Maybe you’ve got a rockin’ body and doing a full nudie run
through your office will get you that promo. But when I say “streak your way to
success” that’s not the kind of streak I’m talking about. Although, hey, if it
works for you, I ain’t gonna hold you back!
I’m talking about a streak of consecutive wins. A winning streak.
The small things we do every day can lead to bigger results
than the big things we do once in a while. It’s all about training your brain
to recognise what you’re doing as “normal”.
You clean your teeth everyday right? Things start to feel a
little furry if you skip this task. Maybe you have days where you’re so tired
you think about skipping it, but usually you’ll still do it anyway. Even if it’s
a half-arsed effort. And even if you do skip it, I bet you’re unlikely
to skip it twice in a row.
This is how it can be with any good habit you want to build.
It can sometimes be easier to do something EVERY FREAKIN’ DAY than it is to do
it three times a week or once a week. Because it becomes part of your daily
routine, and because you quickly start to see a winning streak. And nobody
likes to break a winning streak.
Tracking my winning streak was the most effective tool I used when I quit smoking. I literally gave myself a gold star on the calendar for every day that I didn’t smoke, and it started to look so pretty and sparkly… As much as I wanted to head-butt someone (thank you nicotine withdrawals), I was motivated by the streak of sparkles on my calendar. Plus it was on my wall for everyone else to see as well, so I didn’t want to have a gap in the stars.
Some suggested rules for streaking:
Keep your clothes on
(unless the habit you’re building involves sex or showering, then I guess you can ignore this rule).
Set yourself an achievable minimum accepted “win”.
For example, if your goal is to write everyday, set a minimum word count of 50 words. If the goal is to run everyday, make the minimum 1km or 10 minutes of running. This way, even on days when everything is against you, it’s still achievable to keep your streak going. You can also get the minimum over and done with first thing in the morning and then anything else you do that day is a bonus.
Set yourself a daily target.
Maybe the target is to write 500 words a day or to run 3km every day. If you get there, great. But if you don’t, that’s okay – as long as you’ve achieved the minimum it’s still a win. The daily target might even be something that you need to work up to over time.
Track your streak.
Having visual proof of your streak is motivating and a great daily reminder. As I mentioned before, I used gold stars on a calendar to track my progress when I quit smoking.
Never miss two in a row.
The goal here is to keep the streak going without a break. But of course there might be days when it just doesn’t happen. You’ve got the flu, or you’re on a 15 hour flight, or you just simply can’t be effed. The idea of streaking is that you make the minimum win achievable even in these sorts of circumstances, but I know sometimes it might just not happen. Don’t quit altogether just coz you missed a day. Get straight back into it the following day and keep going. Just don’t allow yourself to miss two days in a row because that’s when it gets really hard to get back into it.
Set an end date (optional).
Depending on the goal or the habit, you might want to set an end date or a target date. This way you can choose at that time to stop if you want. The end then isn’t determined by you ‘falling off the wagon’ so to speak. And it gives you the power to choose if you want to continue, change it up, or just stop altogether. It might also help you to not get too obsessive about the habit if you know it’s only going to be daily for a certain amount of time.
Get freakin’ streakin’!
What types of habits could you try
Spending time outdoors
Making your bed
Reaching out to potential new clients
Contacting a friend each day
Going to bed with a clean kitchen
You could also try streaking for
quitting a habit, of course!
Let me know what you’ve tried streaking for and if it worked for you.
I had my first cigarette behind the chook shed with my best friend when we were maybe 13. It’s such a funny memory now. We had stripped down to our underwear so that our parents wouldn’t smell the smoke on our clothes. But I was still convinced three days later that mum might smell it on my breath. So I vowed after that first smoke that I would “quit smoking” because the stress of hiding it was just too much for me.
I think I was 16 when an older friend bought me a packet of smokes to help me get through a break-up (who does that?). With a whole packet of my own to practice on, and older friends to impress, it wasn’t that long before I was hooked. From the age of 18 I was smoking about 30 cigarettes a day. I tried to quit smoking on many occasions, using many different methods. It just never lasted.
