Do you make New Year’s resolutions?
They’re fun to make, but hard to keep.
In fact, about 80% of resolution-makers abandon their resolutions by mid-February.
But one thing I’ve learned from my happiness project: keeping resolutions is a key to happiness. If you want to make a positive change in your life, you need to figure out what to resolve, and how to keep that resolution.
1. Most important: Be specific. People often make abstract resolutions: “Be more optimistic,” “Find more joy in life,” “Aim high.” Instead, look for a specific, measurable action. “Distract myself with fun music when I’m feeling gloomy,” “Watch at least one movie each week,” “Make one cold-call each morning” are resolutions that will carry you toward those abstract goals.
2. Write it down.
3. Review your resolution constantly. If your resolution is buzzing through your head, it’s easier to stick to it. I review my Resolutions Chart every night.
4. Hold yourself accountable. Accountability is the secret to sticking to resolutions–and if you’re an Obliger, it’s absolutely critical. That’s why groups like AA and Weight Watchers are effective. There are many ways to hold yourself accountable; for example, I keep my Resolutions Chart. Or you might want to join or launch a Happiness Project group. You might hire a trainer or a coach or exchange daily updates with a friend. Accountability is one reason that #1 is so important. If your resolution is too vague, it’s hard to measure whether you’re keeping it. A resolution to “Eat healthier” is harder to track than “Eat salad for lunch three times a week.”
5. Consider making pleasant resolutions. We can make our lives happier in many ways. If you’ve been trying to get yourself to do something challenging, with no success, try resolving to “Go to more movies,” “Read for two hours every Saturday,” or whatever resolutions you’d find fun to keep. Seeing more movies might make it easier to keep going to the gym. It’s a Secret of Adulthood: If you want to ask a lot from yourself, it helps to give a lot to yourself.
6. Consider giving up a resolution. If you keep making and breaking a resolution, consider whether you should relinquish it entirely. Put your energy toward changes that are both realistic and helpful. Don’t let an unfulfilled resolution to lose twenty pounds or to overhaul your overgrown yard block you from making other, smaller resolutions that might give you a big happiness boost.
7. Keep your resolution every day. Weirdly, it’s often easier to do something every day (exercise, post to a blog, deal with the mail, do laundry) than every few days.
What else? What are some strategies you’ve discovered, to help you stick to your New Year’s resolutions?
Every year, popular resolutions include aims such as “Spend more time with family,” “Help others in their dreams,” and “Fall in love.” These resolutions demonstrate the importance of relationships to our happiness. Being happier can seem like an elusive, complicated goal, but by taking little steps, you can change your life for the happier. I am still amazed by what a difference my happiness project has made in my happiness.
Gretchen Rubin is the author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller The Happiness Project—an account of the year she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific studies, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier—and the recently released Happier at Home and Better Than Before. On her popular blog, The Happiness Project, she reports on her daily adventures in the pursuit of happiness. For more doses of happiness and other happenings, follow Gretchen on Facebook and Twitter.
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