I originally came across the idea of abstainers vs. moderators on Gretchen Rubin’s blog The Happiness Project. Understanding this distinction has really helped me in setting goals for myself that are realistic. The idea is that some people are moderators; when project.com/happiness_project/2012/10/back-by-popular-demand-are-you-an-abstainer-or-a-moderator/” they are making a change, such as giving up soda or swearing off trashy gossip websites (both things I’ve tried to do), they are most successful when allowed to indulge every once in a while in the temptation for a Coke or a time-wasting celebrity news story. When a moderator tries to deny herself that pleasure forever, she is much more likely to lapse and fail at the new lifestyle change. Abstainers, on the other hand, are more likely to succeed when they give up something altogether. When an abstainer tries that soda “just this once,” it is much harder to go back to her goal.
According to Gretchen,
You’re a moderator if you…
– find that occasional indulgence heightens your pleasure–and strengthens your resolve
– get panicky at the thought of “never” getting or doing something
You’re an abstainer if you…
– have trouble stopping something once you’ve started
– aren’t tempted by things that you’ve decided are off-limits
I know that I am an abstainer. I found it less tempting to completely give up soda and sugary drinks for an entire month than to try to limit myself by having one only when I’m out to dinner, or only once a week. As another example, I can easily stop myself from buying Oreos at the grocery store, but if there is a package at home, I devour them in two days, unable to eat them only in moderation.
Once I realized this fact about myself, I’ve been more successful when making changes in my lifestyle (although not all have been successful). I also applied this to my new spending and savings plan. I believe that by limiting myself to a strict limit for spending will be more effective for me than trying to stay within a budgeted amount for a variety of different categories. By not allowing myself a miscellaneous/entertainment category to justify unneeded purchases, I will be more likely to stay within my spending goals.
That’s what (I think) will work best for me. For the moderators out there, it may be more effective to allow some indulgences in your monthly budget. You can read even more about abstainers and moderators here.