I was in a relationship where my boyfriend smoked (even more than me), many of my friends smoked, and I spent a lot of time in the pub (when smoking was still legal inside). Smoking had just become part of my life.
What made it so hard to quit smoking?
I guess the hardest part of quitting was that part of me loved smoking. I loved the feeling of
calm that came over me when I lit up. I loved that it was a good excuse to withdraw
from a group for a brief period to step outside. It gave me something to do
while I sat on my veranda for hours at a time. I loved the feeling of a fresh
new pack each day in my hands.
All of this sounds so crazy now. But I was so attached to
smoking at the time that the idea of quitting was just torture.
Deciding to quit smoking
In 2011 I decided once and for all that I wanted to quit. I
thought about it for a long time and argued with myself. Sick of going through
the pain of quitting only to take it up again, I wanted to be sure this time
that I was ready. So I thought hard about why
I wanted to quit.
At the time, a beautiful woman with a connection to my
family was dying of smoking-related cancer. She had been one of the most
vibrant, dazzling women I had ever met, and though I didn’t have a particularly
close connection with her myself, her situation had a huge impact on me. She
wrote about her cancer experience, and her regret for smoking. I read every
word and thought about the fact that this woman had lived such a wonderful life
and positively impacted so many people, and her impending death was going to shatter
so many hearts.
And here I was, living a very-less-than-ordinary life, not making a positive impact anywhere,
but smoking my little lungs away. I didn’t expect that my death would have quite the same impact on people, but I also
realised that it wasn’t fair to put my family through it in any case. Smoking
was something that I could choose to do or not to do. To quit smoking was one
small way that I could show my family I loved them – not because they wanted me to quit, but because I
didn’t want them to suffer the pain of watching another loved one die an
But that wasn’t my only motivation.
Other reasons I quit smoking
It was getting bloody expensive! I was spending a huge amount of money on smokes and missing out on other things. It sucked being broke all the time.
I was a bit ashamed of being a smoker, so I spent a lot of time trying to hide my smoking and to make sure I didn’t smell offensive. This was effort that I realised I could spend on more interesting tasks and activities.
I would get very anxious if I thought I’d be in a situation where I couldn’t easily have a smoke. I would even avoid certain situations if necessary. It was tiring having to plan ahead for smoke breaks all the time.
I never had enough time for things I wanted to do. But I was smoking around 30 cigarettes a day. Each smoke would take about 5 minutes. That’s something like 2.5 hours every day that I was spending just on poisoning myself! Ridiculous!
I don’t like being dependent. Whether it’s depending on a person or a thing, it makes me uncomfortable. I like to know that I’m in control of myself, and I certainly wasn’t when it came to smoking. I was entirely dependent on Peter Jackson. While I sometimes tried to fool myself that I was smoking because I chose to and because I enjoyed it, the reality was that I was smoking because I had come to depend on it.
I was sick of being sick. “My immune system is weak” I would moan every time I got sick. Colds, flu, and chest infections were so frequent, and they would be severe and last a long time. I would be embarrassed every time I got sick, because deep down I knew that I would be a lot healthier if I didn’t smoke.
9 Tips to Quit Smoking Once and For All
Focus on why you want to quit.
No matter how big or small, think of as many reasons as you possibly can that you want to be a non-smoker. Forget about the things you like about smoking. Don’t worry too much about all the things you hear about how bad smoking is (although it’s all important and valid). Really focus on your own reasons for quitting, like I did in the list above. Also, it helped me to think about it as “reasons I want to be a non-smoker” rather than “reasons I want to quit smoking”. It just felt more like I was moving toward something positive rather than moving away from something that I had somewhat enjoyed. I’m a big believer that you can’t quit an addiction until YOU want to and until YOU are ready. It doesn’t matter what everyone else’s reasons are – you have to convince yourself that YOU want to quit.
Give yourself a time frame.
