“I quit smoking,” my first baseman said, knowing I would be impressed.
“Wow,” I replied. “That’s great news Robert. How did you do it?”
He lifted up his sleeve to show me he was wearing a nicotine patch on his arm. I was kind of surprised, because I don’t know many people who have ever quit with a system like that. Smoking, like most physical addictions, strikes me as more of a mental addiction when it is all said and done.
But of course, I think virtually everything is mental…
That’s my perception. That perception is based on my belief system, which was created by my own experience. In this case, my experience of quitting a three pack a day cigarette addiction cold turkey, the day I made up my mind that I no longer wanted to be a smoker.
I never picked up a cigarette again. For five years. Then one night I was sitting around with the drivers in my pizza place talking about it. Most of them were smokers. I said that I had quit, and I could start and quit any time, because now I knew how to deal with it. As I continued talking, I started to believe myself…
So naturally I decided I could have a cigarette right there to prove my case. Which I did.
The next day, I talked more about my theory, demonstrating it by showing them I could just have one cigarette that day.
The following day I proved my point further, showing that I only smoked if I felt like it, with only ten cigarettes that day. Of course, you’ve already figured out that the next day I was back to three packs a day. So then my perception changed.
I went from believing I could start or quit any time I wanted, to believing that smoking was a physical addiction, and I was an innocent victim of the evil, greedy tobacco companies. (Because that took all of the responsibility off of me.)
Ah, the power of perception…
Meanwhile the talk around the table stayed on Robert having quit smoking, and other people’s experience quitting or not. Along the way, I related my story above. Eventually it got around to Robert again. And he was talking about his situation and said something about the reason he was quitting.
“Whoa!” I almost shouted. The “ing” in his last statement had grabbed me. “You quit, or you’re quitting?” I wanted to know.
“I quit,” he said very defensively. “I’m down to only half a pack a day. I used to smoke a pack.”
Ah, the power of perception…
And the power of denial. Perception by itself can be one of our most powerful tools for a better life. Perception clouded by denial can be one of the most harmful, because then we’re lying to ourselves.
Robert used the power of perception to convince himself that going from a pack a day to half a pack meant he had quit. Which of course it doesn’t. Which explains why he ended up back to his usual pack a day.
What about you? Do you tell yourself the truth, or are you in denial?