Moving Past Ambivalence

Blog Post created by dr_hurt on Jun 11, 2010


What we know about people who smoke is that most of them wish that they didn’t.  Nevertheless, they find that they can’t quite commit themselves to stop smoking despite the fact that they could come up with many reasons why they wish they weren’t smoking.  This ambivalence is a normal part of behavior change.  People who smoke can generally acknowledge its negative aspects, yet at the same time, they can also tell you the reasons they continue to smoke such as, “I enjoy it,” “It’s a social thing,” or “It helps maintain my weight.” 

We recommend that you make a list of the personal positive reasons to stop smoking and focus on the benefits of each one of those reasons.  Some common reasons include:

  • I’ll enjoy better health
  • I’ll save money
  • I’ll smell better
  • I’ll breathe easier
  • I’ll get rid of the control that cigarettes hold over me

What are some other reasons unique to your situation?  When you think about the reasons to continue smoking, consciously make yourself turn your thoughts to the benefits of stopping.  Talk to yourself frequently about the good things about stopping and this will be your first step to resolve your ambivalence in favor of making one of the most important decisions of your life – a commitment to set a quit date!

Dr. Richard D. Hurt is an internationally recognized expert on tobacco dependence. A native of Murray, Kentucky, he joined Mayo Clinic in 1976 and is now a Professor of Medicine at its College of Medicine. In 1988, he founded the Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center and since then its staff has treated more than 50,000 patients for tobacco dependence. Send your questions directly to Dr. Hurt at AskTheExpert@becomeanex.org