Rather than just aiming for one solid quit date, give yourself a time frame in which to quit. You might aim for a week or a month (you probably don’t want it to be too much longer). As I spoke about in another post, I knew that telling myself I’d quit on the 1st of January was a mistake. That time of year is still too relaxed and full of social activities, and that’s when I knew I’d find it difficult to quit. The possibility of falling off the wagon once or twice was also strong, so I decided I’d give myself until the end of January to be a non-smoker. This worked. On the 9th of January 2011 I had my last smoke.
Identify linked habits.
What do you do that is linked to your smoking habit? Is it something that you can give up or change, perhaps temporarily? I quit drinking at the same time as I quit smoking. The two often went together for me, so it would be much harder to stay off the smokes if I was having a beer or wine. Giving up drinking and smoking was effing hard, but it was easier than only giving up one at a time. I drank soda water from a wine glass to make it feel like I was still enjoying a special drink until I got used to not drinking. I stayed off the booze for about 9 months I think, and by the time I allowed myself to drink again, the association had been broken. By then I loved being a non-smoker.
Track and reward your progress.
Do something that will help you see and celebrate your success. I literally gave myself gold stars. I had some pretty, sparkly gold star stickers like these ones. It might seem like such a small thing, but I think it was one of the key drivers for me. The satisfaction of putting that sticker on the calendar at the end of the day was huge. And gradually, my calendar started to look SO FREAKIN’ PRETTY! It sparkled and glowed and congratulated me every time I walked past it.
Focus on a project.
Distraction is your friend!I focused on decluttering my house. With all this extra time on my hands, I needed something to keep me occupied. So I worked on going through each room in my house and getting rid of anything that was just clutter. Not only was my body starting to feel cleaner, but so was my house. Admittedly, in the early days I was such an emotional wreck from the withdrawals that I probably threw out more than I normally would. My thinking would have been along the lines of “If I can’t smoke, then what’s the point having all these things? Life is going to be miserable anyway – INTO THE BIN!!!” (It wasn’t my most rational period).
You’re going to feel pretty crappy for a little while, but I promise it gets better. In the meantime, do things to pamper yourself and make yourself feel good.I made a habit of regularly having a long luxurious bath with candles and a book. Also, I started eating better because I had more money for good food, and more time to cook it. There was a huge cupboard in my house full of lovely pampering products like hand creams, moisturisers, bath gels, etc. So, I started trying to use some of those each day. Now that I didn’t stink of cigarettes, I could appreciate the beautiful scented products on my skin.
Even in five-minute blocks, it can be a great replacement for smoking when it comes to stress relief. When I quit smoking, I joined a yoga class. I was so nervous and made sure I got a spot in the back corner. But it soon became my new addiction as I developed an appreciation of my body, extended my skills each week, and learnt beautiful relaxation techniques which were much more useful than smoking.
Have a trusty sidekick.
Find a non-judgmental support person who will encourage you. The day I quit smoking, I had a brand new packet of smokes in my bag. My best friend, a non-smoker, was always supportive of my efforts to quit, without being a bully about it. I knew I could trust her to guard my “emergency pack” and that she wouldn’t let me have them unless it was really, really desperate. Knowing that I already owned a pack prevented me from going and buying more in the weak moments. But knowing I’d have to ask my friend to give them to me made me consider whether I really needed them. She was so strong – there were times in those first weeks where I was crying and really struggling to break the addiction. It would have been much easier for her to hand me the pack and shut me the hell up, but she never did. She just kept telling me how proud she was of me, and how well I was doing. You need to have someone on your side.
Acknowledge the difference.
Try to be really conscious of how different you feel. The first few days were usually the hardest for me, but even several months later I’d have weak moments where I’d really miss smoking. So I tried to always be mindful of how nice it felt to breathe fresh air, to have time that I could use productively, to not be sick all the time, to have more energy. Even now, eight years later, I’ll occasionally walk past someone who’s smoking and I’ll get a bit of a craving. So instead of thinking about how smoking felt, I force myself to think about how I feel now.
How I feel now, 8 years later
I’m so glad I quit when I did. Without a doubt, it was
bloody hard. Addiction is a beast of a thing, and I was so heavily addicted to
cigarettes that there were times I thought I didn’t want to live if I couldn’t
be a smoker. Crazy huh? I’d tell myself things like “you’ve gotta die of
something, may as well be something you enjoy.” But since quitting, I’ve
discovered things I enjoy even more, and they’re not even gonna kill me!
