Cold Turkey

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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.