“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy,
not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
What if by focusing so hard on the “bad” habit we’re trying to stop, we’re actually making change harder? What if we decided to listen to Socrates (and other learned folks) and stopped trying to stop? Instead of quitting a habit, how about building a couple new healthy ones?
Behaving in a new way (always carrying a water bottle when we leave the house) makes us think differently and feel differently. We may even start to feel more positively about our deeper identity when we see ourselves doing new things. Don’t underestimate the value of building a new habit. Our brain “feels good” when it’s learning new tricks.
When it comes to building new habits, B J Fogg is the guru. He has learned through 20 years of research what works when it comes to building new habits. He offers some free guidance through his Tiny Habits program. [ http://tinyhabits.com ] I have participated in the 5 day process and been amazed by how little time it takes and how big the results are. To join his next 5 day Tiny Habits program you need to sign up by Saturday at [ http://tinyhabits.com/join ] Once you decide which Tiny Habits you want to work on, the 5 day process requires VERY little time each day. Again, I was impressed that something that only took a few minutes each day could bring such good results.
Yesterday afternoon the Governor of Massachusetts, Charles D. Baker, declared a state of emergency and announced at a press conference that the state will ban the sale of all vaping products. While precise details are not available at this time (exact starting date of the ban, duration, etc.,) comments made during the presser make it sound like the ban may last four months.
The pause in marketing of these products will hopefully give health officials time to better understand the growing number of serious lung illnesses and deaths (9 as of this writing) that are linked to vaping.
To be clear, the purpose of this post is NOT to offer up to the minute details on the 500+ cases of potential vaping associated pulmonary illness (VAPI.) Neither is it my intent to defend or criticize the Governor’s decision. In the spirit of “accepting things I cannot change,” I recognize that neither my applause nor my griping will change the circumstances.
In response to the Declaration of Emergency, I have heard folks who vape say things like, “What do they (the government, I suppose) want me to do, go back to smoking cigarettes?”
If there’s a 4 month ban on vaping sales in the state, it will certainly create considerable inconvenience for people who vape. But a vaping ban will not “make” anyone go back to smoking! The Governor’s ban does not force anyone to smoke tobacco (or any other substance.) Vaping is a choice just like smoking is a choice. Stopping is also a choice. Stopping is not an easy choice for many of us. It took me 25 to 30 serious quit attempts before I found “the quit that could live with.” Nope, not easy, butabsolutely possible!
I don’t think any of us like to feel forced into situations. We all like to have choices. So, maybe at first glance, the vaping ban appears to take away your choice. A scenario without a choice feels wrong! But there is a choice we can insert into this scenario. We can choose to see this ban as an invitation to make a change (probably a change we’ve been thinking about for a while!) Let that sink in. Massage it a little if you need to. Doesn’t it feel better to have a choice? There are, after all, always at least two ways to look at any situation.
So instead of accusing the Governor, let’s try choosing to get off of nicotine’s leash, once and for all! That mission has been near and dear to my heart for over 20 years. I count it a privilege to serve individuals who are brave enough for this journey.
Consider this an invitation to talk with your healthcare provider about the seven FDA approved tobacco cessation medications. Along with behavioral and social support, those legitimate medications can increase your chances of success! Check out the QuittersWin groups that are offered in Massachusetts and other supports!
Change is beautiful and essential. When we stop changing, I think we stop living! While not wanting to rush the seasons to change (as if my wanting it made it so – LOL!) I have been a fan of autumn for as long as I can remember. So, revisiting a series of quotes and photos of lovely leaves had an appeal I couldn’t resist. I hope you will enjoy them (again.)
As usual, I suggest you find one that really “speaks” to you and post it in a place where it can remind you, provoke you, inspire you, or warn you. And, of course, enjoy the photos. May they evoke memories of crisp smelling brisk days, the laughter of children jumping into piles of leaves, and the tart juicy taste of a freshly-picked apple – delicious!
Find a quote and photo (“quoto?”) that motivates you (“quotivation?” “motograph?”) and bring on the change!
We all WANT to do things that we know aren’t good for us from time to time. And feeding those urges with occasional splurges may be OK now and then. But when it feels like the habit has us on its leash, it’s time to take our control back! Whether it’s eating junk food, smoking cigarettes, binge-spending, or some other habitual behavior we’re trying to curb, this simple word might help!
WHEN I become aware that I want to ________, I’m going to ask myself…
W – Why do I want?
behavioral trigger* – what I’m doing?
social trigger* – who I’m with or where I am?
chemical craving* – drop in blood sugar, nicotine level, or hunger?
emotional urge* – trying to cover anxiety, anger, or boredom?
