Lightbulb Moment: How Many Tries to Quit a Bad Habit is TOO Many?

October 9th, 2013 by Laura Longley

Lightbulb Moment

The Laura Longley Show

September 24, 2013


You can listen to the entire show here:

From the show transcript:

Doing this meditation for people who have been affected by domestic violence made me think of something that I learned. Years ago I volunteered with an agency here in the Seattle area to work with victims of domestic violence. They put us through some really intensive training. One of the things they told us is that on average the victim of domestic violence will leave the relationship 7 times before it sticks. I also heard this about smoking, that that’s the average number of times someone tries to quit smoking before it sticks. Later on today in the Light Bulb Moment I’m going to talk about how this happens with all big changes in our lives. It doesn’t always stick the first time. It might take multiple tries, and how we can make it more likely to stick and also how we can be in a better place with it emotionally when it doesn’t stick and we have to try again. Stay tuned for that at the end of the show, the Light Bulb Moment.

At the beginning of the show I was talking about how in training I did years and years ago around domestic violence, I learned that on average victims try to leave 7 times before they actually stay gone and don’t go back. I also heard that same statistic when I was working with people to help them stop smoking. I’m not sure where this statistic comes from and if 7 is actually the real number. I’m not quite sure how they know that. What I want to say is the principle is what matters. Whenever we’re trying to make a big change in our life, frequently it doesn’t take the first time we do it. It maybe doesn’t take the third time we do it. It can take multiple times. People who are constant dieters. They know that too. we’ve talked about yo-yo dieting where you’ll lose the weight and gain it back again. It’s normal, I guess that’s what I’m trying to say. It’s normal when we’re trying to make a big change, it doesn’t always stick the first time we try it.

I want to share with you some things to do when you try to make the change and then end up falling back and reverting back to the old ways.

The #1 thing is to be kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up for “failing”. Remember this statistic. You are not alone. This is normal human behavior that it can take several tries before we can be successful at making a big change in our lives. So first, be kind to yourself.

Second, don’t give up. You may need to take a step back and regroup. Don’t say, “Oh, it didn’t work this time, therefore I’m not ever going to try again.” It is the repetition that gets you there. A good example for me personally, when I used to do dieting, would be if I goofed up and ate something I wasn’t supposed to eat on a certain day I would throw up my hands and throw away a whole day and eat anything I wanted to the rest of the day. We don’t want to do that. We don’t want to give up just because our first, second, or third attempt didn’t end up keeping us at the place we wanted to be.

Another thing you can do is be a Monday morning quarterback. Look at what you could’ve done differently that might’ve increased your chances of maintaining the change. Some examples of this are maybe you need some outside help. Let’s talk about quitting smoking. Maybe you need to go to a hypnotist. Maybe you need to go to a support group. Maybe you need to have an accountability buddy that you check in with every day. Look at what changes you could make. Another thing might be maybe you’re trying to make too big of a change at once. Maybe you’re deciding that you’re going to start exercising every day when maybe what you need to say is I’m going to start exercising three times a week.

Look at how you might do it differently the next time you try that will help you be more successful at maintaining the change. Before you try again-also, the last one, this is really an important one, examine beliefs that you have that might sabotage your efforts to change. We all have things about us we consider to be part of our identity. If we try and do something that goes against that identity, we’re not going to have very much luck at making that change until we change the attachment to the identity. I’ll just briefly share with you, because this can be a long sharing, one thing that came up for me yesterday-this is something I’ve been aware of for a while, but it was right there again at the surface is that I identify as being the person who keeps it all together. I’ve always got it together. No cracks can show in my façade. If part of what I want to change is that I am-one thing I’m really working on is I’m actually able to show what every emotion is that’s going on for me and that might mean crying in front of somebody. If my identity is that I have to keep it all together, how could I ever do that? Look at those beliefs that are keeping you from that change.

Before you try to make the change again, start by addressing those beliefs. You’ve got to change those beliefs first. Figure out a plan to incorporate whatever it is you learned from the previous attempt when you did your Monday morning quarterbacking. What did you learn? Come up with a plan where you can take that learning and apply it.

Then, when you try again, start by being kind to yourself so your measure of success is not is this change going to stick this time. Your measure of success is that you’re trying again. Enlist support from your friends and family and avoid the negative Nellie’s, people who are telling you you can’t do it or you shouldn’t do it. Avoid those people. Don’t talk about it with them. Apply what you’ve learned from each time you tried before but ended up reverting back. Over time, when you keep trying, and you make these shifts, changes, adjustments, you will end up being successful.

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