On Quitting a New Year's Resolution


In 2014, I made a new year's resolution to write here in my blog every day. Or maybe it was every weekday; I can't recall which. Whatever the stipulations were, you can see that I didn't keep them. What you can't see is how much this failed exercise made me think about writing and prioritizing my time. These are the lessons I gathered from considering, pursuing, and quitting my resolution.

Every day, you should practice what you care about.

The more I wrote, the better I became at writing. Maybe no one else noticed it, but I did. The writing I did for work, for pleasure, and for no reason at all came easier. I expected it to; that is one reason I decided to take on this challenge in the first place. These small gains made me think about other hobbies and skills that I want to improve upon.

What if I took just a few minutes every day to practice my flute, go rock climbing, or learn Ruby on Rails? What could I accomplish with an extra 15, 20, or 120 minutes a day honing a craft?

I didn't keep writing in my blog like I planned to, but I recommitted myself to spending time practicing the things I loved to do. In 2014, I returned to working out about 6 days a week. I rode my bike on every sunny day that offered me the time and flexibility to do so. I started playing and performing music again. I got a side gig teaching Tae Kwon Do, where I can continue studying the martial art and how to teach it.  I even went rock climbing a few times, for the first time in years. Making time to work on the things I loved made me feel fulfilled and energized.

I challenge you to make a similar re-commitment to your own favorite activity. I bet you can find time to spend 30 minutes each week -- or better yet, each day -- to do something you really care about.

You should be ok with changing your goals to fit new information.

I've always been good at pivoting on the fly (some would argue that I'm too good for my own good). I thrive on experiencing new situations, and I love change. But all of us, even my fellow neophiles, can get too hung up on our previously determined goals and ideas. Sometimes we refuse to let go when we really should.

The decision to write in my blog every day sounded like a good one. But I realized that I wasn't getting the return on my time investment that I needed to continue. I just had too many other things that I wanted and needed to do, and writing, for me, was taking up too much of my time. So I decided to let the challenge go and only write when I really, really wanted to.

Maybe you think I made a mistake when I quit writing every day. Maybe I would have learned more through perseverance. I think quitting the resolution was just as much of a right decision as starting it. It was an experiment that had taught its lesson and needed to end.

What goal do you need to let go and move on from?

Time is all we have. Don't waste it.

It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it.
— Seneca

Sometime during 2014, I stumbled across a BrainPickings article on Seneca and busyness, and its truth hit me like a Roman temple dropped on my head. Whatever you do, don't let it be a waste. Make it mean something. Don't complete a goal just for the sake of ticking off the checkbox next to it.

Am I saying that the resolution to write every day was a waste of my time? No, not in the grand scheme of things. But as soon as I realized that pursuing it was a misuse of my time, I needed to stop -- otherwise my time would be wasted.

So, ta-ta writing resolution. And hello 2015, when I resolved to abstain from any alcohol consumption for a month. I'll let you know how that has been going (surprisingly well, thanks for asking!) in a future post.

photo credit: slolee via photopin cc