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Tag: addiction

Practice “Not Even One”


On this blog, we’ve shared many tips on the following topics:

  • How to use technology more mindfully.
  • How to exercise more control over how and when you use technology in order to be more productive, focused, and creative.
  • How to enable your use of technology to be more aligned with your intentions and goals.
This article is about what to do when none of the suggestions seem to work.

I’ve often expressed the importance of being hopeful rather than hopeless about our ability to change, but if we’re honest with ourselves, there may be some situations in which we can’t change in a positive direction — no matter how hard we try.

In those moments, it’s always tricky to know when to keep trying, when to change our approach, or even when to accept that there may be some things we can’t change. In those cases where we believe we can’t change something, it may be best to accept that fact.

With regard to behaviors that are harmful to us and not susceptible to change — perhaps because they’re addictive — it may be best to adopt a strict “not even one” approach.

The Mantra

I picked up that term from Joseph Goldstein, who is a very well-known mindfulness practitioner and teacher. He’s been teaching mindfulness in the U.S. for about 50 years and was one of the first Westerners to study the discipline in the East and bring it back to the West.

He once shared a personal story about his struggle to quit smoking when he was younger. What he decided to do was repeat “not even one” to himself as a mantra any time he found himself slipping back into smoking. As he was unable to stop after one cigarette, he adopted the saying to counter his cravings. He would train himself to have the phrase come to mind so he could remember his commitment to not having even one cigarette.

According to his story, that worked for him. He acknowledged that, to a certain extent, his mindfulness and skill enabled him to stop smoking.

How to Use It

It can be difficult to identify when one of our behaviors is so extreme, harmful, or resistant to change, mindfulness, or other approaches that we need to adopt a cold-turkey or “not even one” counter.

As you engage in your mindfulness practice, you should try to develop your capacity for self-awareness and self-understanding. This way, you can exercise your own judgment about which behaviors to keep working on even if they are very resistant to change and which behaviors you should accept as being too resistant or harmful to change.

In the context of this blog, it’s more about your connection to technology and how you use it. Try adopting the “not even one” mantra in relation to a behavior that isn’t particularly healthy for you.

This is something for you to investigate. You have the ability and power to decide what’s best for you.

You might decide that you need to stop engaging in personal text messaging while you’re at work and adopt the “not even mantra” for that purpose. That’s just one example of a way to tailor the solution to what feels suitable to you. No one can dictate from afar what you have to adopt in terms of an all-or-nothing policy. That may not even be what you need. You have to do what works for you. 

Although my overall approach is to empower people to make changes in how they use technology, there may be times when the best solution is to stop engaging in it and recognize that’s OK.

There’s nothing wrong if that’s the case for you. It’s simply a matter of acknowledging the situation in a mindful way and responding with wisdom.

Note: I don’t claim to be an expert on addiction — I’m far from it. On our podcast, we’ve interviewed Judson Brewer, who is an expert. If you worry that any of the ways in which you interact with technology really qualify as addictive behavior, I would strongly suggest that you check out the Centre For Mindfulness. There are programs there, and while Brewer has courses that address particular types of addiction, his work (all of which is mindfulness-based) targets addictions of various kinds.

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