In this interview, Simon Chaplin talks about his success around his tiny wellness step that he took since he heard me speaking at a few events and mastermind groups.
In a nutshell, these are some of the benefits Simon has experienced after making this one tiny change…”The benefits have been massive, really. I’ve got more energy. I’m more efficient, I’ve got more mental capacities. Because productivity has gone up, I am now less anxious, less worried about things and less thinking about things that could go wrong. My wife said I was less grumpy. And I also feel that myself”…
Watch our video interview right here or scroll down to read his story.
Hi, Simon. Thank you so much for joining me this morning. I know that you’ve implemented quite a few things, and I’d like you to share what feels like one of the most significant, tiny, easy steps you’ve taken towards your well-being. Do you want to introduce yourself and then tell us about what that tiny step was?
Hello, Celynn. I’m Simon Chaplin and I run an accountancy practice in Peterborough. I’ve got a team of 22 people sat outside, and then in addition to that, I run mastermind groups for accountancy practices and accountants to help them be the best they they want to be. So it’s all about inspiring, challenging, and supporting them.
I first met you, as you know, about three years ago, and over the course of seeing you speak in a number of environments, but predominantly through those mastermind groups, I’ve made a number of changes in my life around diet and a drink, and alcohol in particular.
Tell us about the alcohol.
Yes, the alcohol was an interesting one. So, I would classify myself as an above average drinker. Nowhere near the alcoholic level, but I’d easily have a bottle of wine on a Friday night and a Saturday night, or a glass of brandy before bed, occasional beers at the pub and that sort of stuff.
So the beginning of the year and for the last five years, I’ve done dry January. So, I’d allow myself to have a glass of wine and something to drink New Year’s day dinner, and then the rest of the month I would go all the way up until a local beer festival that my dad was involved in, and at that beer festival would be where I broke basically, and then went back to the normal routine, the normal drinking habits.
This year I got to the end or got sort of two thirds of the way through January and decided that I was going to go a bit further. I was going to go forward to the half term holiday, which is in February, where I was going on an all-inclusive holiday. And I had a moment where I sat in an airport at 5:00 in the morning, fry up, and I was about to order a pint of lager, which is the stereotypical Simon holiday fry up and beer before you get on an airplane.
And I said to myself, “Do I need that there really?” And ultimately I said, “No.” And then I had my first holiday without an alcoholic drink since I was 14, 15, or however old I was. So what’s that? 30 years ago.
I came back off that holiday, thoroughly enjoyed it, and then went for a hundred days, which was the 11th of April. Did that. It went to six months and I’m currently working on 365 days.
So am I correct in understanding, this is the first year of your adult life that you have chosen not to drink alcohol?
Correct. Yes, completely. It would be the first year since I was 12 or 13 that I have chosen not to consume an alcoholic drink at all.
Okay, so before I ask you about any challenges, what have been the benefits? What have you felt?
The benefits have been massive, really. I’ve got more energy. I am waking up, generally speaking, on a Monday morning with much more energy. I don’t have the same level of guilt that I had. Again, it wasn’t a massive level of guilt, but always on a Monday morning you wake up and think, “Well, if I hadn’t had that drink on Saturday night, if I hadn’t been there and did this and did that, then I would’ve had more energy to spend with the kids on a Sunday morning, more time with the wife.” I’m more efficient because I’m not going out. I’ve got more mental capacities.
It’s really strange how, when I was drinking, in the loosest sense of the word, but you would be thinking and planning that drinking session. It’s a bit like when I used to smoke, you would think, “Okay, I’ve only got two cigarettes left, I need more cigarettes, and I need to go to the shop to get more.” So, it’s a consuming aspect where you end up thinking about it all of the time in order to make sure that you’re never without a drink or that drink is coming on Saturday.
But dominantly, it is more energy. And also, I think because productivity has gone up, I am now less anxious. So I’m less worried about things and less thinking about things that could go wrong.
And then the final one, which Sally, my wife, shared with me – this is months ago now, it was about three / four months in – she said I was less grumpy. And I also feel that myself.
Well, those are incredible reasons. So are you saying that you’re not even going to consider drinking again? I’m somebody who drinks very moderately, but I am quite attached to my glass of champagne or a glass of wine. Would you ever change and just include one or two drinks, say once a week?
