The top 5 things I learned only drinking water last week
Following my unexpected experience of spending a week without a car in Atlanta, I realized I could learn from being out of my comfort zone.
What other things could I experiment and eventually gain from?
After writing down a list of 50 ideas, I decided experimenting should be one of my resolutions for this year.
I didn’t put any crazy items on that list.
My goal isn’t to radically change my life in a week but to create long-lasting habits.
My experiments are only 7 days for now because I want to start small. I think it’s a better way to make new habits part of your every day life.
One of the first experiments I decided to tackle was to drink only water for a week. I wanted to get rid of sodas, liquor and other beverages, and see the impact this will have on my body, my brain, and my life.
Here’s what I’ve learned.
As a frugal person, saving money is the first thing I noticed during my experiment.
I usually keep the leisure of going out for the weekend, which already limit my expenses. I rarely eat out for lunch, and prefer bringing my own food to work. It also helps me keep a healthier diet.
When I do eat out, I usually feel embarrassed when the waiter gives me the look after ordering “just water”. Even if it’s someone I will probably never see twice in my life, I feel like I should order beer or anything else I would have to pay for.
The good thing about having a clear goal in mind is that I didn’t feel bad that time. Having purpose can help you go through a lot of things, small or big.
Peer pressure isn’t that bad
A waiter giving me the look is one thing, but the opinion of my peers was what I was really afraid of.
During that week, I had to go to a farewell party as one of my friends was moving to Portland for his new job.
Some of my friends were surprised as I was drinking water. I usually enjoy having a couple of drinks with them. One of them asked me “why are you not drinking?”. All I said was “I am! Just water though.” I was trying to be funny, hoping it would discard the question. I eventually had to explain myself.
I told them it was something I’ve been willing to try to see the effect it could have on me.
Surprisingly, they understood and didn’t put too much pressure on me. I really thought some of them would say “Come on man! Drink with us!”
Do we finally understand you don’t have to drink to have fun? Maybe we’re just becoming old and boring!
You’re going to make mistakes, and it’s okay!
In the realm of experimenting, I’ve been working on my sleeping habits. Waking up early clearly had an impact on my first mistake, which happened only 24 hours into this experiment…
That day, I woke up so early that I had time to have a full breakfast rather than my usual smoothie, granola bar and banana ritual during my hour-long commute.
I was in a good mood sitting at my kitchen bar. Next thing I know, I was holding a mug and finished half of the orange juice in it before realizing what I was doing! I guess I wasn’t fully awake.
The next Sunday, I was celebrating Epiphany, a moment I wanted to share with my loved ones in Atlanta. To feast, I bought a King cake and some pear cider, which I drank. Again, I only realized what I was doing once my glass was empty and my excitement went down.
Besides these two small incidents, I decided to go through with the experiment. It didn’t phase me at all. It’s ok to make small mistakes, as long as you don’t use them as an excuse to call it quits.
It gets harder when booze is free
To redeem myself from my early mistakes, I thought I should push myself for an extra couple days. I know that’s something my Muslim friends would do when missing days of Ramadam because of sickness or else.
Imagine being at a sales meeting in a nice hotel for the next three days. I was very happy to finally see the mobile app I built for Southwire in action, but being in such a nice setting without taking full advantage of it was tricky.
Being out of my daily routine made the experiment even more challenging. I’m somewhat adventurous, but my routine helps me accomplish more. The slightest change in my environment can have a big impact on my willpower.
Sticking to water around my friends was fine because it was only for a couple of hours at a time. Having to pay for the drinks was also an extra step preventing me from failing. But spending three days in a four-star hotel with free drinks was way harder.
Don’t underestimate my sense of pride though. The outcome of completing my experiment was big enough to keep me in line.
Since working out is part of my routine, going to the hotel gym also helped me with being less distracted.
I’ve since been working on limiting the impact of external factors on my productivity and well-being. Reading “Search Inside Yourself” and meditating has been a big part of it.
Physical benefits and losses were limited
This was actually the one thing I was the most interested in: Would this experiment impact me physically or mentally?
I didn’t expect a life-changing outcome, but I thought I’d see a more significant change.
Nothing magical happened. I now realized seven days is too short of a period for anything drastic to happen.
It did affect my willpower though. I could tell I was craving more crappy food, but it’s not like I completely gave up on my healthy diet.
I’m now thinking about doing this experiment every now and then. Next time, I will try to extend the timeframe to see if creates a bigger impact.
Try to push it just a little longer!
I actually did extend this experiment, by a tiny bit.
After pushing through Monday and Tuesday at the sales meeting, I eventually went for the third day of the event.
After nine days without drinking anything but water, I intentionally gave up since I already went further than expected. I spent the last night of the event drinking quite a bit. I guess this was my reward.
Since then, I’ve realized that sometimes the internal psychological reward of doing something can be great enough to accomplish anything.
Playing against yourself to improve your understanding of your own brain can be a powerful way of increasing your performance
-David Rock. “Your Brain at Work”
Conclusion: Getting hooked
This resolution of experimenting more during this year is something that is so personal that I’ve wondered if I should blog about it.
Is my personal life that interesting that it can bring value to someone else?
The answer is if it can help at least one person, then it’s worth it.
Sharing my experiments on this blog also helps with my other resolution of writing on a regular basis.
Even though this experiment didn’t have a big mental or physical impact on me, the rewards of completing it were far greater!
When you gain increasing mastery over something that matters to you, you activate a status reward, at least when compared against your former self
-Tan, Chade-Meng. “Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace)”
This reminds me of the research done by Nir Eyal in his book Hooked: How to build habit-forming products. Nir describes the four phases of getting hooked:
- Trigger: Nir describes it as the first step to bring users in. For me, my way to imprint a new routine is by picking a new experiment every time I’m done with the previous one. Using Momentum Habit Tracker also helps me trigger the action when the app sends me a daily notification.
- Action: For Nir, making it easy for a user to take action is key. For me, it’s about getting things ready the day before. If I want to go workout, I’d get my workout clothes out and visible. If it’s about only drinking water, I’d get rid of any other beverage I have in my fridge.
- Reward: Nir mentions how Behavioral Psychology explains the drive for rewards and the motivation created by an endless search for stimulus, either external or internally derived. For me, the internal search for stimulus is predominant.
- Investment: In marketing, we often talk about customer lifetime value (CLV). In his book, Nir talks about the power of user’s commitment. For me, it’s about sticking to my resolution. The more we are invested into something, the harder it is to quit. I know I’m becoming depend of the reward.
Are you trying to experiment? Leave your comments!
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