Yesterday, while I was buying something at the store, I noticed the woman ringing me up had a giant Aum symbol tattooed onto the top of her right hand and wrist. It was an unusual placement. I asked her if I was correct that was an Aum symbol. She smiled, confirmed it was so, and added, "I got the tattoo when I decided to quit smoking. This is the hand I would hold my cigarette in. Every time I reached for a cigarette or even thought about smoking, I would see the Aum symbol and it would remind me that I didn't really want to do that anymore." I asked if it worked. She said, "I haven't smoked in three years."
For her, the Aum symbol reminded her of her spiritual commitment and of all the positive, life-affirming thoughts and goals in her life. Having that reminder at precisely her place of weakness was essential in helping her overcome it.
I thought this was a brilliant and effective practice. There's a couple of chapters in The Bliss Experiment that recommend similar strategies, though perhaps not quite as inventively imagined as this! It speaks not only to the power of meaningful images -- if spiritual images don't do it for you, something like personal like a snapshot of your family might -- but how small interventions can produce big results. Often times, we just need a little nudge here and there, delivered at just the right moment, to entirely change a destructive behavior into a positive one. It doesn't always have to be big, dramatic, difficult, and painful. Small changes can make a difference.
You needn't get a tattoo (unless you want!). But think of some small reminder you can bring into your life -- a picture, spiritual icon, favorite saying, affirmation, or whatever -- and try placing it somewhere you'll see it. For example, if you're trying to lose weight, maybe put a positive saying or photo of you when you were skinnier (or even, I suppose, of someone else whose body you'd like to emulate) on your fridge. One person I know who wanted to lose weight put a mirror on her fridge, just to remind herself what she currently looked like, though I'm not certain this was the optimum approach (thought it did seem to work for her). Ideally, try to choose an image or reminder that reinforces a positive direction or outcome rather than something that highlights the negative.
You'll be surprised how even small reminders of our positive goals can make a difference in our ability to achieve them. This is because, at the end of the day, even grand goals and plans require daily, minute-by-minute choices. The woman with the Aum tattoo used it to remind herself cigarette by cigarette and day by day to quit smoking. Over time, if we can win enough of the micro-battles, we'll look up to find ourselves victorious in the big ones.