I just found a really neat little model to explain why I’m finding this period of abstinence so darn easy – and why I found it so difficult before.
In Jim Kwik’s Superbrain course, he covers something called “The 5 levels of Transformation”. I’ve changed it to elements because levels make it sound like they work in a specific order but my experience suggests they interact with each other in different ways and the order doesn’t really matter.
Giving up alcohol is a behaviour change. The requirements of the change are simple. Stop drinking.
However, making this change when the other 4 elements are working against you makes it much more difficult. Many of us make the mistake of addressing our behaviour change at this basic level and it sets us up for failure.
Are you capable of doing it?
When it comes to drinking, this seems like a daft question. Obviously I am capable of not drinking.
But, when it comes to habits like drinking, we’re usually asking the wrong questions about capability.
More appropriate questions in my case would have been:
- Do I have the skills to self-soothe when I’m stressed?
- Do I know how to short-circuit my cravings?
- Do I have the skills to identify and deal with my emotions?
In the old days, I didn’t ask any of those questions and I hadn’t done the work necessary to build the capabilities I needed in order to make drinking irrelevant.
Abstinence felt stressful and I had no useful strategies for managing that stress so I eventually caved in. Now I use the Wim Hof method to stretch my ability to weather discomfort. I write when I get twitchy and I’m practicing yoga and meditation. Building these capabilities has removed the necessity for a ‘crutch’ on which to lean when life got too hectic or I felt overwhelmed.
3. Beliefs / Values
All behaviour is belief driven
The beliefs we hold about ourselves and the behaviour will dramatically alter the chances of success. As they say, whether you believe you can or believe you can’t, you are correct.
This element is about gaining clarity around the beliefs you hold about yourself and the behaviour you’re changing. Having a really clear reason for doing it is vital too – and that has to align with your values. So in addition to examining beliefs, it’s important to consider how your values align with the behaviour change.
In my previous attempts to tee-total, my beliefs and values were at odds with the behaviour change.
My beliefs about drinking?
- I need it to relax
- I’ll be boring without it
- I won’t fit in without it
- I’ll have nothing ‘for me’ if I give it up
As far as values went, I simply didn’t value tomorrow over today and hadn’t made any effort to examine what my core values were and how I could tie this particular change to something that genuinely mattered to me. This time I’ve done the groundwork to understand my core values. That’s one of the reasons this blog exists and it has provided far more stability and motivation than I could have imagined.
As far as my beliefs go, there have been dramatic changes there too. These are some of the beliefs I hold now:
- Drinking wastes my time and holds me back
- I can relax in many different ways
- It’s ok if my peer group shifts and I end up fitting in somewhere else
- My work and my blog are ‘for me’
This is probably the toughest nut to crack. If we see ourselves a particular way, the behaviour becomes attached to the identity. So, giving up smoking is much tougher for someone who still refers to himself as a smoker. Someone who calls himself a non-smoker from day one and associates with that identity is likely to find the behaviour change easier to manage.
I referred to myself as “alcohol dependant” so I became “the alcohol dependent drinker who is trying not to drink” Ugh! Talk about an uphill battle.
When I started Big Happy Life, my identity shifted. I became somebody intent on making a difference in my own life and, hopefully, the lives of others. I became “someone who has no time for drinking because I need my energy for other things.” SO much easier to say no from this position.
It became about using my habits to create positive flow in my life, building strength and resilience and investing in my mental and physical health. Although I’m still working on a lot of it, my identity is firmly rooted in that space so making changes in that direction is way easier.
If I had to choose one element that’s had the biggest impact, I’d definitely choose Identity.
It’s funny. In the old days, when I committed to any period of tee-totalling, I took all alcohol to the loft so I wouldn’t be tempted. Shaping the environment to minimise temptation is a great way to help reduce the chances of a ‘slip’.
This time, the kitchen is teeming with left over alcohol from Christmas and New Year. There is even an open bottle of wine in the fridge that’s been there since New Years Eve. I’m going to have to Google whether or not wine goes off – it’s not a problem I’ve encountered before!
Also under the heading of environment is the influence of peer groups. In my case, finding people online who value similar things and are working to create their dream lives has given me immense focus and greater passion – again, making drinking a mere inconvenience for which I have no time.
How much easier might it have been?
I wonder whether my earlier efforts would have been more successful if I had realised I needed to pay attention to all of these things.
It ended up happening quite organically in my case but it took years. It would be an absolute dream come true if this post saves someone the pain of having to work all this out the hard way.