Okay, Don't Quit

Chapter 4

Confusing the Habit


Smoking is a tough, hardened habit. Attacking it directly by quitting cold turkey means a painful battle. Making small adjustments to how you smoke, however, is easy and weakens the habit to the point where simple persistence can overcome it.

Habit Construction

Understanding a habit's construction allows you to alter the habit. Habits are made up of small connections, of which the five senses are major building blocks: taste, feel, smell, seeing, and hearing. Each sense is woven into the habit.

For example, your smoking habit consists of:

  • How you hold the cigarette. (Touch)
  • The hand you use. (Touch)
  • The sight of the smoke. (Visual) That's why smoking with your eyes closed just doesn't seem right.
  • What you look at as you're smoking. (Visual)
  • How it tastes. (Taste)
  • The sounds involved. (Auditory)
  • The feel of your lips on the cigarette. (Touch) The sensation of the smoke going down your throat. (Touch)

In addition to the tie to your senses, habits have a useful role in simplifying life. People become creatures of habit for good reason — habits make life easier.

Doing things in a habitual way, again and again, enables you to do simple tasks without thinking. When things are in the right place, in the right way, with no surprises, everything goes smoothly. To think through each movement involved with putting on your socks or buttoning a shirt would clog your life with mundane tasks. Doing things in a non-thinking, habitual way helps you breeze through everyday tasks.

Habits are bound together with the glue of sameness. As long as life moves along in a regular, comfortable manner, habits thrive and grow stronger. For that reason, taking away the sameness of your acts undermines a habit at its very core.

Removing the Sameness

To disrupt the sameness of your smoking habit, you need to identify the precise elements that give it sameness and make it comforting. The physical senses offer a good starting point. There are only five senses, and they're easy to identify. To develop an effective disruption strategy, you need to understand each cigarette's connection to your five senses.

A previous list described your cigarettes by physical activity. Your disruption effort involves altering these activities in some way. Any change in how you perform these acts will attack their sameness. One by one, work through the cigarettes on the list and figure out a way to alter them. Thereafter, every time you have that cigarette, use the new behavior. Add as many new actions as you can come up with.

Usual way. —> Different way.


  • Hold it between the first and second finger. —> Hold it between your third and fourth finger.
  • Looking out the window. —> Looking at your little finger.
  • Watching the smoke. —> Closing your eyes as you exhale.
  • No holder. —> Using a cigarette holder.
  • Inserting the cigarette in the center of your mouth. —> Inserting it on the far left.
  • Using your right hand. —> Using your left hand.

In demonstrations, holding the cigarette with different fingers while smoking draws the startling replies. For example, try smoking with the cigarette between your middle and ring fingers. Many smokers just can't hold their cigarettes in any but the usual fingers for more than two seconds; others would rather put out the cigarette than hold it in their usual manner.

For most, it comes as a surprise that the way they hold the cigarette is actually part of their habit. And, it is only one of many hidden elements.

Again, the goal of this phase is not to give up your regular cigarettes but to change the way you go about smoking them.

You may want to focus on this phase for three or four days before adding additional elements. Fully explore the variety of how you can alter your smoking actions. Let your creativity and sense of humor shine through.

There is always a different way to hold your cigarette.

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