A few weeks ago I came across this very question on Quora. In full, it read:
How can I start doing things in moderation?
I have an addictive personality and when I do something, there is no moderation. I’m either all in or not at all.
Example: I won’t watch a TV show unless I’ve started from Episode 1 of Season 1. Then, I’ve been know to spend an entire day watching 12 episodes straight through. (kinda why I’m afraid to start watching Lost)
This lack of moderation applies to all areas of my life: work, hobbies, drinking, etc. (thankfully I’ve been smart enough never to do drugs).
1) Should I try this whole moderation thing out?
2) How the hell do I do it?
Moderation is a challenge to most humans, but self-control is something that you can learn over time. Just as perfecting something takes time in order to make it a habit, so does the art of moderation.
In my experience, I’ve been able to reduce the frequency of certain ‘addictions’ by setting guidelines and rules. An example of this is something I did a few months ago, when I forbade myself from eating chocolate for an entire month. It was a challenge but I kept reminding myself of the benefits, such as, saving money and consuming fewer calories.
A habit or addiction that you recognise as detrimental or unproductive has accompanying positive attributes. For conventional addictions (such as alcoholism, gambling or smoking), the harmful aspects are well-known (as are the benefits that come from abstaining), but for more personal habits, you need to work out what the positives and negatives are for yourself.
1) Learn to recognise the harmful aspects of the activities that you habitually engage in so you can show yourself why you need to change.
For instance, with the TV show example, they may be that:
- You’re wasting extended periods of time
- You’re not socialising with family or friends
- You’re not getting enough sleep
- You’re being physically inactive
2) Set daily time guidelines for certain activities. For example:
- Only watch 1 hour of TV per day maximum
- Go for a week without consuming any alcohol/chocolate/etc…and then 2 weeks, and then 3, etc. In time, you’ll reduce the frequency of your habit
- Limit the times you can check your Facebook, for example, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays you can check only after work, not before
- Only buy a treat from the vending machine every second Friday
- Have financial goals, for instance, “I’ll spend no more than $30 on lunches during the week.”
3) Realise that most things aren’t going to disappear. You’ll be able to do them again, many times, in the future. For instance:
- If you have a DVD TV series collection, there should be no rush to watch it all. Think of prolonging the experience as part of the excitement
- If you have a habit of browsing the internet late at night, remember that the internet isn’t going anywhere. If you come across something interesting, bookmark it for another time
- Keep an ‘I would like to do’ list on an online tool such as www.workflowy.com to keep a record of everything you’d like to get through, but don’t necessarily need to do immediately
4) Don’t settle for second-best
- For example, don’t eat a bar of chocolate, just because it’s there. Instead, think of your favourite brand of chocolate and limit yourself to one square of that per day
5) Don’t castigate yourself when you fall off the wagon. For example, many people who fall off the wagon when they are dieting give up for the rest of that week, and tell themselves that they’ll start again on Monday. Instead:
- Remember that we’re not robots, and that we will have moments of weakness. Know that the next moment to get on the wagon again is not next week, or next month – it’s immediately after
6) Make your goals public, or tell close friends or family about them to reinforce your agreement to yourself. For example:
- Tell close friends or family to remind you about your financial or health goals when you’re out shopping or dining
- Join public events like Dry July (www.dryjuly.com) or the 21 Challenge (www.21challenge.com.au) to give up a habit over a set period of time, and raise money for charity in the meantime
What would you add to this? What do you do to achieve your moderation goals?