Want to Ditch Your Worst Habit?
April 14th, 2014 by Katie Morton
Photo credit: JD Hancock
When my Year Without Wine came to an end in December, it just happened to come during a chaotic and uncertain time. This long winter dragged on…cold, dark, and frenzied, peppered with illness upon illness, and storm after storm. As I struggled to balance a new, extensive freelance writing workload on top of old obligations, frankly, I came up short.
I’ve been asked by a few readers how it’s going, now that the year is up. How is it going now that wine is back in my life? On the one hand, generally speaking, life is grand. No period of time in anyone’s life, even when the going gets rough, is all bad. The basics of my life – family and friends, creative projects, an innate sense of joy and wellbeing – are so amazingly good.
But to cut to the chase: yes, I’ve had glasses of wine in an effort to soften the hard edges of my life, and more problematic for me, I’ve absolutely been using wine to dull the guilt of eating foods I wouldn’t normally eat, and to eat more than my body needs.
Just this week, I made myself pasta alfredo and wolfed it down in front of the TV, something I wouldn’t have allowed myself to do had I not dulled my conscience with (not one) but TWO cold, crisp glasses of pinot grigio. I poured that second glass as an excuse to have a second bowl of pasta, which I surely didn’t need!
As I approach my fortieth year on Earth, I’m once again confronted with a bloated, toxic, tired body whose appearance I’m not crazy about. I’m not killing my exercise goals. I don’t consistently feel “ON” and connected and inspired like I did when I was abstinent. Yet total abstinence isn’t the goal for me, and it never has been.
“Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance.”
– Benjamin Franklin
The goal all along has been – and is – to not waste brain space debating whether to have that second (or third!) glass of wine on a work-a-day basis, but to enjoy it as I please as a social and celebratory lubricant. To me, special occasions like an intimate dinner over a bottle of wine or a tropical vacation punctuated by coladas and daiquiris are the stuff of life.
But having more than one glass of wine on a regular old day, when I consider the big picture…it’s detracting from my life.
It’s Human Nature to Seek The Middle Way
I’ve long been interested in the Buddhist concept of The Middle Way. Neither characterized by over-indulgence nor ascetic restraint, The Middle Way is a happy, balanced approach. It takes tremendous effort and self-knowledge to control impulses and ignore cravings – not to the point of abstemious gloom – but in a way that still allows for earthly pleasures.
This is one of my great challenges in life: to find The Middle Way, to stop the pendulum from swinging back and forth between total hedonistic pig outs and complete abstention, to settle somewhere in that happy, pleasurable, and healthy middle.
“One is happy as a result of one’s own efforts, once one knows of the necessary ingredients of happiness: simple tastes, a certain degree of courage, self-denial to a point, love of work, and, above all, a clear conscience. Happiness is no vague dream, of that I now feel certain.”
– George Sand
Anders Ericsson, the Florida State University psychologist who showed via his research that the finest violinists had practiced over 10,000 hours, says, “You don’t get benefits from mechanical repetition, but by adjusting your execution over and over to get closer to your goal.”
Abstinence is relatively easy for me, I realize, after going a year without wine. But now it’s time to practice some more, in a slightly different way. I have to tweak my approach to get closer to my goal of The Middle Way. It’s sticking to that one glass daily that’s trickier for me, and so that’s where I’m going to focus my next challenge.
Join me for a FREE “Ditch Your Worst Vice” Challenge
Starting on Tuesday, April, 15th, 2014, I invite you to join me in a challenge to Ditch Your Worst Vice. (You can call your own challenge whatever the heck you want, based on the terms you define for yourself.)
Personally, I’m embarking on a Year With Wine With Caveats. I’m going to embark on a year of wine drinking in the spirit of the Buddhist principle of The Middle Way. There will be plenty of caveats, and if I’m being honest, probably plenty of wine, but within the following set of rules:
1. Wine for Longevity
On a day-to-day basis, just a regular old day, a dinner-at-home kind of day, I may have a single, 5-ounce glass of wine, which is recommended by some cardiologists for longevity. While a glass is an allowance, it’s certainly not a requirement.
This rule is really the point of the whole “challenge” aspect for me, what this whole “Year With Wine” is centered around, even though I know I will sometimes go weeks without indulging this allowance at all. Last night, I poured a third of a glass down the drain because I didn’t want it. The simple act of allowing myself is often enough to take away the charge, that desperate grasping, the need to rebel.
But the hard and fast rule is this: no more than a single, 5-ounce glass of wine on a regular day at home.
2. Solo Working Lunches
I will occasionally take myself out to a working lunch while I pair food and wine, one of my greatest pleasures. I will enjoy, at most, one lunch per week out at a restaurant to treat myself when my schedule and budget allows.
3. Social Drinking
I will drink socially, whether that’s at weddings, at dinners out, at holiday parties, on vacations. Granted, as an almost-40-year-old ‘burban mom, these are all special occasions. I would guess that over the course of a year, it probably averages out to a once-per-month social occasion.
Want to Join Me? Here’s How
1. First, decide what behavior you want to change.
Pick a vice, any vice. It might be a habit you want to overcome, like overeating, eating foods that harm your body, or a lack of healthy foods; abuse of Facebook, email, or internet surfing; smoking; a destructive relationship; a lack of exercise. You might need more sleep, or maybe you need to have more fun and adventure in your life.
Okay, so some of these aren’t exactly vices, but choose what behavior you want to modify and how.
2. Decide how long your challenge will last.
If this is a behavior you’ve had an epic struggle with, you might start small with a handful of days or one or two weeks to start.
If you’ve already experimented with breaking your habit, or you’re just plain fed up with an old behavior and you want to give a YEAR a try, well, then yippee-ki-yay, mofo. Do it!
3. Will there be a list of rules, exceptions to the rules, or other caveats?
It’s possible that rules and exceptions could make your challenge harder because it offers wiggle room and can create needless loopholes. (“Wait, I said I could eat cake on special occasions. Does Groundhog Day count??”) Choose wisely.
I wouldn’t change my Year Without Wine for anything. There was one rule: no alcohol. Period. No wiggle room. It was an amazing experience. My year as a teetotaler is what prepared me for this more difficult challenge of seeking The Middle Way. I wouldn’t be able to jump in with a “one-glass” challenge had I not gone a year wine-free already.
Be honest about where YOU are and what you’re ready to tackle. If you aren’t sure, try a challenge for a couple weeks and see where it takes you.
4. To get clarity on why you’re doing this, journal the answers to these questions:
What do you have to lose by continuing to indulge in your vice; what’s this undesirable behavior costing you?
What do you have to gain by changing your behavior; how might your life change for the better by taking on this challenge?
5. Email me!
If you want an accountability partner, just Email me at Katie@theMonarchCompany.com and let me know what your challenge is and how you’re doing. Feel free to share your victories with me so we can give you due credit (an important component of habit change), and to let me know about your stumbling blocks; I may be able to help.
If you’re on the fence, email me. No judgments here. Failure is the only way to learn, so if you have doubts you can succeed, that’s a great sign you should jump in, experiment, and see what happens so you can tweak, adjust, learn and grow.
And finally…coaching packages! Check out the link to my new services page. Want free updates? Sign up for my newsletter, below.