Generally speaking, I am told that a good goal is one that is specific, measurable, and achievable. For instance, a goal like “I will exercise for twenty minutes three times a week” is evidently more likely to produce long-term changes than a goals like “I will get in better shape” or “I am going to exercise more.”
But sometimes, we just don’t know enough to set a specific performance goal yet. We require new skills, new knowledge, or a better understanding of our abilities. “Start with a plan” is actually a really difficult thing to try when it comes to moderation, because how do we know what kind of plan to make if we’ve never moderated successfully?! That’s why I think it makes sense to begin with ‘learning goals,’ which focus on gaining more understanding and practicing new skills. We can start sketching in some rough performance goals, but put off fine-tuning them until later.
A “learning goal” might be something like “figure out my triggers,” or “track my drinking behavior,” both of which involve making observations and keeping records. It’s a good place to start, but at this point, I have a handful of experiences from the last ten months to draw from. I am gaining a sense for which tools travel with me, which appear to take more effort, and where my greatest challenges probably lie. So this is my first trip where I am going to tentatively try some performance goals, but I’m going to start with a wider target range of behavior and a generous allowance for mistakes. I’m aiming for a solid, sustainable trajectory toward healthier travel habits, so setting myself up for success is important.
What I’m thinking is a list of travel-moderation goals that look something like this:
- Observe and learn more about what works for me, especially in common travel/vacation situations (this has been the only goal I’ve had for previous trips…it’s a great place to start)
- Measure, count, track, and continue to keep records on my behavior (oh yeah, and I’ve been doing this one too…I take tracking for granted these days!)
- Enjoy plenty of abstinent days, adding up to at least a third of my vacation days (that’s a lot fewer than my “at home” habits, but seems like a reasonable starting point)
- Aim to avoid more than two drinking days in a row
- Aim to keep “immoderate” days within the 3-5 drink range
- Practice stress-relief techniques (of the alcohol-free variety) while on vacation, especially during evenings.
- Practice abstaining in hotels/motels (something I have practiced before, and which is very challenging for me…more on this later)
This whole process is similar to the one I went through when I first started trying to change my drinking habits, except the stakes are lower and I’m more able to think through all the angles now. Learn a lot, then try to practice new skills in environments where I think I’ll succeed, and keep learning and adjusting as I go. It’s worth reminding myself that, early on, I did these things while clinging tightly to my long alcohol-free stretches, and that was a key factor. I suspect that successful travel habits will similarly be tied to lots of abs, at least for me.
I’ll refine that list of goals again before I leave, which will help keep it fresh in my mind. What will actually help me achieve it, however, are the strategies and tools I’ll be practicing, which I’ll write about more in the next post(s).