Monthly Archives: October 2013

Finding Leverage #1: Smoking

I’ve never been a smoker, so feel free to ignore everything after the first letter in this sentence. I do know a thing or two about compulsion, however, and I’d like to expound upon my lever post from yesterday with an example that might help clarify some things.

I learned it from watching you! Anyone remember that commercial?
daveograve@, from flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0

In order to work with a negative habit, you need two things: a crack, and a lever. The “lever” is nothing more than the proper motivation to change, something that resonates with you. The “crack” is any point in your cycle of negative behavior that is vulnerable. Both are absolutely vital. Imagine hitting a boulder with a crowbar versus sticking it in just the right crack and, as if by magic, watching the rock split in two.

So, hypothetical smoker, or anyone interested in behavior modification, let’s find your crack.

This can be tricky, because you might have been trying to use willpower to force yourself to stop smoking at the point when you most crave a cigarette. That’s not a crack, that’s the point where the rock is strongest. Oh, and willpower is bullshit. More on that later.

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Finding Your Lever

Persistent and recurring problems are a perennial blogging favorite of mine, mostly because I have so many of them. Difficulty eating right, trouble staying on top of bills, procrastination, indecision. Yours might involve fitness goals, time management, religious or ethical considerations, or maybe you just really overdo Christmas and it’s slowly alienating your family and friends.

We do things, we know we don’t like them, but we persist! Maybe facing your problem seems too big, so you avoid it. Maybe you’ve got urges that seem way too persuasive in the moment (“I know I shouldn’t buy another pug, but all my others might be lonely!”). Heck, maybe you have an anger problem, or a drinking problem, or relationship problems.

I’ve got good news and bad news about your problem behaviors. Bad news first.

The bad news: Everything that you do is strongly informed by your hindbrain and subcortical structures (the bits hidden underneath the squishy walnut-like surface of your brain). These parts are, evolutionarily speaking, hella old. Like, predating mammals old. They do basic things for us, like keeping us breathing and regulating our various juices (this getting too technical?). They also make us do important things by changing the very way we think.

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Feeling Good, Despite It All

Hi, I’m Ian.

LIVE, DAMN YOU!

I’m a massage therapist and educator, and sometimes I talk and think about other stuff too. Today, I’d like to talk about the topic of human frailty, and how you might want to take the things I say with a grain of salt.

You see, despite my training in mindfulness, holistic health, and psychology, I’m still not… well. I’ve got chronic anxiety, my back “goes out” more than I’d like, and I’m not anywhere near as successful as I’d like to be. I give in to my base animal desires on a regular basis (hitting my snooze alarm, going to McDonald’s), and I procrastinate like you wouldn’t believe. When I write, I use far too many parenthetical asides.

I divulge all of this for two reasons:

  1. All of my advice should be viewed in context. Viewing me as a role model would be folly.
  2. I think that my flaws might make me more useful to you.

You see, I’m frail, but I’m unbroken. I have some really rough days, but I’m doing things that I would have thought impossible a few short years ago. In this spirit, I have a goal for this blog:

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