How to Quit Smoking Part 2: How to Increase Motivation & Succeed!

quit smokingThe secret of success is to increase your Motivation to Change, and therefore increase your Readiness to Quit Score. That increases the likelihood of quitting successfully, and you succeed.  Why?  Because your Readiness to Quit Score is an accurate indicator of what you really, really, want to do – not just what you ‘wish’ you could do, or what you know you ‘ought’ to do.

This Part 2 of How to Quit Smoking covers how you can increase your Motivation to Change (stop smoking), as indicated by your Readiness to Quit Score.

How your Readiness to Quit Score is calculated, and used as a Motivational mind tool, was explained in Part 1.

Part 1 of How to Quit Smoking introduced a fictional smoker called Christy, and demonstrated how our motivation to quit can be changed by receiving new information. Part 1 also explained the value of our Readiness to Quit Score on a scale of 1 – 10 as an indicator of the strength of our Motivation to Change.

Motivations Are Not Set In Concrete – They Can Change – & Be Changed

The relative weight of our reasons, for and against any particular course of action, can change over time.  We might start smoking in our teens, and see no reason to stop smoking for years.  So we happily continue to smoke.  But maybe later, we have a child who develops asthma, and we are told that our cigarette smoking might have been a possible reason for it.  Or, at the very least, we learn that our smoking is making the asthma worse.

Now the balance sheet of our for-and-against reasons – our personal cost/benefit analysis – has shifted.  Now we have stronger reasons to think about quitting.  Maybe also by now, the price of cigarettes has gone up, and the costs of running a home have increased.  Now the weight of the benefits we get from smoking are beginning to be outweighed by all of the reasons why it would be good if we could quit.

The Importance of Re-Assessing Our Readiness To Quit Score

When Christy (see Part 1), goes back to her doctor again, her doctor will ask her how she is going with her Readiness to Quit Score – on that day.  In this way, Christy (and her doctor) can see if her motivations are changing (in either direction).  If there has been a change in her Score (her balance of motivations), her doctor will encourage her to think about what has happened to shift her For and Against motivations to account for that change.  Personal insight into why we think what we think, and why we do what we do, is valuable information, especially if we want to change some behavior that we currently do.

motivation to quit smokingReminding, and encouraging people to take difficult decisions in their own interests really does have a positive affect on their choices, especially if the encouragement comes from someone whose opinions are respected. This applies to anyone with any addiction – the same psychological factors are involved in all addictions, and can be influenced in similar ways to improve the success rate of successful quitting.  There are many research studies that demonstrate this fact. See References, below.

These days, many people who still smoke, have already experienced failed attempts to stop smoking in the past . Some people have failed to quit, many times. These failures can add to the negative motivations side of their attitudes and beliefs, because of their belief that quitting is impossible for them, nothing works – so why try again…and fail again?

Positive re-enforcement of any progress towards quitting is a powerful way in which Christy’s doctor (and her friends and family) can greatly increase Christy’s confidence and belief in her ability to change from being ‘a smoker’ to being a non-smoker.  In this case, even a small increase in a readiness to quit score is ‘progress’, and should be duly rewarded with praise and encouragement.  Support is always valuable whenever anyone decides to choose to do a difficult thing – like deciding to quit smoking, or reaching out for help for an addiction.

This encouragement doesn’t necessarily have to come from a health professional – it might be a respected friend, or a respected teacher if we are still at school or college.  Or someone we know who has already managed to give up their addiction, and we respect their experience, and their advice.

This is one of the major advantages of being in a Rehab program – you are made to focus on your problems – you cannot procrastinate and find excuses for putting difficult decisions off until later. You are forced to face your demons every day – you cannot avoid them, and that helps you to shift your balance of motivations towards a genuine desire to change.

Exploiting Ambivalence

This is the jargon term for the technique that many psychologists and health professionals use to help their patients or clients change some aspect of their behavior that is considered to be ‘a problem’. Ambivalence is one term used to describe the conflicting motivations of any difficult decision. It includes everything that this series of articles has explained about the role of conflicting motivations when making difficult choices.

Exploiting ambivalence is how health professionals can try to increase the discord between their client’s opposing motivations: by increasing the weight/power their client assigns to their ‘For change’ motivations, and decreasing the power/weight their client assigns to their ‘Against change’ motivations.

The aim, is to shift their client’s Readiness to Change Score up to a Score where a decision to change is likely to be successful.  This will happen if their client’s motivations that are pro change can be encouraged to genuinely outweigh the motivations that oppose change.