H,E – How Else can I satisfy that want (without binging, drinking, etc.?)
…and remind myself that I…
N – Never Need to overeat, smoke, etc.
WHEN. Notice WHEN your in a state of want and spell WHEN.
*Some of you recognized the 5 items under the question, “Why do I want?” Those reasons for wanting are also called the “5 Heads of the Dragon,” a highly effective way to address unhealthy relationships with food, drugs, alcohol, shopping, and lots of other behaviors. To read more about the “5 Headed Dragon,” read this https://quitterswin.blog/about/ or search for the word BESOCHEMPS on this site! When people quit smoking on their own, only about 5% of them stay free for a whole year, but when folks use the BESOCHEMPS model of addiction, they have a 35% chance of getting free and staying free.
WHEN you want, I hope you’ll find the W H E N really helps! Keep taking good care of you and remember that staying in touch means staying on track.
Some of us carry a “stress-buster” in our pockets every day. In fact some of us would NEVER think of leaving home without them. Most of them come in a handy pack of 20 – some with a flip-top box! In order to use these alleged reducers of stress, one generally needs to light them on fire, which necessitates the carrying of matches or lighters.
Yes, I’m talking about cigarettes and to be clear – the TRUTH is that they don’t reduce stress. They increase heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure, while delivering thousands of chemicals to through the lungs into the circulatory system where they are delivered to cells throughout the entire body.
But that’s more about cigarettes than I really want to say. What I really want to suggest is an alternative stress-reducing behavior that really works, costs less, smells better, and is not linked to any negative health conditions. In fact the regular use of this stress-buster has actually been associated with lower blood pressure! They can also fit neatly into a pocket so we can always have them with us. They are drastically less expensive, too!
There is even less of a social stigma related to the use of my suggested stress buster. In fact, people who use my suggested stress-buster will generally be perceived (even by complete strangers) as fun, interesting, and even youthful! Widespread adoption of this stress-management practice could prevent premature death of millions of individuals.
While insurance coverage for this product isn’t likely in the foreseeable future, it’s so affordable that cost will not be a factor for any current user of those other supposed “stress reducers.” If you or someone you love is using cigarettes to manage their stress, these tubes of bubble stuff are a bargain! I can get 100 of these little vials for $15 at a craft store (look in the wedding section.)
Each of these little tubes of bubble stuff can be used for approximately 30 minutes of deep breathing practice. Deep breathing for 15 minutes a day (5 sessions of 3 minutes each or 3 sessions of 5 minutes each) has been shown to lower blood pressure. Do the math! A 15 cent vial of bubble stuff covers two days of deep breathing (without any annoying child-proof lids!)
No, I’m not saying you should stop taking your blood pressure medicine. No, I’m not practicing medicine without a license. No, I’m not offering this suggestion as an alternative to seeing your medical professional. But this intervention is simple, affordable, portable, and let’s face it – FUN! And yes – deep breathing is an FDA approved treatment for stress and high blood pressure! In clinical trials it has also been shown to either amuse or annoy 73% of cats. (I may have made that last part up, but it sounds plausible, right?)
WARNING: Blowing bubbles may cause you to smile, smirk, or even laugh out loud. In some cases bubble blowers report feeling less stress and occasional bouts of apathy in regards to things they used to freak out about. Don’t blow bubbles while operating heavy machinery or juggling chainsaws. Contact your Doctor if you think he or she could benefit from blowing bubbles.
Who’s outside today (or who was recently?) What wonders are waiting for us – sometimes right under our nose (or our feet?) When we take a few moments to really stop and look around – look closely around – we might find something truly amazing or at least something that’s interesting.
‘Spent any time with your head in the clouds recently? Or taken time to sit or lay down in the grass? Overhead or under foot, there are wonderful things to behold, but we need to be still. We need to be looking. We need to be really present.
Of course, the more present and available we are to those wonders, the less aware we are of whatever (probably petty) worries or fears we had been fixated upon.
I’d love to hear what sort of wonders you found today or in the days to come. I wanted to share this photograph of dew on the eyes of a dragonfly. It’s the sort of thing we might all walk by unaware. Watch for the little things that can make a big difference in our day.
Here’s hoping there are more smiles on your way! Remembering and revisiting those things that used to make us smile can be #GoodMedicine. So, consider dusting off your paint brushes, canoe paddles, dancing shoes, or any other smile-makers that may be stashed in your closet or basement, and get your grin on!
A friend texted me his favorite JFK quote last night. It’s from a speech Kennedy gave in the stadium at Rice University in Houston on September 12, 1962.
