I recently started reading a book called Super Thinking: The Big Book of Mental Models and it got me thinking. Mental models like “Critical Mass” can help us see patterns faster when applied to practical situations. So can we apply mental models to your quest to quit drinking alcohol?
Law of Diminishing Returns – when you go out for drinks, the goal is to have fun. If you look at fun like the profit you’d get from an investment we can apply this model. You could argue More drinks = More fun, but we all know there’s a limit to this equation. At a certain point the increased fun you thought you’d get by adding more drinks starts to go down. Going from 1 to 3 drinks might be a huge gain in perceived fun, but going from 3 to 5 won’t necessarily have the same impact as the initial few beverages. If anything, we know the dangers of “one too many”. The fun that’s returned to you, is diminished at a certain point.
Same goes with the social element of drinking. After the fifth cocktail party of the week, you’re likely not getting the same benefit from party four and five as you got from the second and third. Knowing how much effort to put in, to get the optimal amount out is key to having fun with fewer downsides. I’d suggest starting with zero drinks and you might just realize the potential for diminished returns isn’t worth the perceived increase in fun that drinking could bring to a situation.
Critical Mass – in physics the critical mass is an amount of radioactive material needed to create a chain reaction that is used to create energy through fission. As we add days to our sobriety from one day to two, one week to three, we gain momentum. It can be easier to stay sober if you have three years of sobriety, than if you only have 3 days.
You may also find that the more people who are sober around you, the easier it is to quit. One or two friends may not be enough to keep the whole squad sober, but the more people to support each other the more the group’s chances increase. Unlike physics, sobriety has very few exact numbers so your results may vary.
Minimum Viable Product (MVP) – when you’re building anything from a car to an app, it can be advantageous to start by building an MVP. Instead of a fully featured product that takes months to build, try building a product that only has enough features to be valuable. This minimal approach gives you faster results, because you can get your product to the market sooner.
How does this relate to sobriety? For me, the idea of “one day at a time” aligns perfectly with the MVP. Instead of planning how to stay sober for 10, 20 or 30 years, you focus on today. Need to break it down further, or find increasing pressure? Make your MVP smaller. Take things one hour or minute at a time. Once you’ve built a solid foundation you can focus on bigger goals. Taking it one day at a time takes the pressure off a huge project.
Much like the other advice I give, this shouldn’t be considered medical or scientific. While I haven’t had a drink in a few years, it doesn’t mean I am an expert, or that I use these specific mental models everyday to help me stay sober. If anything, quitting alcohol has given me the opportunity to clear my head and do some reading. Through this reading, I’ve been able to make my life a just a little better with every passing day.
My hope is that you can use these models, to help you change the way you think about sobriety and drinking. For more about Mental Models, check out the amazing Farnam Street Blog or checkout the book Super Thinking. The author Shane Parrish “helps you master the best of what other people have already figured out” in every element of your life.
Thanks for reading, for more information on Sober October you can read previous entries below:
#SoberOctober Day 20
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