This can be done in many ways, including:

quit smoking motivation

  • providing new and relevant, facts and information
  • getting their patients to make Decision Making Charts
  • regular reminders and inquiries about ‘the problem’
  • asking them to reconsider their Motivations/reasons and re-quantify their Readiness to Quit Score on a regular basis
  • exploring more deeply into the background/reasons/causes of their conflicting motivations
  • emphasizing the negative aspects of the anti-change motivations
  • emphasizing the benefits of the pro-change motivations
  • helping their patients and clients keep ‘the problem’ in focus  

Yes, regular, non-judgmental nudging that does not allow their patients and clients to conveniently push ‘the problem’ out of focus! Smile  It’s a bit like having your own personal motivation coach who pulls you back to concentrate on doing the difficult exercises, and prevents you from ‘getting away’ with only doing the easy ones.  Don’t knock it – many studies show that it works!

Christy And Tyler Several Weeks Later

Perhaps over a few weeks, Tyler’s asthma might continue to get worse, or Christy might find she can’t afford to send Tyler on an outing, or buy him the toy he has set his heart on.  Then her ‘Readiness to Quit Score’ might shift to around 8-9, or even 10 – then she will have a good chance of quitting smoking successfully.

With a high score that indicates that now she knows she really does want to quit, and even though she still wants to keep smoking cigarettes, Christy decides to do a difficult thing – she decides to quit smoking. Why?  Because now she truly believes that the benefits that she (and Tyler) will get if she quits, genuinely outweigh what she sees as the ‘benefits’ she gets from not quitting. Now she absolutely wants to quit, and understands why that is more important to her and Tyler, than her desire to keep smoking.  The balance of her conflicting motivations has tipped in favour of quitting, so now she has a really good chance of succeeding.

One Step At a Time

quit smokingNo matter what type of addiction you have, you don’t have to get to the stage where your Readiness to Change score is up around 7 or 8 before you ask for help.  Your doctor, or Rehabilitation program, or groups like AA and NA will help you to bring your score up from a 1 or 2, to a point where you can successfully become abstinent.

Support from groups of fellow addicts, and those in recovery, has a powerful ability to persuade you that change is possible. You don’t have to do it alone.

In the case of nicotine addiction, you can also use patches or gum that give you nicotine replacement to help fight against your body’s physical neuro-chemical dependency on nicotine.

You can also get support from the Quit Line, family and friends, and your local doctor.  In the case of substance abuse, alcohol dependency, gambling, compulsive eating etc, there are local help lines, community support groups, community mental health teams, your local doctor, or residential rehabilitation facilities.

Even after you have managed to achieve abstinence from whichever addiction is relevant to you, your Decision Making Chart is still very useful.  Stick your ‘For and Against’ chart up on the fridge, or a wall.  Look at it every time you are ‘dying’ for a cigarette, or a drink, or a pill, or a hit, or a gamble.  Your chart reminds you of all the good reasons why you are determined you will not do what your brain is screaming at you to do.

Your chart will help you to focus on what you really do want to do, and why you are determined to do it.  It’s warfare, and it’s a hard and difficult struggle.  You will need support, and probably outside help as well.  Help is available – but asking someone for it is the first difficult step.  Everything else can be tackled later.

Useful Reminders

1. No one can ‘make’ someone else change their behaviour in the long term. You are responsible for what you choose to do, and only you can change what you do.

2. Lasting change only happens when the person involved has made their own personal commitment to change, comes to believe that they have the strength and ability to change, and manages to use a range of strategies to stick to that decision, in spite of all temptations. Help is available. All these achievements are possible.  No situation is ever hopeless.

3. Maybe you think you ‘need’ your addiction and will never be free of it – you are wrong.

4. Maybe you think you will never be able to stop gambling or drinking – you are wrong.

5. Maybe you’ve always thought you can never quit smoking – you are wrong.

6. No addiction is unbeatable.

To change something we do, we must have (or find) sufficient motivation (reason) to quit, and also, good support that will keep us on track and strong in our committed decision to change.  Recovery is possible and achievable.  Rehab can help to give you sufficient motivation to change, stay strong, and achieve successful recovery.

Whatever your particular addiction: smoking, drinking alcohol, drugs, sex, porn, over eating, excessive shopping, gambling – a successful decision to quit is achievable. If you need help, make the decision to ask for help – and actually do it.  No situation is ever hopeless.


Apodaca, T. R., & Longabaugh, R. (2009). Mechanisms of Change in Motivational Interviewing: a Review and Preliminary Evaluation of the Evidence. Addiction, 104(5), 705-715.

Magill, M., Apodaca, T. R., Barnett, N. P., & Monti, P. M. (2010). The Route to Change: Within-Session Predictors of Change Plan Completion in a Motivational Interview. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 38(3), 299-305.

Butler C, Rollnick S, Stott N. The practitioner, the patient and resistance to change: recent ideas on compliance. CMAJ 1996;154:1357-1362.

Miller WR, Rollnick S. Motivational interviewing. Preparing people to change addictive behaviors. New York : The Guilford Press, 1991.

Keithly L, Samples S, Strupp H. Patient motivation as a predictor of process and outcome in psychotherapy. Psychother Psychosom 1980;33: 87-97.

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