We all have bad or unhealthy habits that we want to act upon.
My first decision in 2016 was to dramatically decrease my alcohol consumption, for various reasons, health being the first one.
To succeed in this kind of commitment, wishful thinking is not enough.
I found 3 approaches to tackle it. Of course, they can be used to deal with other habits.
So here they are.
Tim Ferriss Approach: cheat day
Tim Ferriss is a famous US blogger who recommends a diet called the slow-carb diet. This diet implies no sugar, no bad carbs such as wheat and no alcohol. To make this diet more psychologically sustainable, Tim advocates the cheat day policy. Every week, dieters pick up one day when they can eat and drink whatever they want, including sugar and alcohol. So for example, they are supposed to observe the diet rigorously, excepting on Fridays when they can binge on donuts, french fries and indulge with beer and wine.
Every week, dieters pick up one day when they can eat and drink whatever they want, including sugar and alcohol. So for example, they are supposed to observe the diet rigorously, except on Fridays when they can binge on donuts, french fries and indulge with beer and wine.
The cheat day approach has the advantage of enabling you to periodically satisfy your cravings/desires while being clean most of the time. For example, you may have one cheat day a week, or one every other week.
But this approach may be counter-productive if:
– you set the cheat day frequency too high (e.g. twice a week is probably too much)
– you get obscenely drunk on your cheat days
Benjamin Franklin Approach: constant moderation
Benjamin Franklin had one principle: eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation. During most of his adult life, he strived to respect that principle. So every day, he would do his best to drink responsibly, and every evening he would track how well he did in that regard.
This approach is the most flexible and allows people to adapt to circumstances. In parties where alcohol usage is a near-obligation, you can safely have one glass or two, without breaking the rule.
However, this rule implies constant vigilance and self-control. Every time someone offers you a drink, you must ask yourself « Is that going to make me drunk? Or not? ».
And sure enough, there will be some times when things will slip out of control and get ugly: « Well, I had 3 drinks. But I guess another one won’t hurt… »
JD Rockefeller Approach: hard quit
John D Rockefeller had an extremely disciplined life. John D never drank, never smoked and never gambled. Ever.
I believe his gigantic success (he’s the richest man of history, having amassed between 392 and 663.4 billion dollars) strongly stems from his extreme level of self-discipline. But I digress.
If someone offered John D a glass of alcohol, he didn’t need to think and evaluate options. Certainly, he would immediately reply something like: « I never drink alcohol ».
I believe this manner of dealing with habits you want to eliminate is very strong because it prevents cognitive fatigue by reducing the number of choices while maximizing success rate.
You just make the choice once for all, not every time you are tempted, or someone tempts you. Because at this time, you just remember your prior commitment and simply say: « No ».
This approach is not for everyone.
- It requires an extreme commitment
- It may yield frustration (especially at the start),
- It can make other people frown on you (What? No alcohol? Come on, what kind of boring person are you?).
On the other hand, other people may be impressed about your level of self-discipline.
And at the end of the day, you may also decide that you don’t give a damn about what other people think of you, as long as you operate in congruence with your best interest.
Each of these 3 approaches has pros and cons, and no one is better than the others.
What do you think of them, and what is your favourite? I’m looking forward to reading your comments!