It’s Friday: time to think about YOUR Happiness Project. This week: Start a Happiness Project for 2008!

Not long ago, I had an epiphany – happiness projects for everyone! Join in! No need to catch up, just jump in now. Each Friday’s post will help you think about your own happiness project.

January 1, the most inspiring opportunity for resolution-making, is just a few days away.

You can start a happiness project with just one resolution – some aspect of your life that, if changed, would make you happier. Or maybe you want to come up with five or six resolutions. Or maybe you want to do what I did, and have a different set of resolutions for each month of the coming year. Zoikes, I’m here to say — it really DOES make a difference. You can make yourself happier.

Two things are important:

1 – reminders. You need constant repetition to keep your resolution uppermost in your mind. Review a chart daily (that’s what I do), post a sticky note on the bathroom mirror, put it on your screensaver, or whatever works to have the resolution flash constantly before your eyes.

2 – accountability. You need to mark your progress. Give yourself gold stars, or a check mark on a chart, or email with a friend, or make plans to meet someone at the gym – whatever it takes to make yourself feel accountable for sticking to a resolution.

If you’re not sure where to start, consider focusing on your energy. Energy makes everything easier. So maybe you should resolve to go to sleep twenty minutes earlier each night, or going for a twenty-minute walk each day. No matter WHAT your life is like, you can probably manage to keep one of those two resolutions, and, research shows, it will have big happiness paybacks.

If energy isn’t an issue, working on strengthening your relationships. Draw closer to your family or make more time for friends. Bonds with other people is THE key to happiness, so taking steps in this area will give you a real boost.

As I’ve been working on my Happiness Project, I keep making the same resolutions over and over, and I keep backsliding, over and over. I comfort myself with examples of Tolstoy, Pepys, and St. Therese, all more elevated souls than I, who re-made the same resolutions throughout their lives.

Samuel Johnson, who repeatedly records in his diary his vow to “avoid idleness” and “rise early,” is another patron saint of resolution-makers.

I often think of his diary note: “I have now spent fifty-five years in resolving; having, from the earliest time almost that I can remember, been forming schemes of a better life. I have done nothing. The need of doing, therefore, is pressing, since the time of doing is short. O GOD, grant me to resolve aright, and to keep my resolutions.”

Just making a resolution probably won’t be enough to get yourself to 100% compliance. That’s okay. Small steps can mean big changes in happiness.

As I mentioned, along with all my tremendous stack of resolutions, I’ve made a new resolution: not to criticize the Big Man to other people. I’d love to hear other people’s resolutions – great inspiration.

Other posts you might be interested in . . .

  • Last year at about this time, I made a bunch of resolutions and posted them on a website called 43 Things. You can see my resolutions here:
    Looking back on that list, I see that I really only made significant progress on one (well, maybe two) of those 13 resolutions. (On the other ones, at least I didn’t regress.) It’s kind of sad, really. Although I’m heartened by some of what Gretchen wrote in the blog post. I suppose I’m in good company.

  • Debbie M

    Alex C., people usually resolve to do things they wouldn’t otherwise do if they hadn’t made a resolution. So making any progress at all is probably more progress than you would have made without having made the resolution and thus should be regarded as success.
    I have a resolution this year already, though normally I don’t: to actually do stuff. I read about doing stuff, learn skills for doing stuff, buy equipment for doing stuff, make plans for doing stuff, but I don’t get around to actually doing stuff as much as I’d like to.

  • I try to look at resolutions as commitments to myself to do the things that make me happy – all year, by the way; not just at New Year’s. One constant one is trying to get enough sleep by going to sleep earlier.
    Another one I just made is to finally take myself seriously as a writer. If I don’t do this, no one else will. But this could apply to anything, any kind of self-support and self-love you allow yourself – if you don’t give it to yourself, no one else will. If you don’t take your own happiness seriously, your life joy will never materialize.

  • I’ve just written a few posts about resolutions on my site. I want to do big things, like write my book, Start my charity, and I want to do small things, like sleep under the stars and cultivate a clothing style.
    One of my favorite resolutions is to (every month) go on an Adventure. A day trip to places i wouldn’t usually think to go to. With people I usually don’t get to spend time with.

  • I resolve to maintain a healthy lifestyle and continue progressing in my writing career from one milestone to another.

  • I’ve just resolved to start my own happiness project! And I love Rhys idea of an adventure per month – that’s definitely going on my list. 🙂

  • Anne

    I’ve devised a new resolution plan to get around what I’ve realized is my essential tendency towards inconsistency. Instead of resolving to do any single thing every day, I’m resolving to do one thing off of each of several lists every day. For example, I know I won’t practice yoga every day no matter how much I want to, so instead I’m resolving to do one of the following each day: practice yoga, run, go for a walk. The key for me is mixing up ambitious options and really easy options. If I’m really tired one day I know I won’t run or do yoga, but I can certainly take a short walk. This means I’ll still be doing something every day (which as Gretchen has pointed out is easier to stick to than more sporadic activity).

  • Kris

    I make resolutions every year. I typically accomplish/maintain about half of them. This year, however, is different. I made 11 resolutions and they’re much more specific than past ones. Instead of last year’s ‘exercise more’, this year it’s exercise four times a week for thirty minutes each time. I need specifics for it to work.

  • Recently I learned from some Billionair that instead of setting ‘Goals’ you better use the word ‘Promise’.
    That is an interesting thought don’t you think?
    Wouldn’t it be a great idea to promise to visit my site Now and many times in 2008? 🙂
    All the Best,

  • I totally believe in setting both goals, giving resolutions and going through the past year! I’ve just posted links to how to do this on my blog, somethings about my own resolutions (starting a page for my ongoing happiness project is one thing I’ll do next year!!!)! I like the idea of alternative things to do each day (anne) and to go on an Adventure each month (rhys), this goes well with my own thinking about planning ahead. I wonder what’ll do in January? Hmm…
    Here is my blog, please come and visit, I’ve written the post for hours now, hehe.

  • Oh, Happy New Creative Year to you Gretchen and all you readers too!

  • adora

    I read a study on the Telegraph about how to increase new year’s resolution success rate.

  • ABD

    This is something I ran across this past fall and decided to try out. It’s somewhat related to the topic of New Year’s resolutions, but distinct because it’s intended for more long-term goals and planning:
    What I like about it is that if you’re the type of person who likes to work with lists, it can be very motivational to keep track of goals in written form like this. The project encourages you to write goals very specifically, i.e. don’t just say that you want to be healthier, document exactly what you wish to do to make that happen. I think this is going to help me be more successful than I have in the past. I also like the fact that you have a set deadline and time frame in which to work. It’s long enough that you can realistically accomplish 101 things, but short enough that you have to keep a relatively steady pace.

  • Beck

    Maybe a good time to update website?!