In a candid moment between U.S. President Barack Obama and U.N. Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai, Obama mentioned that he quit smoking cigarettes and jokingly revealed that his wife, Michelle Obama, may be the reason why.
“I hope you’ve quit smoking,” Obama said as he greeted Kiai at the end of an event at the United Nations. “I haven’t had a cigarette in probably six years. That’s because I’m scared of my wife.”
Obama has made it no secret that he struggles to stay on track with kicking his nicotine habit. He has even publicly admitted to slipping up and having a puff from time to time during his time as President.
“I've said before that as a former smoker I constantly struggle with it. Have I fallen off the wagon sometimes? Yes. Am I a daily smoker, a constant smoker? No,” he said in 2009.
But, in the end, it seems the first lady was most influential in helping him quit. In a 2012 interview, she said that the President had to remember his daughters, how much they admire him, and how much he didn’t want them to pick up his the potentially deadly habit.
"I know that his ability to ultimately kick the habit was because of the girls, because they're at the age now where you can't hide," she said. "I think that he didn't want to look his girls in the eye and tell them that they shouldn't do something that he was still doing."
And what Michelle Obama said is what so many people should consider when they try to motivate the people they love to overcome an obstacle or reach a goal: focus on the positive. By highlighting how President Obama quitting smoking could positively impact the entire family, she did just that. Dean Anderson, a behavioral psychology expert, suggests that these three strategies can help anyone kick a bad habit:
1. Listen more. Talk less. Let the person talk him/herself into making healthier decisions, rather than you trying to talk him/her into it.
2. Lead by example. Do it for yourself and let that person see how the lifestyle change helped you. Or, in the case of smoking, show how not smoking is benefitting you.
3. Make it fun. People are more motivated when they are motivated by pleasure and fun. Appeal to your loved one’s need for gratification.