How To Quit Smoking

I got an e-mail from somebody that reads my blog recently asking about advice on quitting smoking. I have touched on the subject once or twice in the past, but never in any great detail and not for some while.

I think the reason primarily is because not only is it not something I do these days, I’m more unto being the Life Coach that unsticks people, but it’s such a tough subject to cover off in one blog post without the risk of missing stuff out and I feel sure I  will do that, so feel free to add your tips in the comment field.

However, never one to shy away from a challenge unless it involves naked wresting with dobermans, I thought I’d give it a go.

This process can work with some obvious tweaks for other stuff such as alcohol and losing weight. What it’s not though, is a substitute for medical advice. If you have a severe addiction it would be sensible to get professional medical advice before diving in head first.

Although these methods can be used for quitting other things, for the purposes of this post I’m going to concentrate on smoking. If you want to use it to help you quit Ferret Fondling adjust accordingly.

Let me start by pointing something important out

Smoking does not relax you!

That is a belief and it’s erroneous. Well it’s almost erroneous.

If you’re a smoker and you’re craving a cigarette, then you may very well feel relaxed after you have one. However, that’s only because your cravings have waned and you have moved to a level most people call ‘normal’.

In other words, the reasons you were stressed in the first place is because you were going through withdrawal.

Insist a non-smoker smoke a pack of Camels one after the other and see if they’re chilled to the bone by the the time they’ve finished. It’s far more likely they’ve vomited all over your shoes.

I bring that up at this stage because it’s the single biggest myth I hear about smoking and you will have to banish that belief to the wastelands if you’re to succeed.

In fact now is as good a time as any to analyze the beliefs (good and bad) you hold about smoking.

Examine Your Beliefs

Take some time to really think about this. What positive beliefs do you hold? It’s all too easy to respond without thinking and say:

“But Tim, smoking is evil and there is nothing good about it. It’s the Devils work I tell ya!”

And I would respond “So why the hell are you reading this post then? If you believed that at a core level and there was no upside you wouldn’t be smoking”

Every action you undertake has a positive intent and smoking is no different so let’s find out what it is for you personally and deal with it up front.

Maybe you think it looks cool, or perhaps you look more mature. It could even be that you think it helps you concentrate or allows you time out from your office cubicle to clear your mind.

Really give this some thought because if you can’t find the positive intent and undermine it, you’ll struggle to succeed because it will simply loiter in the undergrowth of your mind ready to ambush you further down the road when you least expect it.

There maybe be other beliefs holding you back too, negative beliefs about your own abilities. If you think you can’t quit, you probably can’t, but let me say this and it’s very important.

Just because you haven’t managed to quit up to now means NOTHING.

It is not an indicator as to how you’ll do moving forward, unless that is, you presume it will be and turn it into a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Think of everything you have accomplished in your life and understand that each time there was a day prior when you’d never done whatever it was.

I presume you’ve quit eating baby food, wetting your bed, crying if you had to go to bed early, attending high school and a thousand other things in your life.

This is just one more thing that you can quit if you want to badly enough and you’re not unduly influenced by what has previously happened.

So before you start I want you to support your positive beliefs and undermine the negative ones.  The way you do that is purely and simply by looking for contrary evidence to the latter and supporting evidence for the former.

The fact that you have quit other things in life shows you you can do that. Even if you quit smoking for a week that proves you can do it.

Do You Want To Quit, Or Want To Want To?

This was literally the first question I would ask clients when they would come to me for help in this matter.

Nearly always they would say they wanted to, even though on further investigation it was often not the case.

If you’re looking to quit because you’re being hounded by family members or because you just ‘know’ it’s the right thing to do, then you are setting yourself up to fail.

I’m not saying you cannot quit under such circumstances, but it wont be as easy, because you’re trying to push yourself into doing something you really don’t want to do and creating internal resistance.

The chasm between wanting to do something and wanting to want to is full of the dead bodies of failure.

If at this stage you’re not absolutely sure, then it’s possible by following the early steps to tip the balance in favor of wanting to and increasing your odds of succeeding exponentially.

