Already break your New Year’s resolutions? Good, here’s why you should keep breaking the rules

Go ahead, drive a shoe. Why not?
Go ahead, drive a shoe. Why not?
Image: Reuters/Krishnendu Halder
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It’s still just mid-January, and that means every warm body with opposable thumbs is harboring a new year’s resolution. Your co-worker wants to up his workout routine from three days a week to five. Your best friend has pledged to be more assertive. The man who changes your oil wants to take up the guitar again.

We’ve all made such resolutions, and—confess!—we’ve all broken them, too. Why? When it comes to changing their habits, most people have the right goal and the wrong methods. Self -improvement doesn’t come from making more rules for ourselves to follow. It comes from breaking rules, with a purpose.

Sometimes creative types (and yes, we are all creative types, in some sense) need to let it out. Take the edge off. Walk on the wild side. We do this to be free, to feel alive. We do this because our freedom-loving souls clamor against the regulations of rule-bound structures.

The tech industry is not exempt with its many do’s and don’ts. There are validation procedures, multi-party schedules, and hard deadlines. There are time differentials between development and idea commercialization. There are industry delays in QA and sometimes even limits in areas traditionally meant to give designers more rather than less subjective freedom, as in UX or front end unicorns who exist in name only, forced to play one role instead of many. All of these boundaries flood poor creative souls who should be given periodic liberty from all such stop-gaps.

That’s right, controlled acts of revolution are especially good for creative types. Recent studies prove the benefits. One conclusion reported in a study entitled “Breaking Rules Makes You Seem Powerful” found that those who broke social rules of politeness in their bids for control were often seen by others as deserving the authority they sought. A more recent Time article, “Why It’s Great to Have a Stubborn Child,” comes to similar conclusions. The kids who flout expectations turn out to be more successful than those who timidly refuse to shake their fists at the status quo every once in a while. In fact, a Washington Post article about recent Harvard study–“Beware the Rule-Following Co-Worker”—suggests that employees with a passion for the status quo and all its rules are more apt to hamper rather than maintain a company’s standards.

When taken to extremes, rule-breaking may be a good way to make enemies and wind up in jail. But, in moderation, a bit of everyday effrontery wakes up the creative sensibilities. If done immaturely, breaking rules can downright change your life!

That’s right. We said “immaturely.” Wanna fight about it?

The joy we derive from breaking rules is immature intrinsically. It also precipitates good chemistry: the evaporation of responsibility from life. The same venting process temporarily inoculates us to adulthood and helps us to forget all those everyday soul-killing concessions we make to taxes and premiums, minimums and protocols—all the stuff creatives must learn to shed and do without every so often.

Easiest route to the destination? Do stuff wrong! That’s right. Break some rules. Trust us. If done well, you won’t be packing your desk. If done expertly, you might just be in for a roomier office.  Why will breaking some rules work for you? Because the opposite of creativity lives in regulation, and by setting yourself momentarily free from rules you might not know are holding you back, your creativity will soon be taking flight. In 2018, set yourself free from some old and moldy constraints—don’t take on new ones!

So, where to start? The best rules to break are the oldest ones, the first ones. These are the rules with sunk tendrils gulched into the soil of the superego. They are a garden of summer snap please and thank you.

Find and extirpate these gaudy weeds first.

Color outside their lines. Refuse to stand behind their yellow lines. Find out where their lines start and queue up, boldly, somewhere else. Wait a while, a line will surely form. In the meantime, sit so close to your TV that your breath glosses a spectrum of pixels on the screen. Walk outside in your underwear. Wear your shoes with untied laces. Wave down an old van moving too slowly in front of your house. Ask the driver for candy. Go to the public pool and jog a few laps around it. Ruin your appetite for every meal. Buy gum and watermelon. Eat only the seeds. Swallow all the gum. If still hungry, remember…pie is your friend. Go swimming immediately after eating one. Wear your shoes. Ignore those who remembered you from your earlier jogging stunt. Back home, ride a box of loose scissors down the stairs. Go outside. Find a toad. Lick the hell out of said toad. Back inside, taste old batteries. Let them clink inside your mouth like first time french kissers. Change into very dirty underwear. Call 911 to order yourself an ambulance. Take selfies with EMTs and embarrassing underwear.  Post indiscriminately. Stare at the sun. Walk into banks with your hat and sunglasses on. Drink beer before liquor as you read chain letter fine print in the ambient glow of twilight without your glasses–or better yet, wear a stranger’s pair of contacts. If a storm brews, put on your tinfoil hat. Taunt Mother Nature loudly. Make a cross-eyed face. Hold it. Hold it as long as you can. Hold it until your face stays that way. Wear that crumpled face proudly for the rest of your short, irreverent life.

Tomorrow, write it all down. The day after: throw it all away.



Make 2018 the year of your greatest irreverence and see what happens. You’ll start 2019 as a braver, more creative, and healthier you.