Quit Nicotine by Changing Your Behaviors

Before starting your journey to get rid of your nicotine addiction, you have to plan the route to get there. In a previous post, we asked you to brainstorm all kinds of different behaviors that could help you wean yourself off of nicotine over time. If you haven’t done that yet, read part one of How To Set Yourself Up For Success before continuing on here. 

Be Specific

Make sure the behaviors on your list are as specific as you can make them. “Exercise weekly” might sound good at first, but “Exercise for 30 minutes when I get home from work on Monday, Wednesday and Friday” is better, because it doesn’t require you to think about which nights you’ll work out and which nights you won’t, or for how long. Whenever possible, try to indicate the location and frequency of each behavior on your list.

Find YOUR Approach to being Nicotine Free

This is THE most important part of creating “golden behaviors” for finding your nicotine alternative, so listen carefully! This simple, 10-minute exercise will help you determine which behaviors on your list are most likely to lead to success, and therefore should be prioritized over all others. 

On a large sheet of paper, draw the following coordinate plane:

Next, get some post-it notes and write one behavior from your brainstorming list on each post-it. 

The goal is to evaluate each behavior twice: once in terms of its effectiveness, and again in terms of your motivation to do the behavior.

First Pass: Find YOUR Viable, High Impact Solution

Evaluate each behavior in terms of the impact it could have on achieving your aspiration. Then, decide how high or low to place your post-it on the vertical “impact” axis and tack it there (for now).

Be as realistic and honest as possible, with the understanding that you don’t have a crystal ball to see into the future. Could this be an effective way to get out of a nicotine addiction? Will this help you manage the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal? Might this help you reframe how you feel about quitting nicotine? 

Here’s a sample of five behaviors from our friend Tom’s brainstorming list, who (like you) has made the decision to quit nicotine:

  • Get a different job that doesn’t stress me out so much
  • Work out in the evening on Monday, Wednesday and Friday to help manage stress
  • Keep a can of Grinds Coffee Pouches in my glove box, where my hardest cravings occur most often
  • Start going to a different gas station than the one where I always used to buy my chew
  • Meet with my accountability partner every Monday at 4:30 pm to discuss my quit journey progress

And here’s how Tom plotted them:

Tom believes that using Grinds to help combat his toughest cravings will be highly effective, so he places it at the very top. Those intense cravings usually come in the morning on the way to work, so he also believes going to a different gas station for his morning soda will help him avoid that trigger for a dip.

Getting a different job would help with some work-related stress, but Tom sees it as being less effective than his other ideas because switching jobs is a stressful event in and of itself. Tom also doesn’t think exercise helps him relieve stress (he prefers to unwind with a video game) so he places that even lower than getting a new job.

Second Pass: Feasibility and Practicality

Now evaluate each behavior in terms of feasibility and practicality. Look at each behavior and ask, Can I get myself to do this? This phrasing brings together both your motivation to perform the behavior and your ability to perform the behavior. If one of these elements is missing, there’s a VERY good chance you won’t be able to perform this behavior with consistency. 

If you can’t decide if you’ll be able to get yourself to do something, ask Do I want to do this behavior? Be honest and practical. You can’t get yourself to do something you don’t want to do. At least not reliably. The goal is not to determine behaviors you think you should be doing, but rather the behaviors you actually will do. 

As you evaluate each behavior, keep it where you placed it on the vertical (impact) axis and then slide left or right along the horizontal axis according to how hard or easy it will be to get yourself to do the behavior.

Here’s how Tom’s behaviors looked after this step:

Not only does Tom think a new job and exercise routine will have little impact on his aspirations to quit nicotine, he also doesn’t want to go through the hassle of switching jobs, and simply doesn’t want to engage in physical activity after a long hard day of work. He slides these behaviors to the left. But... keeping a can of Grinds Coffee Pouches in his glove box, switching up his morning commute, and calling his accountability partner once a week all seem relatively easy for him to do, so he slides them to the right. 

Find Your Golden Behaviors and Forget About Nicotine

When you’re done, locate your “golden behaviors” in the upper right quadrant, and forget about the rest (for now). By focusing on just the golden behaviors, you’re setting yourself up to be nicotine free because these behaviors will have the biggest impact and you’re already motivated to do them.