What’s Your Reason For Wanting To Quit?

This is probably the single most important thing for you to understand if you want to succeed.

Look past the obvious reasons until you come to something that resonates with you at a core level. Knowing your values can really help at this stage, but that is a monster post in its own right and I’m not going into that now. Go and buy How To Be Rich and Happy to learn that.

Crap Reasons For Quitting Are:

  • My spouse tells me I should
  • I may get sick one day
  • Everybody knows it’s the right thing to do
  • Money is a bit tight at the moment
  • Brad/Jen/Bob The Beagle* quit, so I should be able to.

Great Reason For Quitting Are:

  • I want to demonstrate to my family how much I love them
  • I want to teach my grandkids how to swim in 25 or 30 years
  • I want set a brilliant example to people round me that if I can quit they can too
  • I want to live in alignment with my values and health is right up there
  • I want to prove to myself that I’m unstoppable if I put my mind to it

*(delete where applicable)

Which Way Do You Swing?

One of the main reasons some people find one method works for them really well and is completely useless for another person is because most methods have a tendency of appealing to only one type of motivation, either the carrot or the tick

Every person is somewhere on a linear scale of being a towards or away from person and it’s crucial you understand which you are, presuming that is you aren’t one of a small group of people that sits close to the middle.

What I mean by that, is some people are primarily motivated by achieving success and others motivated more by avoiding failure.

I used to see this a lot in sales. Some sales people would be driven on by earning large bonuses and others would be driven by the need to avoid losing their job. The net result is the same, but any good manager needs to know which buttons to press.

This is similar (but not the same) to the pain or pleasure principal that dictates every human action is designed to either gain pleasure or avoid pain.

As I have no idea which type you are I’m going to double up with some of my suggestions and cover off as many bases as possible.

Set A Date

It’s probably not wise to quit today simply because you’ve read this post and you’re pumped up for action. Not that I want to discourage you, far from it, but I do want you to maximize your efforts to give the greatest chance of success.

Some planning is necessary and creating some mental clarity, crucial. For example, deciding to quit on 20th December is probably unwise. Surprisingly enough, so is the 1st January.

The reason for the former is fairly obvious, especially if you are a social person and about to set out on two weeks of religion based debauchery.

Millions of smokers associate drinking with smoking, so being in that type of environment may be unwise. Having said that, the stringent smoking laws in some States mean it’s easier than it used to be.

January 1st isn’t a great idea because typically people get a bit down after the new year. All the festivities have come and gone and all there is to look forward to in the short-term, is the credit card bills and for most people in North America and Europe, dark and dreary weather.

Setting a date in a few weeks time gives you time to prepare yourself physically and emotionally. There are some Ducks to be caught and lined up before you go for a life style change

Do Your Research

This is the one thing that may really test your commitment levels as how badly you want to do this. If you are whining now or pulling a face and rolling your eyes, then you have just sent a brilliant signal to your unconscious mind that you’re less than committed.

If on the other hand you’re happy to spend an hour looking at pictures of diseased lungs online then that shows resolve. And if you’re prepared to take it even further and make a visit to a hospital and talk to people that are terminally ill through smoking, you’re half way there.

Many hospitals also have programs designed to help people quit smoking, so what’s stopping you phoning up and getting some free advice and maybe even free patches and support?

Some people don’t need to go to those extremes, but if you have tried multiple times to quit then this time you have to do something different, and this is different.

Note: This approach will have zero effect on some people. I know 2 people that lost parents to smoking related illness and still smoke themselves. Only you can decide what it will do to you and how it will effect you

If you have tried to quit before it may also help to think about what caused you to start again. I have a client in the UK that tried numerous times. When she looked back she realized that she always came unstuck at about 6 – 8 weeks.

When she finally quit for good she marked on her calendar that time period and prepared herself mentally for a rough ride.

Guess what happened? It never arose, she breezed through it unscathed and that was 8 years ago.

A Tale of Two Lists

Now I’m not one for extolling the virtues of lists, but in this instance I want to make an exception and ask you to make not one, but two of them! Oh come on, it’s worth it to get rid of all that tar and gunk that’s clogging up your lungs, heart and arteries out, right?