Well, it’s open to debate at the moment. That is the classic. I was very attached to getting home on a Friday night, put the kids to bed, sit down, fire on glass of red wine. Birthday, glass of red wine, glass of champagne. It was very habitual. Sunday dinner, roast beef, glass of Bordeaux. That was the way it went.
Would I consider going back? Mentally, I’m still challenged by that. I know that I will not have a drink until at least the 2nd of January, 2020, because I’ll have done the 365 days. Then, on occasions, I can say to myself, “Okay, well, just the odd glass won’t hurt.” Yeah? It’s just, it’s like the odd cream cake won’t hurt. The slight challenge with that for me is that once you start having the odd glass of wine, does it then turn into the odd two or three glasses of wine? So mentally, I’m playing with that.
The real challenge though, the flip side of it is, you say, “Okay, why do you want that glass of wine? What is the benefit? What is the advantage of having that glass of wine?” And then you come back to, well it helps me relax. It helps me be more sociable. And you could come up with all these constructs around drinking alcohol, which, without being too blunt about it, is all a load of rubbish.
If I want to relax, I can find another way of relaxing. If I want to be more sociable, I choose to be more sociable. If I need something to do, then I’ll go and do something else.
So I could easily see how I can get to the 2nd of January, mentally go, “Okay, I might have a glass just to see whether I like it or not.” But the reality of it is, I’m not convinced the advantages of drinking outweigh the advantages of not drinking.
Another brilliant one is sleep. So, get to bed at night and have a full night’s sleep. Don’t have to get up to go to the bathroom. It’s not disturbed.
Alcohol impacts sleep for sure. Even if you don’t have a lot. And mostly, we’ll fall asleep, because it can make you drowsy. But then you wake up between 1:00 or 3:00 AM.
And what about weight loss? Because if you cut out all those calories from alcohol, have you lost weight?
To start with, definitely. At the beginning, I was quite disciplined around diet as well as alcohol. I more or less lost best part of a stone in just eight weeks. Not massive weight reduction.
I know and I’ve got an app on my phone where I measure the non-drinking days, and I’ve saved around 140,000 calories this year by not drinking. And if you convert that into weight, it’s somewhere like four and a half stone in weight. It’s a massive … plus the cash saving as well.
However, I know that I have replaced that to a certain degree with sugar. So I am rewarding myself with the cake, the donut, because I’m not at a bottle of wine last night. I’m not in a glass of wine last night. I deserve a chocolate pudding or something like that.
So that’s one of the cognitive biases that we have as humans. I mean, we’re exposed to about 200 different biases that impact our behavior and that one could be linked to loss aversion. We don’t like to lose out. So when we perceive that we haven’t had something, it’s almost like a justification for something else. But Simon, the fact that you’re aware of it, that’s the key. Awareness is what facilitates different choices and outcomes.
This has been such a rich conversation and I’d like to keep the interview short, so I’m going to pause us here, even though I want to keep talking about this, because it’s a really important topic. Thank you for being an example of somebody who definitely is not grumpy. I mean, the times I’ve worked with you, I almost feel like you have had a drink. You are so giddy and positive and on top of the world. So you completely have made me relook the idea of, “I have to have a drink to socialize and be less stressed.” Because I’ve got to know somebody who is the opposite of that.
Any last thoughts for somebody who was in the shoes that you were in that may consider making the change that you have?
Yes, the fundamental question really is whether you’re lying to yourself. So I know that I could rationalize the point of the pub with the friends, the glass of wine at lunchtime on a Sunday with the roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. I would rationalize that and say, “Okay, well, I’m not, I’m not addicted. I’m not an alcoholic. I don’t need that drink, but I’ll just have it anyway.”
And the challenge of not doing it and then the learnings that I took from not doing it, being back in control, breaking that habit, was an experience that I would recommend to everybody. So if you don’t go for it, even if you don’t go for a year, do a month. Don’t do January when everybody else is doing it. Don’t do February because it’s only got 28 days in it. Do a challenging month, the month with your birthday in or the month with a holiday in or something like that. And then just see what that provokes emotionally for you, and see what you can learn about yourself.
Well, that’s a challenge, and you know what? I’m going to accept it. Which month, I’ll let you know. Thank you so much, Simon.
Please share this story with anyone else who you feel would benefit from reading about Simon’s experience.
Do you have a story to share? I would love to hear about it. After all, we all feel more courageous when we are championed! Leave a comment or direct message me and I will be in touch.