On December 31st, 2014, I made the decision not to drink alcohol for the next 365 days. Why? Simple — because I gave 2015 a theme: “The Year of Fundamentals”. Once I made my choice, the rest was easy. Drinking was not a fundamental. In fact, it made it hard for other fundamentals like health and personal finances.
Full Credit: the yearly theme idea was from Ramit Sethi, a successful author and entrepreneur in New York, who is big into coaching personal finance and behaviour change, among other things.
I’m a big believer in something I like to call “little wins” and “little losses”. The theory behind this is that over a long period of time, lots of “little wins” will add up to a BIG win. The same goes for little losses. Little loses could be anything from pressing the “snooze” button in the morning to skipping a workout you scheduled, or not taking a risk that could have opened up a new opportunity for you. In the moment, it might seem like there’s almost no consequence. A lot of people choose to watch Netflix instead of reading a book, right? But if these things happen too often, they begin to add up. Before you know it, these little losses start to define you.
Drinking, to me, was a “little loss”. I hated the “ups and downs” that came as a result of one too many beers. A hangover might take me out for a day, but it could take weeks for me to recover mentally. It made my mind fuzzy, halted any momentum I had, and threw me out of my “zone” entirely.
So I did it — I stopped drinking.
I immediately regretted it.
“Why the hell did I do this?! I would have been better off stopping for a month, not a whole year! This is SO like me to set a ridiculous goal”
I don’t have a big problem with drinking, although telling people I was taking a year off certainly made that impression. It’s just that what I was trying to become — a world class entrepreneur — didn’t align with a hangover and wasting days away with a fuzzy mind. As it was the season of New Year’s Resolutions, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.
After a few weeks into the challenge, doubts came rushing in. One day, I was walking back from the grocery store, where I picked up some food for a party. And then I stopped. What was I going to do at the party? How would people react to me not drinking? Would everyone be playing beer pong, and I’d just be sipping a pepsi in the background? If it was only a little doubt about my choice not being right for me before, now it was in overdrive. I needed strength and resolve — BADLY or I would lose. I wasn’t going to let that happen.
As is the norm for New Year Resolutions, most are given up on, and no one would have blamed me if I did. That’s not the kind of person I am, though. A few days earlier, I met with Andrew Warner. He is the founder of Mixergy.com and someone I see as a mentor. Whenever I talk to Andrew, he always has a way of getting me to open up and be vulnerable. During our conversation, I was telling him about my yearly challenge, as well as some of the doubts I was having with entrepreneurship. Being who he is, he dug into my past and asked me about the times I felt most energetic. What was I doing when I felt this way? After wracking my brain a little, I told him that I felt best after lifting a heavy set of weights at the gym — I felt energetic and genuinely “powerful”. Andrew lit up. This was exactly what he was going for. He took a bracelet off his wrist and handed it to me. It was brown with about 25 beads on it. As he was handing it to me, he said it was something he called “True Mind Beads”. Anytime I felt low or had any doubts, I was supposed to say the word “powerful” a few times and spin the beads on the bracelet. The idea was to overcome my inner doubts using this mantra.
As I was walking back from the grocery store that day, I started to spin the beads. “Powerful, powerful, powerful”. It was simple and I looked a little funny doing it, but it worked. The mantra put me in my zone and the “what-if’s” and “but’s” just flew away. I got over the hump that day when I could have (and very well might have) easily given in. Drinking at that party wouldn’t have been a big deal; a few beers never hurt anyone. The problem is, it would have been OK at the next party, and the one after that. The hit I would have taken to myself and my resolve really would have been big. This would have been a “little loss” that had serious consequences down the road.
The rest of the challenge was a piece of cake. I successfully stopped drinking for 365 days and proved to myself that I can overcome my inner doubts and social pressures. Trust me, there is no better way to see for yourself the power that making a choice has. And Andrew’s True Mind Beads helped me get here.
Here’s what else I learned over the course of the year:
- Not everyone is going to support your decision. And that’s OK. But I do tip my hat to those who did. Seeing others get inspired and wanting to take up their own challenges made my resolve even stronger.
- “Little wins” are not that little. I’ve been extremely consistent and organized this year. A single hangover could have affected me for weeks, and I simply didn’t have time for that.
- Before 2015, when times got tough, I may have thought: “I’ll just have a few drinks tonight and let loose”. Instead, I was forced to face my emotions head on and get to the root cause. There’s no hiding from yourself.
- Trust your gut. Your heart and the gut aren’t connected to your brain for a reason. It’s never failed me yet.
As I look back now, I’m glad I completed this challenge. I had a successful year of focusing on the fundamentals and leaving the rest back in 2014. I even saved a little money, too. Will I drink again in 2016? Yes, I probably will. There are times when having a drink with friends or coworkers is fun and harmless. It’s also much easier to just take a swig than to explain to everyone why you’d rather not (although having a cup full of “rum and coke” can spare you of that explanation). Sharing a glass of wine with my girlfriend on Valentine’s Day is also much nicer than a cup of apple juice. With that in mind, I will still carry around what I learned with me. I enjoyed the consistency of a sober mind; and next year, there will be other things to enjoy, maybe even something better.
What will 2016’s yearly theme be? I’ve dubbed it “The Year of Relationships”. The idea is to strengthen the existing relationships in my life and to seek new, mutually-beneficial ones. I’ve taken an estimate amount of money I would have spent on drinking last year ($25/week x 52 weeks = $1300), doubled it, and created a “Relationship Account”. I will use this money on anything that helps support next year’s theme.
Stay tuned for the report on 2016!