“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win…”
That quote has plenty of relevance for those of us on a journey to change. And if it is our intention to do so, I am certain that each of us can find inspiration in that single sentence. “If it is our intention” is the operative phrase. For only if we decide – only if we choose – to be moved or changed by those words will they bear meaningful fruit in our lives. It reminds me of another JFK quote:
“Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.”
Even though ink on a page (or pixels on a screen) cannot change you without your consent, it can be very helpful to see and hear those words until you can feel them swaying you in their direction. So please consider putting those or some other inspiring words in a place where you can see them often (and hopefully decide to allow them to change you.)
Here are a few other favorites of mine…
“Life is never easy. There is work to be done and obligations to be met—obligations to truth, to justice, and to liberty.”
“Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.”
Please do post a meaningful quote – JFK or not – in a place where it can remind you or re-inspire you to move toward your noble goal. Please consider it a challenge or even a…
NOTE: These instructions are written using quitting smoking as an example. But the same process works if we’re trying to stop snacking between meals, stop drinking, stop swearing, or stop gossiping. Raising awareness is always a key to behavioral change. Do the work – collect the data – see where it leads you.
Download your own set of instructions and a sheet of TAMI cards below:
Thinking about quitting smoking? Not quite sure where to begin? This idea always helps, whether you’re a heavy smoker, light smoker, or social smoker. Four quick questions and a pencil will not only bring you some important information to help you quit, but the collection of data will actually move you closer to your freedom. So what are we waiting for?
One simple rule – Before I light up, I have to write up every cigarette. That’s it. Pretty simple, but don’t be misled. This simple tool really will give you helpful insight into why you smoke and that information can help you be a smarter quitter!
Four simple questions – Just answer the four questions in the four columns before you light up.
Time – What time is it? Jot it down and indicate am or pm.
Activity – What are you doing as while you want this cigarette? Coffee? Driving? Telephone? Whatever it is, write it up, and yes – you’ll need to write small or abbreviate.
Mood – Now some moods are easier to identify than others. Anger and anxious are usually pretty easy, but if you can’t figure out your mood, it’s probably bored.
Intensity – On a scale of 1-5, how badly do you want this particular cigarette? An example of a 1 would be the cigarette we would smoke automatically – perhaps whenever we get in the car. A 5 would be a cigarette when we’re extremely agitated and we think smoking will calm us down.
Please collect this data for 3 days and try to include both weekdays and weekend days, since our schedules and routines can vary. If you miss a few cigarettes, try to fill in the information as best you can. And having the pencil right inside the pack makes remembering pretty easy.
Here’s what happens when we use TAMI cards:
1.) When we use TAMI cards we’ll see a drop in their number of cigarettes per day because thinking about each one helps us see that we don’t need some of them. Smoking fewer cigarettes per day moves us closer to our goal. These quickly identified low-intensity cigarettes are easy to skip.
2.) When we use TAMI cards we’ll gain insight to the habits and feelings that are associated with smoking. This will be extremely helpful as we try to develop a quit plan.
3.) And we’ll probably sputter and complain at least a little when we grab our pack and see the card which reminds us that we need to write up before we light up. TAMI cards are effective because they disrupt and interrupt our routines. So go ahead and grumble, but smile because you’re on your way to a life without tobacco!
In 1958 and 1959 Gene Deitchdrew a cartoon series called Tom Terrific. For 26 episodes Tom, along with his companion, Mighty Manfred, the Wonder Dog, would be featured on the Captain Kangaroo television sho where each of the the 26 stories was presented in daily 5-minute excerpts, most of which ended in some sort of a cliff-hanger. I think i was probably going to watch Captain Kangaroo the next day anyway – with or without an episode of Tom Terrific – but I do remember feeling tense or anxious when Crabby Appleton had Tom in some tight spot at the end of a 5-minute clip. I quickly learned that Tom – like most TV heroes – was going to overcome in the end, so I surely never lost any sleep between episodes.
Some readers may already suspect why I’m talking about Tom Terrific today. But before I get to the rest of the message today, please allow me to remind you of another much loved character from MGM’s Wizard of Oz…
“When a man’s an empty kettle
He should be on his mette
And yet I’m torn apart
Just because I’m presumin’
That I could be kind of human
If I only had a heart!”
Yes, I’m talking about the farmhand, Hickory, who appeared in Dorothy’s dream as the Tin woodsman (played by the beloved Jack Haley.)
So what do the Tin Man and Tom Terrific have in common? Yes, they both wear a funnel on their head…
and so do you and I!
To learn more about the funnel on (or in?) your head, read on:
If you ask a person what will happenwhen you pour water into the top of a funnel, they’ll quickly tell you that water will come out the bottom of the funnel. If you ask them why, they may hesitate but will usually see or agree that it happens because of gravity, or more specifically, the LAW of gravity.
