I work with an English fellow named Chris – a tall and athletic young man aged in his late 20’s. Chris enjoys a drink after work on Fridays and epitomises the image of the English man who enjoys a drink. Last June he asked “I’m participating in Dry July – do you want to join my team?”. It turns out that Dry July is nothing to do with the weather but a one month challenge to abstain from alcohol and raise money for a good cause.
“Chris, I will have to think about that – no alcohol for a month, did you say? I’m not the sort of person who stops at the pub on the way home every day. Nor am I one of those Aussies whose idea of a big weekend means drinking a case of beer at a Sunday afternoon barbecue.
I enjoy the occasional glass of wine or a gin and tonic. And there is nothing like a cold, refreshing beer after a busy weekend working in the garden.
The thought of giving up alcohol for one month seemed rather pointless. Anyway, I had a Toastmasters changeover dinner to attend in July and I wanted to enjoy a drink with my meal. Instead of joining Chris, I avoided the challenge and assuaged my guilt by donating generously.
During July I would ask Chris how he was coping with the challenge. “I feel really good, lots of energy.” “Surely you must feel left out at parties and with beer and drinks?”, I asked. “Not really – my friends are supportive. We are supporting a champagne breakfast on the 1st of August to celebrate”.
My curiosity overwhelmed me. I decided to have my own Dry August – a commitment to no alcohol for 30 days. You must be wondering how I coped.
The first week wasn’t difficult – I drank water with my dinner. Occasionally I would have some fruit juice. There were no strong cravings – I wasn’t exactly a smoker giving up a 40 cigarette day habit.
By the second week I was thinking how much I would enjoy a glass of wine, on the Friday evening to relax after a busy week. Instead I would drink water or cordial.
By the third week I was noticing positive benefits. First of all, my weight was dropping. I was sleeping better at night. Since stopping alcohol, I also stopped drinking coffee after dinner – a habit I acquired to counteract the sedative quality of alcohol.
In the fourth week I was thinking what it would be like to have a cold beer. It just so happened that on the 1st of September I went for drinks after work with my team at North Sydney’s Firehouse Hotel. As I raised the cold glass of beer to my lips I drank deeply. I felt let down … the beer was alright…but when I finished the drink I felt lethargic – I felt knocked around. Alcohol was over rated! Those of you who don’t drink must be smiling and thinking – I told you so.
So what had I achieved in August? In 30 days I had established a habit of abstaining from alcohol. In 30 days I had improved my life.
You are probably thinking about many habits you would like to break, or new habits to make. Maybe you have tried to make a change previously and gave up after a few days. Does this sound like breaking a New Year resolution? Having the discipline to persevere is hard and your inner self is screaming “why are you torturing yourself like this?”
Running your own 30 day challenge gives you permission to try something based on a short commitment. After 30 days you can drop the habit if you feel it is not for you. Usually you will continue with the habit, or develop an improved habit leading to a higher level of living.
What are some of the challenges you could try? There are challenges requiring you to stop doing something, and there are challenges requiring you to start doing something. How about reclaiming some time for yourself by not watching Television or not logging in to Facebook. New habits to try could be a lunchtime walk of 30 minutes, meditating or getting up early. How about stop buying takeaway coffees and donate that money to your favourite charity?
A 30 day trial is highly manageable. You wont feel overwhelmed by the though you need to follow this habit for the rest of your life. No commitment is required after the 30 days. It is like the cooling off period after signing a contract. You decide then to adopt the new habit or forget about it. A 30 day trial is simple – you perform your chosen activity every day without fail for 30 days.
Get a page from a calendar, put it up where you will see it every day and add a reminder of your goal. As you complete each day with the new habit, cross it off with a marker pen. You will see your progress and you will see a target date when you can choose to drop the habit if you choose.
I can imagine how you will feel during the 30 days - the first week you should be enthusiastic –the second week some resistance - third week acceptance of the habit. By the fourth week you should feel empowered – the habit is established.
In closing I want to challenge you to choose a new habit to establish in the next 30 days. Make a calendar to help you – write out your goal – add a picture – and cross off the days as you work on your habit.
In the next 30 days you can change your life.