First, write down your main reason for quitting at the top of both sides of blank paper. This is the thing that inspires you and is your real sense of purpose so make sure it’s a good one.

On one side I want you to write down all the things that you have to gain by quitting. I don’t just mean the obvious stuff like money and not being dead. I do want you to write those down too, but I also want you to go deeper than that.

Maybe you can relax on a long haul flight without trying to work out whether being arrested is worth the gamble of sneaking into the bathroom and lighting up.

Or perhaps you start to regain your taste for great food and you can visit a restaurant in a relaxed state without having to stand outside in a howling gale trying to ingest enough nicotine in 3 minutes to keep you going until dessert.

Some other examples maybe getting another wear out of clothes that would previously have been too smelly, not having to sneak out to the Stop and Rob at 10.30 in the evening because you’ve run out.

Or knowing your kids/family/friends will be inspired and have increased respect for you.

You know what you have to gain, so write it down and spend at least 20 minutes on doing this. If possible get help from family members.

Now on the opposite side write down all you have to lose if you carry on smoking. I’ll let you come up with examples of this. Some will simply be opposites of what you have to gain, but some will be new.

When you have written the list, read through it and see which side is most likely to motivate you to take action. This will give you a good indication of whether you are a towards or away from person.

I now want you to place this list in either your wallet or purse and carry it with you at all times as though your life depended on it, and it may well do just that.

Whenever you get the urge to smoke, whip out the list and read the appropriate side or even both sides if that helps.

Get Leverage

Are you a remotely competitive person? If you are, then you can use this to your advantage.  Here are a few suggestions, see which resonate with you and of course add others of your own.

  • Make a wager with a friend or family member that you can stay smoke free for 12 months with the money going to a cancer charity
  • If you have a friend that has a similar goal of their own, do it together and lean on each other for moral support.
  • Make promises to the people you love most that this time you’ll follow through for them as much as yourself. Maybe even write a letter to them.
  • Blog about it and ask to be held accountable by your readers.

Mind Your Language

I talk a lot about language and rightly so in my opinion. Language is the primary way we communicate with ourselves. We all jabber happily and sometimes not so happily, away to ourselves all day long.

Supposedly, each one of us has between 50,000 and 75,000 thoughts per day. That seems like a lot of thinking, but bear in mind that most of those thoughts are unconscious and many are the same old negative thoughts that have been playing on a loop for years.

If you make a conscious effort to intercept these thoughts you will notice they’re really composed of  not just internal conversations, but also pictures and/or movies.

These conversations and movies are how you see your life and not necessarily have life really is.

As far as you’re concerned, NOTHING happens outside your head, NOTHING. Everything you see, hear, smell, taste and feel is constructed inside you mind from the way you interpret external data.

When you stop to think about life like that, it is much easier to get a handle on why the language you use and the pictures or movies you construct are so important.

Negative language will help you feel negative and positive language amazingly enough will help you feel positive.

You cannot be thinking positive thoughts, constructing positive images and feel crap, it’s simply not possible.

When you’ve set the date and done all of the other good stuff that, you can turn your attention to using empowering language.

Firstly, saying you are trying to quit, or need to quit, or have to quit, isn’t helpful and is sending the wrong message to your unconscious. Go and watch this video if you want to know why.

Instead use phrases like “I will quit smoking for good on (date)”  or “From (date) I will be an ex-smoker” Then when you finally have quit tell people you don’t smoke not that you’re trying to quit.

Use definite language and get your unconscious mind used to the fact that you’re now a non-smoker.

Remove Yourself From Temptation

Every now and then I’ll make changes to my diet, in fact I am in the middle of being caffeine and dairy free for 21 days. I want to see if I feel any different without these things in my body.

What I personally have to do, is remove the products from the house. That way I am not constantly testing my resolve by seeing a juicy, luscious Snickers bar grinning at me each time I open the fridge door.

The fact is, if I’m being honest with myself I know I’d crack eventually, so I make things as easy as possible by removing the temptation.

