Monday, October 25, 2010

monkey don't want, monkey won't do.


Yesterday, over lunch, some friends brought up smoking (cigarettes) and asked if I had quit. They were pretty shocked at my casual yet very confident “yes”. I don’t really blame them considering how I used to smoke like a chimney. They were curious of what I’m sure they imagined to be some torturous, grueling process. How long has it been? How did I do it? Was it hard? (That’s what she said, that’s what she said, that’s what she said). And like I tell everyone I have this conversation with, I said “no”. It wasn’t hard for me to quit at all. I won’t lie and say I haven’t had a single cigarette in the past five or six months, but those cigarettes- the number of which I can count on my fingers- came after copious amounts of alcohol and were followed by deep regret in the form of a sore throat the next day. Regardless, I consider myself a non-smoker, and like I said before, the process came with little to no challenge. My theory is that I came to a point where I realized that I truly, genuinely, without any doubt, did not want to smoke anymore. All the other factors didn't really matter. It wasn't the health warnings, or my parents, or anyone else around me. I just didn't want to do it. I didn’t like how it made me feel. It no longer brought relief, or satisfaction, or made me feel like James Dean. I just felt… Unhealthy. And totally over it. And it’s been since that definite proclamation that I’ve bought a pack of cigarettes (for myself). This led me to realize how the same theory can apply to a lot of different things. You have to quit wanting something before you can quit doing something.

Bad habits, bad relationships, bad choices- the world seems to be on a perpetual quest to quit things, and success always seems far from imminent. This is because you just can’t simply “quit” doing things you truly want to do, no matter how bad they may be for you, just how it’s hard to start something you need to do if you don’t want to do it. Our desire, or lack thereof, for some things almost always trumps our need for them. Kids need to eat their vegetables, but you can’t expect those who don’t like them to choose the baby carrots over the dunkaroos. You may have absolutely no need for that pair of shoes, but if you really, really, really want them, and you have the money, you’re gonna buy the damn shoes. It’s human nature. The reason people have trouble successfully quitting something is because they’re going about it all wrong. They try so hard to focus on why they don’t need something; why it's bad for them or all the reasons they should stop. But what they fail to focus on is that part of their mind still wants it. As long as you still want something, sometimes none of the other facts matter, no matter how much you try to instill them in your head. One's desire for something deems all the logistics invalid. Only when you learn to realize, or realize to learn, that you no longer want to do something will you be able to actually stop doing it.

Now I’m not here to play Dr. Drew. I have no foolproof method to self-betterment. I don’t really know how I came about no longer wanting to smoke. Sometimes I think it was gradual, and other times it seems like it was an epiphany. Maybe I grew to want something else, something better. Maybe I decided I wanted to feel healthy or save 6 bucks a week more than I wanted to smoke. Or maybe I was subconsciously questioning exactly what I was wanting by wanting to smoke- wanting to look cool? Wanting to relieve stress? Wanting to risk cancer which already runs in my gene-pool? And after asking myself all these questions I then decided I should want something better for myself. And when I no longer wanted I no longer did.

This theory definitely doesn’t apply to everything, but I think if some people keep it in mind it may help. Whatever demon you’re fighting, I always wish you the best of luck. Hopefully one day, when we start wanting better things we can start doing better things. And when we start doing better things we can start becoming better people.

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