I rarely get sick now (although that changed recently when
my baby started day care and started bringing a heap of germs home). Even when
I do get sick though, I recover a lot quicker.
I now own a house, a car, and plenty of nice things and I go
on real holidays. Yeah, so I have a mortgage, but even that would have been
impossible with how much I was spending on smokes.
With all the extra time (and self-esteem) I had when I quit, my life started to turn around in so many more ways. I took up study, I joined volunteering groups, I got a job I loved, I left a toxic relationship and built a loving, respectful relationship. It was such a huge turning point for me.
Most of all, as a non-smoker for 8 years, I FEEL FREE.
To sum it up:
If you’re considering quitting smoking, or some other habit that you don’t want in your life, do it.
Start by focusing on reasons you want to be a non-smoker.
Set a time-frame where you will work on quitting. Aim to quit as early as possible in that time frame, but give yourself some leeway if needed, and then keep trying the next day.
Identify your habits that are linked with smoking, and either change them or quit them as well.
Track and reward your progress. This might be something as simple as gold stars on the calendar, or perhaps you’ll buy yourself a treat with the money you’ve saved on smoking.
Focus on a project to keep yourself distracted. This will also give you something to show for all the extra time and energy you have.
Introduce self-care and pampering to get you through the crappy feelings of breaking the addiction.
Practice yoga or meditation. Even if you just use YouTube to find some quick 5- or 10-minute videos, it’s a great replacement for the stress relief that you once got from smoking. I know it’s not everyone’s thing, but at least give it a try.
Have a trusty sidekick. Having someone to support you is really important. Also remember that there are resources like Quitline to get counselling and support.
Acknowledge and focus on all the positive differences throughout your quit journey. Every time you have a craving, think instead about the things that have improved since you quit.
I’m not saying that you’ll never feel like smoking again.
But using these strategies has helped me to remain a non-smoker, even through
some really difficult times.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments if you have any
other tips to suggest. Or feel free to email me if you have any
questions or would like some support to begin your journey toward being a
After listening to the Happier podcast by Gretchen Rubin & Liz Craft, I’ve decided to set my own #19for2019 list of goals. These are some things that I’d really like to do in 2019. As I was writing the list I thought I was being pretty realistic, but after looking back on it I’ve realised it’s actually a bit ambitious. But I like to be ambitious!
I’m publishing my list even though that scares me. I don’t like to share my goals because I worry about what people will think if I fail. But I think it’s also a great way to stay motivated and accountable. I’ll check in every now and then and let you know how I’m going with the list!
So that’s my list! Now I’m going to have fun planning and plotting and scheduling some of this stuff into my diary so that it doesn’t get forgotten…
Want to join me? Try to think of 19 things you want to do in 2019. I’ve made mine a mix of big projects, regular activities, new habits, and things I can tick off relatively quickly and easily. I’d love it if you share your list with me!
Six years ago, I set myself a goal of completing a university degree. Six thousand times since then, I thought about quitting. And this week I graduated.
I want to share with you some of the obstacles I faced, and why I did not quit my goal.
He told me I was useless
My ex-boyfriend, who I was with when I started this degree, was not supportive of my studying. He told me I was wasting my time and money. According to him I was useless and I would probably fail or quit anyway. He repeatedly accused me of thinking I was better than everyone because I was studying. But he generously brought me down to earth by reminding me that everyone in town thought I was just a stuck up city girl who thought I was something special.
There were times that I started to believe him. And I thought about quitting.
But then I thought of my family, my friends, and my colleagues who were all so excited about my goal. They didn’t seem to think I was useless. In fact, they encouraged me and cheered every time I got my results back. They rolled their eyes every time I got a high distinction. Because they expected the high distinction. They had no doubt in me whatsoever. And so, I continued.
Remember the people who have your back. Surround yourself with those people.