Will power is cool (even if I’m not convinced it exists as most people think about it, but that’s another matter) , but it uses a tremendous amount of emotional energy and we’re looking to help you quit smoking, not put you and those around you through emotional hell.

Avoid having to rely on will power wherever possible. If you were on a desert island you wouldn’t be craving nicotine after a couple of days because there would be no opportunity to satisfy that craving. And no, there isn’t any wild tobacco growing near by before you ask.

Think about where you currently smoke and the people you smoke with. Can you avoid the places and the people. If it’s close friends that may seem drastic, but drastic measures may be needed.

And in any case, this is only a temporary measure, I’m not suggesting you get divorced and dump all your friends. Unless that is, you want to.

The NLP Stuff

Ok we’ve done the basics and some of it you will already be familiar with I’m sure, so let’s look at the NLP approach and really nail this thing.

Before I do that though I want to mention hypnotherapy.

The lady that sent me the e-mail said she’d had some positive results in the past with hypnotherapy. If that applies to you, then in all likelihood, not only will you have positive results again, but they will probably be even better.

The great hypnotherapist Milton H Erickson would sometimes spends dozens of hours teaching patients to go into a trance because the more they did it, the better they got at it.

It’s a myth that if hypnotherapy doesn’t work the first time, then it doesn’t work. You can learn to be hypnotized and it’s a very cool tool.

If you do go go that route check out What Is Hypnosis? and make sure you hire an experienced therapist that preferably has an NLP background.


As I said at the beginning, I have no way of telling whether you are a toward or away from person. Therefore, I’m going to give you two visualization exercises to use that are very powerful.

You’ll have to adapt this to fit your specific needs, but don’t ease up on yourself if you want it to have the maximum impact.

I’m not going into a full explanation of what anchoring is here,  there is a video demo of anchoring available to people who have bought How To Be Rich and Happy that you can check out.

Part One

I want you to lie down and make yourself totally relaxed with a few slow deep diaphragmatic breaths. Allow your eyes to close as you start to imagine the following scene using all your available senses.

If you feel really bad, remember you can open your eyes at any time and know you’re in a safe place.

You’re lying on your back staring up at a ceiling and there is a bright light. At first it hurts your eyes, but as you adjust to the intensity you can work out there isn’t just one light but many.

There are a number of faces looking at you and you can see there is worry and concern etched on their faces, but you don’t know why.

They aren’t all strangers as you at first presume because you can spot three family members, two of whom seem to be very upset and have tears rolling down their cheeks.

You make an attempt to sit up and you are hit by an excruciating pain in your upper chest and throat that paralyzes you. What it that in your throat?

Somebody leans over you and shines yet another light in your eyes, but this time it’s a flashlight. Confusion suddenly turns into fear when you start to realize you’re in a hospital bed and the stranger holding the flash light is a doctor checking your brain function.

Instinctively your hand moves up to your throat and you feel the drain taped in place. At the same time you notice all the medical equipment that you seem to be attached to and another drain coming from your chest.

The doctor smiles and puts a reassuring hand on your arm and gently places it back by your side. He says something, but you don’t hear what, because you are too busy trying to reconstruct the events prior to you being in hospital.

You can take this wherever you want. Maybe you’d had a heart attack or lung surgery. Maybe it was your grandkids or future grandkids that were upset. Maybe there was no way back and the doctors had done all they can and now it was only a matter of time.

Tough? Yeh damn right it’s tough, but not as tough as actually going through it for real, so suck it up.

When you feel about as had as you can with this visualization I want you to squeeze your right leg just above the knee and hold it for about 3 or 4 seconds. Then let go and think of something a bit more cheery and gather your composure.

When you have done that. Squeeze your leg in the same way and allow all those negative feelings to come flooding back. Know they will do that every time you perform that action.

Next time you really want a cigarette and as you read your list, repeat the process of firing the anchor and see if you still want one as you think of the above scene.

Part Two

We’re going to do the same exercise again, but this time don’t worry it’s a lot more pleasant.  Again, adapt and revise to fit your personal circumstances.

Go through the same process of making yourself fully relaxed.

