Update: Goal Achieved!
This is a simple goal: Don’t drink for 30 days.
I really like craft beer and scotch – the peatier and stronger, the better. But I realized recently that it’s become a habit of mine to have a couple drinks every night. Instead of something to be had on social occasions or even just rarely at home, they’ve become part of the routine.
I realized a long time ago that anything that becomes habitual gradually loses its novelty. The amount of raw enjoyment you get out of it decreases due to the law of diminishing returns (and tolerances, and dopamine levels, and other things). Eventually, you’re just doing the thing on autopilot.
That’s not such a good thing with drinking, as it’s:
- Not healthy for you
- Not cheap – especially when you’ve outgrown your college tastes
So my current challenge is to simply cut alcohol out of my life for 30 days. Right now, I don’t know whether or not I aspire to be a person that doesn’t drink – I see nothing wrong with it (in moderation), and I quite like the taste.
But I do want to reset the act of drinking back to the status of “Fun thing I do once in a while” instead of letting it continue to be a habit.
This page is my public commitment to that goal. On the sheet above, I’m tracking whether or not I drink each day for 30 days – starting on July 5, right after the holiday. I’m also tracking the difficulty of abstaining on each day, and there’s a notes column I’ll use occasionally if I feel the need.
As we’ve learned, every habit consists of a cue, routine, and reward. Strong habits also include a craving that tends to build over time.
To change habits, we’re really trying to change (or eliminate) the routine – our behavior.
Changing the routine can be accomplished in a couple of ways:
- Eliminating the triggers for the habit
- Changing the reward to something that satisfies the craving
Crucially, what you’re craving might be different from what you think. Charles Duhigg illustrates this in The Power of Habit; when examining his habit of grabbing a cookie in the middle of the workday, he realized the main reward he was craving was a break from his work and some social interaction. The sugar rush and taste were less important. So he changed his routine to cut out the cookie without removing the social interaction.
I’m using a similar strategy to start. I realized right away that eliminating the triggers would be near-impossible; my triggers are either the time of the day (after work), or social situations – which I’m not going to avoid.
However, I can replace the rewards with something I like nearly as much. So, for now, I’ve got some sorta-kinda fancy root beer in the fridge.
Soda isn’t healthy either, but it’s way cheaper and I NEVER feel like having a second one. So it’s a good stopgap.
Gotta have something on the line!
I took on this challenge on a whim, as a friend of mine told me he was going to do it during July and I wanted to join him. As a result, I didn’t have time to finish the liquor I still have in my cabinet, and since my current thinking is that I want to drink occasionally (rather than stopping altogether), I’m not going to pour it all out.
But if I fail even once during this challenge, that’s exactly what I’ll do.
Additionally, I’ve once again bet Martin $100 that I’ll finish the challenge successfully. And, of course, if I fail I’ll have to display it publicly here.
But I won’t fail 😉