How to Know When It’s Time to Break a Resolution

Self on 12.31.12
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Photo: Hanz Gerwitz / Creative Commons

I wrote a post a few months ago on becoming an early riser. While I still stand by the tips I provided to help others achieve that goal, I have since had to jettison the idea that consistent 5AM wake-ups are a tenable goal for me.

Since then, a few things have happened to show me that it was time to ditch the resolution. Anytime a conflict reared up -- I got sick, we traveled, I had overwhelming deadlines – in other words, life happened, I found it to be absolutely punishing to get up that early.

So what’s the big deal? Well, for one thing, my pride. I was proud to be an early bird, and I had pretty much bragged about it in a public forum. I like to be honest, and so here I am, announcing a failure. But I’m nothing if not helpful, so I’d like other people to learn from my failure to stick to a resolution.

Look for What’s Better

When a resolution that we feel is important seems out of reach, it’s time to do a post-mortem so we can learn what went wrong and do better next time. First, ask yourself why you wanted to achieve this goal in the first place? Hone in on what it is you are really after. There might be an alternative means of achieving your goal that you need to consider.

For me, my early wakeups felt like insurance that I would be able to launch my business successfully. Getting up early would give me time to work undisturbed. I had this idea in my head that I’m too tired, too lazy, and too distracted to work in the evenings. But now that early mornings are out, I needed to reevaluate the possibility of working at night. And indeed, this is what’s currently working for me.

If your resolution feels like a flop, there is probably another way to achieve what you’re after. Think about ditching this resolution and finding another one that will give you the same results you seek. If some part of your resolution isn’t working, think hard about where you can find potential for improvement. You might even consider methods that you’ve rejected in the past.

What Are Your Obstacles to Ditching Your Resolution?

Sometimes, we have sentimental attachment for how we think things should go. I had definitely romanticized the idea of being an early riser. As a natural night owl who has felt a little bit maligned for having that tendency, I tend to think of early birds as go-getters. I had attached some level of pride to thinking I could ditch my natural tendencies and join the illustrious ranks of people who spring out of bed while it’s still dark out and beat their chests like Tarzan, ready to swing into action.

So I got overly vested in 5AM as my wakeup time, ultimately to the detriment of my real goal: getting work done on my business. It doesn’t matter whether I get the work done at night or in the morning. It only matters that it gets done. So I'm doing it!

Is there something about your current resolution that you’re emotionally invested in, or that you’ve romanticized? Is there another way you can achieve this goal that might not seem as sexy, but that would be effective?

It’s time to move things out of the way that aren’t working and make way for the successes coming your way. Happy New Year!

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