Do you believe in gravity? Let me assure you that gravity doesn’t care whether you believe in it. Do we ever doubt gravity? Do we wonder if it’s going to work tomorrow? Did you lose any sleep last night worrying about whether your car would be floating around the ceiling of the garage in the morning? Probably not. Gravity, discovered or more accurately named by Sir Isaac Newton, is such a natural part of our world that we rarely think about it. We simply accept it and expect it.
I’d now like to introduce you to another universal law. I urge you to likewise accept it and expect it, but I understand any reluctance you may have. When you take an honest and thoughtful look around you, I suspect you will realize that you have observed this law throughout your life! Once you are more consciously aware of this law you can take more fuller advantage of it.
The “Law of the Funnel” is similar to the law of gravity, but most of us have never been taught the law, and yet we are all subject to it. It is best illustrated using 5 words. In fact it is the shape of the 5 words that give the law its name. A 5-letter word, followed by a 4-letter word, and then a 3-letter, 2-letter, and 1-letter word – when listed in a column, form the shape of a funnel (or inverted triangle.)
x x x x x
x x x x
x x x
Let’s fill in those 5 words and see our funnel.
The things I THINK
determine how I FEEL
which shapes how I ACT
what I will or won’t DO
and ultimately decide who I am.
T H I N K
F E E L
A C T
And, like a funnel, whatever we put in the top will come out the bottom!
The thoughts we put into our mind and allow into our mind will eventually and inevitably determine who we become.
Here’s an example of the law in action:
When a person thinks of themself as a victim of certain circumstances, the thoughts cause them to involuntarily feel a certain way. They do not choose to feel these negative feelings. They simply come naturally (as rain naturally falls downward.) As they feel the negative feelings, the way they act and the things they do will also be directed by the negative feelings. If they continue in this negative thought process they will in fact become a different person than they could otherwise have been. Futures have surely been altered by the thoughts in a person’s mind. But imagine instead the same circumstances occurred but the person though of themself as a survivor of those circumstances. A simple shift of thought – from victim to survivor – changes the course of that person’s life.
To be clear, the Law of the Funnel doesn’t mean that by thinking about winning the lottery we can make it so. We have no authority over the lottery, but we do have authority over our thoughts. After all, it’s our funnel! So let’s ask some important questions:
What’s in it?
Who put it there?
Is it true?
Is it helpful?
Is it moving us toward our goals?
Now I understand that the spirit of mindfulness would have us be aware of our thughts without judging them. But I also understand that holding certain thoughts (until we perfect acceptance) can have a distinctly negative effect upon our well-being. So i will always be a fan of mindful practices. They can truy restore and strengthen our neural pathways. BUT (you could tell there was a but coming, couldn’t you?) sometimes just allowing thoughts to persist in the mind can be harmful. For instance, giving head-space to thoughts of some past events which detract from our sense of self-worth can lead to actions based upon our degraded sense of self. Not cool- not OK! Allowing those thoughts to “just be” can be very hard. Until we learn to perfectly accept them without being influenced by them (a noble goal of mindfulness) let’s take a hard look at the thoughts that run through our minds and see if some of them need a re-write.
When rewriting a story or reframing a thought, I encourage people to be sure that they are still telling the truth, but perhaps in a way that is easier to bear. By shiftng the focus or adjusting our perspective, we can often craft a true version of a story that highlights different aspects and ultimately feels better. It is not advisable – in my opinion – to alter the facts, but to bring the story to a place of kinder understanding – to a place where we can sit with that truth and not be adversely influenced by it.
I believe the Apostle Paul may have understood the potential we each have to change ourselves. He wrote that we needn’t be as we are, we needn’t be as we were in the past, but that we could change ourselves by changing what’s in our funnel. “Be not conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.“
I believe the Law of the Funnel can help us smooth some of the rough edges off of painful thoughts so we can better sit and be at peace with them.
The Law f the Funnel has always been true and other people have observed and described it in other times and and in other words and in other lands, but I believe its truth is both timeless and inescapable.
“A man is what he thinks about all day long.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
“A man’s life is the sum of what his thoughts make him.” – Marcus Aurelius
Quotes attributed to Buddha:
“Our life is shpaed by our mind; we become what we think.”
“Drop by drop is the water pot filled. Likewise the wise man, gathering little by little, fills himself with good.”
“We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.”
So, if we can agree that the Law of the Funnel is real, them let’s try to think about what we think about (brain cramp alert!) and let’s put good stuff in our funnel and the funnels of those around us!
CLICK HERE to download a copy of a worksheet about the Law of the funnel (so you can teach it to your friends.) >>> Funnel 2019
Thanks for taking good care of you (and your funnel!)
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