Again you are lying down staring up at a big bright object that is hurting your eyes. Faces are looking down at you, but this time they are laughing and there is no concern.

You can feel cool grass on your sleeveless arms and the warm sun on your face. You take a deep breath in and jump to your feet yelling “We’ll see who’s too old for this” and with that you grab the football lying by your side and set of running across the lawn.

In your wake are 3 gasping grandkids that simply can’t keep up with you. You spike the ball triumphantly and shout “Not bad for a senior citizen eh? Maybe we can do this again when I’m 75 and you can give me a run for my money”

With that you head inside to grab a cool drink. You sit down in the kitchen and watch the kids playing outside and smell the bbq being prepared. It’s a beautiful day and as a 70th birthday goes, this is about as good as it gets.

Feel how great the above feels and again set the anchor, this time using the opposite leg.

Clear your head by thinking about something different.

Again fire that anchor only this time allow yourself to feel fantastic and fulfilled as you realize that you are going to live a long and prosperous life.

If the toward approach works better for you, next time you want to smoke fire that anchor as you read your list to remind yourself of why you’ll never smoke again.

The only criteria for both anchors is that you  fully embrace the feelings involved with each event. In other words, see what you would see, hear what you would hear and feel what you would feel. Also allow smells and tastes to be involved.

So yes, that does mean you’ll have to feel shit with the first scenario because if you don’t, it wont work.

Note: You don’t have to use your legs, anywhere is ok as long as you can reproduce the the identical action and you are not likely to fire it by mistake. Being out on a hot date and having your wrong leg squeezed may be a bit embarrassing if you burst into tears.

Let’s Do The Time Line

Before we wrap this up I want to give yourself one final exercise to ensure we have it cracked for good.

For obvious reasons you’ll have to read this first and then go and do it because it’s another closed eye exercise.

Go through the same process as previously of relaxing fully using your breath whilst lying down.

I want to imagine you are stood on a gorgeous beach. To your left is the ocean glistening in the warm sun and the beach stretches out in front of you for further than you can see.

I now want you to slowly start to float into the air and leave the beach below you. Know that as you do this you’re perfectly safe, you cannot fall or be harmed in any way.

I want you to float a little higher and a little higher until you get to the point where you realize that what you thought was a beach is actually the time line of your life. You can see your future way out in front of you and if you slowly turn around you can also see your past stretching back to your birth.

How cool is that?

I’d like you to float easily and slowly along your time line to an event that may be only a few hours or days away. It’s the first time your resolve to quit is tested.

If I showed you two photos of yourself, one where you looked resourceful, confident and relaxed and the other where you look dispirited, down trodden and anxious, you would know the difference.

Now as you look at that scene and you can add as much or as little content as you like, you can see how confident you look. You can see that you are easily dealing with potential adversity and temptation. There’s no way you are slipping back.

Now move on a little bit to the next test in your journey. The process is repeated and again you pass the test with flying colors.

Do this as many times as you like until it becomes a non-issue. Then turn and start to move back toward today. As you pass each lesson stop briefly once more and absorb the way you dealt with it.

When you get back to the starting point (i.e. todays date), gently lower yourself back down onto the beach. You may even want to treat yourself to 10 minutes chilling on the sun lounger that just happens to be waiting for you.

There are a couple of other methods that NLP offers that can be helpful. One is using submodalities and the other is the Swish Pattern. I sometimes used both of those or none depending on the client and to be quite honest, what I felt like doing.

Submodalities is quite complicated although it is covered off in How To Be Rich and Happy. If you want to know about the Swish Pattern here is a demo I filmed for just for you.

One final and very important thing. If you have a relapse, you have a relapse. It’s never an excuse to give up. See it for what it was, a learning experience, an opportunity to gather more data.

Be kind and supportive to yourself. Look to see what triggered this momentary setback and then redouble your efforts and start over again just concentrating on succeeding one day at a time.

In fact, just be kind and supportive of yourself PERIOD, it’s a much better way to go through life.

Photo: ‘Smoke Revisited 3’ Courtesy of Andreas Levers