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In previous lessons I've talked about PLANNING your drinking, and about OBSERVING yourself before and during your drinking.
The final step in the 3-step process is EVALUATION. This is where you look back at what you did yesterday or last week and learn from it. You take that data you collected while you were observing, and use it to strategize for the future.
There’s an important prerequisite for conducting an effective evaluation. You need to cultivate an attitude of acceptance, compassion and especially curiosity for yourself. This is in contrast to what’s probably your normal attitude of judgement and contempt.
Evaluation is a matter of identifying what you did, and figuring out why you did it.
Here’s a sequence of questions you can use in your inquiry.
1 - Did you have a plan in place for the evening?
2 - If not, why not? (Drop the judgemental self-talk - be curious)
- Did you just forget to do it? Maybe you can use the calendar on your phone so that doesn’t happen again.
- More likely you didn’t forget. The question becomes - what was the feeling that caused you not to plan?
- Maybe you’re just starting out with this process, and to make a realistic plan involves writing down a big number. The thought of acknowledging that you drink that much might invoke shame. So you avoid that shame by not doing the planning.
- Maybe you avoid planning out of sympathy for that future version of yourself who’s going to be constrained by the plan. You anticipate his experience of feeling constraint, or his disappointment if he breaks the plan. Planning brings up those uncomfortable emotions ahead of time, of time.
- This is good stuff to know about yourself, to see what emotions are driving your actions and inactions.
3 - If you had a plan, was it clear, realistic, and appropriate?
4 - If not, why did you make a half-assed or overly ambitious plan?
5 - If you had a plan, did you keep to it?
6 - If yes - how was it?
- What was easy about it, what was hard?
- What lesson or realization can you take forward into future situations?
7 - If you didn’t keep to your plan,
- When was the decision taken to break it? (In the moment when you had the drink. Or had you already made the decision hours earlier.)
- Did you break it deliberately with awareness, or unconsciously on autopilot?
- Why did you make that decision?
- What emotions were you experiencing?
- What was the one sentence in your brain that justified it?
8 - What can you learn from the situation?
9 - What do you want to do next? How will you make that happen?
There you have it, EVALUATION, the third of the 3 steps.
To summarize, the three steps are:
1 Plan your drinking. Decide today how much you want to drink tomorrow, being realistic about where you are on this journey. Be precise and specific. Write down your plan.
2 Observe everything you can about the experience before and during your drinking. What thoughts and feelings do you have? How does alcohol affect you? What about it do you actually enjoy, and what about don’t you like?
3 Evaluate: take a few minutes to look back at what happened yesterday and review. Drop your tendency to judge and be critical, and be genuinely curious. Did you have a plan? Did you keep to it? Why and why not? How can you improve next time?
In the next lesson you'll learn why and how emotions have such a profound influence on our behavior, and I'll explain how to manage them in a way where you stay in control. The more you consider yourself to be a rational and logical person, not influenced by emotions, the more you need this information!