Quick backstory: I’m not the New Year’s “resolutions” type. I think it’s pretty silly to use the changing of the calendar to start half-assedly working towards some arbitrary goal, especially one that is year long. I’d rather set more reasonable attainable goals in shorter time spans and spread them out consistently throughout the year.
That’s what I thought, anyway. Until I realized I wasn’t doing it.
Instead, I found myself spending more time daydreaming about doing those goals and the perceived benefits of them, rather than actually, y’know, doing them (sound familiar?).
That’s when I found myself this year, very ironically, setting a goal for myself for 2016. My goal? Set goals.
Each month I’m trying to do something different and new, something that challenges me to get outside of my comfort zone. I want to try to drop bad habits, and also develop new good ones. I also don’t want to try to do it all at once, so 1-2 goals each month is the right number to keep me focused.
I wanted to start easy, so my January goal was only two weeks, and that was to not eat meat. Excluding all meats except seafood, I ate a pescatarian diet each day for 14 days. I’m not trying to be vegetarian any time soon (I constantly get distracted by the thought of a steak dinner at Beef & Bottle), but I knew I had developed a mentality where meat had to be not only present in every meal, but the feature of each meal too. My 14 days as a pescatarian helped me shake that mentality just a bit. It forced me to consider meals (both at restaurants and at home) that did not have beef, pork, chicken or turkey. That was a slight-but-noticeable change in the planning and preparation of meals that had become entrenched and automatic. While I haven’t made it a point to avoid meat in the time since, I have been able to appreciate significantly more meals based on greens and grains.
That brings us to February. My goal last month was a daily one, and a two-sided goal at that. I decided to meditate for at least ten minutes each day, while also not having a single drink of alcohol the entire month of February. Meditation is something that I’ve wanted to make a consistent practice for a while now, and just never made myself do it. To compliment that, not having any alcohol would allow myself to make the most of my clarity-driven mission.
I’ll tackle my assessment from each sub-goal and then as a whole. Context: Yes, I completed each goal.
I have never thought I had a problem with alcohol. I don’t mean that with any sense of irony, exaggeration, or pretension. I’ve just never been the type of person who felt the need to push it to the limit when it came to drinking.
Not that I haven’t done my part to help sustain the prevalence of booze. I went to a big state college for five years, lived in a frat for two of them, burned my meager paychecks at the uptown bars (RIP Dixie’s) when I moved to Charlotte, and have been a huge fan of the more recent craft beer explosion.
But again, these challenges are all about taking me out of my routine.
If have any problem with alcohol, it’s that I’m too quick to drink just because that’s what everyone does at the places I hang out (familiar, again?). Just like eating meat, drinking booze at the bars / a networking event / a sporting event / at the airport / at home / basically everywhere except work has become just something I do, because that’s what I do.
February would have its challenges, too. Right away, the Super Bowl was a huge test. I would be watching it at a friend’s house where I would likely be the only person not drinking. Initially, I thought I would give myself a pass for that day because seriously, the local football squadron was playing the big game! After a week of not drinking, however, making it through the game was relatively easy. Full disclosure:
Not one person even asked me about it.
I suppose the most awkward feeling I had was when I would be at a place like Hattie’s, the Birdsong patio or Legion Brewery for #instabeerup and someone would ask my why I’m not drinking. It’s a question that’s tough to answer without looking self-righteous, but the answer that I always gave is the same answer I’m writing here: To challenge myself and step outside my comfort zone.
More so than not drinking, meditation for ten minutes everyday I felt made a tangible impact on me. This is something I’ve always wanted to make a habit, but it’s always been so hard to keep it consistent. I would do a few minutes for a day or two, forget to do it for a day, then be done. I would attempt the same feat a few months later to similar results. In February, I had not only done a ten minute session each day, but by the end of the month, I was finding pockets of ten, fifteen minutes to meditate. After a morning shower, at lunch, after work and before bed were the most popular times for me.
After of month of building a meditation habit, I feel that it’s something that still takes a long time to really feel the full effects of, but in the short time I did I felt that it was a great way to take a mental break from an easily cluttered day. Especially working in social media, information comes fast and it’s absolutely necessary to be able to take mental breaks and sort through everything that’s coming at you.
I’m looking forward to continuing to grow with meditation and mindfulness, I have a feeling there’s a long path ahead. As nor not drinking, well, I like having a quality local craft beer, or a glass of bourbon, whiskey or scotch, I won’t lie. And a night filled with one, two or a few of those, and some good company can make for a fun night. I won’t be cutting that off any time soon, but I will continue to be more conscious about drinking when I really don’t want to, or feel is necessary.