Overcoming Failure and Disappointment


It’s quite rare that anyone deciding to quit smoking manages to succeed without trying at least a few times.  Some people have tried over and over again so many times that it would be impossible to count their number of attempts.  You might start to think that after a few tries quitting is just not for you, because you have proven to yourself that you just can’t manage it. You have failed and you feel disappointed.

I’m not going to sugar coat the situation. These sentiments are real. You set out with the right attitude and you were resolved to quitting, but sadly at some point the urge to smoke grew stronger than your desire to quit.  That is the nature of smoking addiction, at least in the beginning stages of quitting. Your body needs to deal with the physical addiction to nicotine and your mind needs to deal with the habit and the associations of smoking within your lifestyle.  But, you should not let yourself start thinking that it’s not worth trying again, and again, and again.

Here are some brief tips to managing the situation:

1)  If you failed to quit today, don’t try again tomorrow.  Instead, think about what went wrong, and try to be very specific about what triggered you into wanting to smoke again.  Ask yourself if it was due to a situation that could be avoided.  Ask yourself if you could have done better if you were mentally prepared.  Would you have potentially fought off the desire to smoke with a support system around you?  Would you have fared better under medical supervision? Perhaps you just needed to fill the gaps of time where you would normally smoke with another activity.  Question how you would manage things differently if you tried again.  I would honestly recommend that you take a lot of time thinking about all these details, because to simply launch yourself back into the next attempt without understanding what went wrong is likely to produce the same or a similar result.  I won’t make myself very popular by saying so, but I firmly believe that if it takes you weeks or months to understand the situation, it is way better than starting to quit over again too quickly.

2) Don’t beat yourself up over having failed to quit.  I can assure you that many people have tried multiple times, even into the hundreds of attempts until they finally hit that sweet spot where everything falls together and they muddle their way through to success.  The emphasis should be on having the strength to keep trying.  That in itself is a success, and a wonderful demonstration of determination.

3) Once you have understood what went wrong, try to anticipate other situations that might trigger you into doubting your ability to stay quit.  You may find that there are similar situations that you can avoid simply by being aware that they exist and by being prepared to confront them.  For every smoker who quits there are ‘triggers’ that induce a desire to smoke.  If possible, try to analyze when you smoke and where you smoke so that you can mentally prepare yourself to manage those situations, or avoid those situations accordingly.

4)  Give yourself time and space to prepare for quitting.  Many quit smoking resources tell you to start by planning a quit date.  That is a rather simplistic view in my opinion, because it is not the start of the process.  The start of the process is understanding what you want to achieve, why you want to achieve it, and how you anticipate managing the hurdles.  To me, setting a quit date before anything else is like telling a novice mountain climber to set a date for scaling Mount Kilimanjaro, and then expecting them to go and run the expedition and succeed within that allotted time frame, without regard to planning and understanding the complexities of the mission.  You should begin by preparing yourself, and then set a quit date. Alternatively, prepare yourself and then jump straight in and quit on the spur of the moment. Whatever works best for you.

In summary, keep trying no matter how much it takes because the rewards are great, if only to no longer be a slave to the addiction.  Try to learn from your failures rather than to feel disappointed.  Question yourself about what went wrong and how you could improve on your next attempt.  Give yourself some slack.  You may have tried quitting tens times, but somebody else has tried a hundred times, or a thousand times.  You only need to succeed once!

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