My mentor tells me the story of a lady he was trying to get to quit smoking. He tried informing her of the dangers of smoking like cancer, heart attack or stroke. She wasn’t impressed with information. He then appealed to vanity. Smoking would cause premature wrinkling on her face. She demurred, I just want to enjoy life. He then told her about the financial consequences of smoking. It was costing her $8,000 per year over the last 10 years. She could buy a new car in that amount of time! Still she was unperturbed.
My partner continued with the visit and looked over her blood work. He noticed in her blood work a positive test. Miss, he told her, your test turned out positive for pregnancy. The patient then took her cigarettes out her purse, stood up from her seat, walked across the room and dropped her cigarettes into the trashcan. I’m quitting, she said.
What causes a person to change behavior? What was it about the patient that ultimately made her decide to quit?
The answer is motivation. I’d like to explore three reasons why every person trying to quit smoking or make a significant lifestyle change should examine their motivation.
1.Motivation is what gives you the power to keep on going when the going gets tough
When we lose focus on our goal or get distracted, getting in touch with our motivations provide us fuel to keep moving forward. It keeps us in motion until we have achieved the outcome we need.
2. Sacrifice out of love for another person is a more powerful motivation than doing something for yourself
Self-preservation is not a strong enough motive. Smokers continue to smoke despite labels on cigarettes packs that essentially say, This will kill you!
Often patients have not connected their destructive behavior with the more meaningful areas of their lives. For instance, they may not have considered how their failure to quit smoking implicate they will leave their wife a widow. Or they may not have considered how their habit places an influence on their child increasing his risk of taking up smoking. This indirectly puts the child’s life in danger. One way I make this real for the patient is to tell them an illustration. If you saw a truck barreling down on your child, would you push that child out of harm’s way even if it meant your death? Well, smoking put’s your child in harm’s way. I find this illustration compelling for patients.
3. Sacrifice for a God-given, outside-yourself, greater-than-you purpose is the most powerful motivation of all. When we awaken to something greater than ourselves pulling us forward, we are motivated to participate with the divine. A change begins to occur at our core. Over time the right actions flow from that core. When a patient realizes smoking is not consistent with the purpose that God has called her to, the action of smoking will eventually stop.
This is why I tell parents who smoke their behavior is ultimately destructive to their children. A good parent would never participate in activity that would be damaging for their loved one. This is why I tell my Christian patients smoking is a sin that gets in the way with their relationship with God. A follower of God doesn’t want that relationship disrupted. When a person is pulled to a greater purpose, one’s core – or identity or heart – is ultimately changed. This change gives the desired result.