I left everything and started over
As you can see from the previous section, my relationship wasn’t happy or healthy. So, one day I left. I had a bag of clothes in my car and left town. Leaving behind my job that I loved, my friends who I adored and had been my support network, and my house that I had put all my money into building.
I was back living with my parents. I had no job, not much money, and no energy. Having quit everything else, I also thought about quitting my degree. It was just too hard to focus on it now. And what was the point?
But then I thought about the fact that one day I would be able to help other people. One day I’d have the knowledge and the qualifications to help people believe in themselves and set their own direction. But only if I continued. And so, I continued.
Always remember the big picture.
My new life was busy
I got a new job, fell in love, made new friends, joined a local Rotary club, and started experiencing a more active social life. My new relationship was the opposite of my previous one. I was previously living a relatively isolated life inside my relationship, which gave me plenty of time to study. My new partner was so adoring and wanted to spend all his time with me. While being supportive of my study and being a student himself, he had a very different approach to study and didn’t quite understand how hard I needed to work at it. Throughout the remainder of my degree (even after we got married) this caused a lot of tension.
I thought maybe he was right and I was spending too much time with my head in the books. Maybe I really was sacrificing too much social time because of my study. I knew I couldn’t do any less work and still understand the subject enough to pass. So I thought about quitting.
But then I considered how much time, effort, and money I’d already put in. I was achieving great results and I knew that I could do it. It was only a bit longer. I just had to maintain enough balance for my relationship to survive until the end of the degree. And so, I continued.
Think of what you have already invested and sacrificed. Don’t waste that.
Cancer struck my family
My grandma and my mum were both diagnosed with cancer within a couple of months. It was the year leading up to my wedding and the two women who I worshipped and adored were both sick and undergoing treatment. Between work, my community service commitments, and my study, I felt unable to support them or be there for them. So I thought about quitting my degree.
But again, I considered how far I’d already come. I remembered what I could do with the knowledge and the qualification once I had it. And I thought about how proud my grandma and my mum would be when I eventually graduated. And so, I continued.
Make them proud.
Pregnancy brought me unstuck
The following year, I fell pregnant. I had a difficult pregnancy, with a suspected miscarriage in the early days, followed by hyperemesis gravidarum for the remainder. Which basically means I constantly vomited for nine months. I would be up several times in the night to be sick, then drag myself to work where I would discretely scurry to the bathroom several times a day to throw up. I had no energy because I couldn’t keep much food down and wasn’t getting much sleep. The sickness wore me down until I was badly depressed.
I nearly had a nervous breakdown trying to get an assignment submitted on time and discovered weeks later when results came out that there had been a technical malfunction and it didn’t submit. The course convenor said I could fail the subject OR I could get medical evidence to say I couldn’t complete the assignment, and then I would have to do a completely new one to replace it. I just couldn’t face the thought of starting all over again on a different topic and going through the stress. So I thought about quitting.
But I only had a few subjects left. The end was in sight. And so, I continued.
Look to the end. Have a countdown. Keep your eye on the ball.
My tiny human didn’t care for my goals
My heart exploded with love every time I looked at my baby boy. And my head exploded with stress every time I thought about my assessments that weren’t getting done. Archie had reflux, and we had a lot of problems with feeding and sleep. He was a very unhappy baby for the first five months of his life, and he only wanted to be in my arms. I would explain to him that I was very close to finishing my degree and would have plenty of time for cuddles after that, but he was not willing to wait. And so I thought about quitting.
But I knew if I stopped now, it would only get harder and harder to get it finished some other time. I’d be back at work AND have a child to raise AND still have uni work to do. It was better just to plough through and get it finished while I was on maternity leave. And so, I continued.
Now may be the best time. Just get it done.
I got there in the end
As my name was called and I walked across the stage, I blinked back tears. I was grateful for every person who supported me and encouraged me. And I was even grateful for those who made it more challenging. It was because of them that I felt so proud of my achievement.
Get in touch
Have you fought through obstacles to reach your goal despite wanting to quit? Tell me about it in the comments.
Want more personalised and tailored support to get you through your obstacles? Please contact me to chat about how I can help.