Do you have a habit you’d like to break? Furthermore, have you already attempted to break that particular habit before, without success? If you’re anything like me, the answer is ABSOLUTELY! For me, the biggest unhealthy habits I’ve tried to kick are cigarettes and sugar. I’ve been a smoker since the age of 15, which is now half my life. I’ve tried to quit a number of times, only to fall right back into it. So why do we fail? I used to think that I just needed the right motivation to get me to stick with it. That if I could just summon up enough desire and willpower I’d find success.

A Personal Story about Motivation & Willpower…

For 10 years, I lived with an STD that every western doctor will tell you is incurable. I acquired the disease as a result of some poor choices in my younger years. It was something that I learned to live with and I had accepted it as a part of me that I’d have to live with forever. Then, in the Fall of 2015 my life changed forever.

That year I was introduced to a Tibetan Doctor by the name of Paltul Rinpoche who was here visiting with his translator. I met him with no intention of telling him about my disease, because I assumed it could not be helped. However, somehow in our conversation the topic surfaced, and this was when my whole world began to change.
With full confidence, Paltul Rinpoche proceeded to dig out a three month supply of herbal medications and had me write a list of “No’s”. No smoking, no sugar, no coffee, no fried foods, no citrus fruits, no nuts, no beer… the list went on.  If I were to be able to cure myself, I’d have to drastically alter my diet and lifestyle choices.
Guess what… Suddenly, I had my motivation.

When I started to tell him of my disease and I said the word incurable, I will never forget how he reacted to the word. He laughed!

Nothing is incurable,” he said. It’s all about balance.

I was instructed to take four herbal medications per day. One after breakfast, after lunch, after dinner, and finally one before bed. I was also given a mantra and instructions for a visualization meditation to practice with each consumption. I would literally have to change my entire lifestyle overnight… and I did. I summoned up every ounce of willpower that I had and I accomplished something I never thought was possible. Incredibly, I have been free from that “incurable” disease for more than two years now.

But after the three months was over, and the medicine was gone, I didn’t quite know what to do with myself or how to maintain the changes. Gradually I began to fall back into old behaviors. Two years later, I was smoking cigarettes again, I drink lots of coffee, and I don’t have nearly as healthy of a diet as I’d like.

So, why did it not stick?

I had the biggest motivation of all, and with that motivation and willpower I did accomplished my goal, but why couldn’t I stick with the changes once the three months was over? I’ll tell you why.
Because relying on motivation and willpower alone is not sustainable.


I have a new motivating factor now. My husband and I want to start a family, and I want to be a healthy vessel for my child. However, what I don’t want is for nine months or a year to roll by just to fall back into these old patterns. I want to build sustainable healthy habits that will stay with me for life, which is why I began this pursuit.


Here is a bit of what I have learned so far..

1. Motivation is most often temporary. Diets, response to a crisis, or even the curing of a disease are all temporary pursuits. In my situation, as soon as I had achieved my goal and the three months was up, I began falling back into unhealthy patterns. I realized that, in order for the changes to be sustainable, I needed to build a lifestyle, not just a phase.

2. Willpower is a finite resource. This is important to understand. Everything we do uses willpower, not just in relation to what you’re trying to accomplish. Everything from making breakfast, to running errands, to having an argument with your boss ALL depletes willpower. Removing so many things overnight was a shock to my lifestyle, and it took every ounce of willpower to do it. Which leads me to my next piece of advice…

3. Only implement one new habit at a time When you have an idea in mind of the changes you’d like to make in your life, you have to ask yourself: What is ONE habit that I can implement that will start the ripple effect for more healthy habits?
“A ‘practice’ implies a discipline of acting in a certain way over and over again—consistently. It is not action by fits and starts, or even an appropriate response to a crisis. Rather, it is a way of operating day by day, in big issues and small, a way of behaving that is also a way of being.” – Nathaniel Branden

Weaving these lessons into the present…

The first part of my new pursuit is to build a Sustainable Morning Routine. I read recently that a morning routine is simply a consistent stack of positive habits that properly sets the day in motion. I used to start my day by waking up, making coffee, putting on a funny show, then aimlessly I would try and decide what to do that day. This approach made me extremely susceptible to distractions, both internal and external, and was very bad for productivity.

Now, every morning I have a consistent routine. Before I make coffee, I do about 12 minutes of yoga, 10 minutes of meditation, then I write in my journal. Each of these habits I began implementing one at a time, but morning yoga was the catalyst that created the domino effect for my other habits. I discovered that after yoga, my muscles were awake and my posture was better, making a seamless transition into meditation. As I meditated, I became aware of my thoughts which sparked the words for my journal.

No matter what healthy habits you choose to integrate into your life, remember to set guidelines and stay consistent. I even created a daily habit tracker to keep an eye on my progress and help me stick with it.

Some final pieces of advice…

Embrace Micro-Behavior techniques.
This is the practice of implementing gradual changes, to get around the initial resistance to something new and uncomfortable. Don’t front-load a new pursuit or practice with too much information and high expectation. Try not to overwhelm yourself. The accumulation of small successes is a great way to build momentum. Little changes can lead to big things.

Learn and adapt as you go. There is no one-answer-fits-all solution here. Experiment and play with different techniques to find what works best for you.
Also, don’t be afraid to fail. Failure is very useful, and is the first step to learning. Remember, you cannot fail unless you try.

And my last piece of advice… celebrate each and every success along the way!

Stay tuned to learn how I finally kicked smoking cigarettes

after 15 years without breaking a sweat!

Kara Shepard-Poat
Operations Manager