didn’t realize that my constant nagging actually provided him with some motivation. As an observer, I found his transformation almost miraculous, or something akin to an instantaneous chemical reaction.

So much of the work involved in making a change is hidden from outside observers, but once you take a leap into action, your desire is revealed and your process is essentially on display. We’ve covered five of the seven steps required to make the change you seek a reality and now we are going to explore the sixth: Action. To recap, the steps are:

1. Map out your vision for what you want to change
2. Identify your motivators as well as stuff that sucks the wind out of your sails
3. Make your list of available resources
4. Create your support network
5. Design your reward system to celebrate accomplishments
6. Write down your action steps and start
7. Evaluate your progress and return to Step 1

When my dad made the decision to stop smoking once and for all, he planned on cutting down on the number of cigarettes he smoked each day—from a whole pack to one cigarette—and assigned a deadline for himself. All this effort went on under my nose while my family prepared for a vacation to Spain. My dad’s plan included smoking his very last cigarette on the plane bound for Madrid. He was methodical and determined.

In my experience, many of my clients get stuck outlining the action steps required to achieve their goals. For some, actions steps are too broad or generalized, only identifying the desired result not HOW the desire will be met. This is perfectly illustrated by action steps like “Stop smoking” or “Lose weight.” Others have been stymied by their need to have action steps laid out in just the “right way,” a perfect arc from start to finish. This, of course, is the curse of perfectionism rearing its ugly head. Since “perfection” is unattainable, so is the goal. While others have created such complicated action steps that even the most determined among us would merely find a series of stumbling blocks.

I urge you to commit your action steps to paper and make them a simple outline of what actions are needed to lead you to your goal. Make this outline clear, concise and attainable. If your steps seem too big to accomplish, you may need to break them down into smaller steps. Remember that saying “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer is “One bite at a time.” If this feels like a tough assignment and you can’t figure out what those first steps are, start at the end (envision where you want to be when you’ve fully transitioned) and look back on all you had to do to get there. Write this all down, review it and make your list of action steps. Then leap into action with that first step!

For almost three decades, I believed my dad went Cold Turkey on our family vacation in Spain. His plan of action strayed a bit from his original plan—a totally normal occurrence—and he ended up smoking one final cigarette after that flight to Madrid. In desperation, he bought a pack of Ducados. Unbeknownst to him, that last Ducado was an essential ingredient for his action plan. So I suggest you write your action steps in pencil!

Are you striving to make a change this year? Have you made the leap into action? Do you need help making your list of action steps? Let me know if you need help making the change you seek. I want to help you keep your resolutions this year.

21 thoughts on “Cold Turkey

  1. Laura Reply

    “many of my clients get stuck outlining the action steps required to achieve their goals”
    So many people like the IDEA Of change that they look at it, want it, outline the steps in their heads, go over it again, yak~yak~yak about it! But you are right……….when you put items to paper, commit, tell a tribe of people who will hold you accountable, you take action and bite that elephant ~ one bite at a time!! 🙂

  2. Nancy Tierney Reply

    When you say “So much of the work involved in making a change is hidden from outside observers…” I’m reminded that the real change starts with the decision. If you try to make a change without truly deciding, yes, this is what I’m going to do, then all the planning is really just a way to stall and fool yourself.

    My boo stopped smoking after smoking for 35 years. And I witnessed that “inside” work that happened before he ever changed his behavior, and it taught me a lot about what it takes to make a positive change, against all odds, and not suffer through it.

    And yes, it helps to have a plan!

    • Janine Post authorReply

      Nancy, you are so right. The decision is the key that opens the gateway to your path! Congrats to you boo for breaking such a long-standing habit. That takes real fortitude!

    • Janine Post authorReply

      Thanks for sharing a comment that perfectly illustrates what I mean about the hidden work one must do to make a change. It’s awesome that your sweetie revealed his inside work and you got a close-up view of his transformation. Congratulations to both of you!

  3. Urvi Mehta Reply

    I love this! I am taking these 7 steps and putting a plan around my goal to get healthier 🙂 Thanks for the awesome info!

    • Janine Post authorReply

      You must be proud of him. I can assure you that he must have had a process to build up resolve. I thought my dad went cold turkey, too, but there was a lot going on that I wasn’t privy to. If you can, ask your dad how he did it.

  4. Kelly Reply

    I love putting action on paper it saves so much time over “thinking”. But sometimes I too find myself wanting to eat the whole elephant because I’m so hungry!

  5. Susan Lasky Reply

    Janine, Wonderful steps! I’m working with a program I developed (The 7-Step PowerPlan to Success with ADHD) that is eerily similar (great minds, and all LOL). Since Actions are more likely to succeed when they work with the way you think (especially since most of my coaching clients have ADD/ADHD), my Step #1 is Self-Awareness (Reality Check). Step #2 is Self-Acceptance (“I yam what I yam”), and Step #3 is Believe in Possibility & the Power of Choice – Decide you Can! Once their mindset is clear, they can move on to Step #4, Clarify Your Goals & Prioritize – Decide What you Want or Need to Do, which is similar to your first step, Map Out Your Vision. I combine your steps 2-5 under Step #5, Strategize for Success – Determine How to Get It Done (both the doing and the self-motivating), followed by #6, Take Action (Actually DO It!), and #7, which is similar to yours but builds in the likelihood of backsliding. Such fun to share!

    • Janine Post authorReply

      Thanks for joining in, Susan. These steps are in every change model that I’ve ever studied. Sometimes they are combined or expanded, but these 7 elements are all there no matter what they are called. Enjoyed hearing about your vision for the process. Best of luck to you while you spread your PowerPlan with people striving for change!

  6. Janet Reply

    So true Janine! I feel that making small changes requires the build up of confidence and that’s what small steps and smaller celebrations give us. Great point! And great story about your dad 🙂 Janet

  7. Sally Reply

    I remember one action plan…sitting at the dining room table on Jan 1, 1992. My daughter had just graduated from college. I resolved in writing to return to school, complete my B.A., starting that very winter. And I did. I signed up for Economics 101 and Romantic Literature. It opened a whole new world for me.

  8. Alyssa Reply

    Great point Janine about how outside observers don’t necessarily see all the work that goes on “behind the scenes” in order to reach a goal.

    A great resource a friend just passed on to me is a book about the Kaizen method of goal setting. It’s fabulous!

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