This Wednesday: Ten tips for living a better life, one day at a time — from Pope XXIII.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day.
This Wednesday: Ten tips for living a better life, one day at a time — from Pope XXIII.

One of the most important strategies of my Happiness Project has been keeping my Resolutions Chart. It provides accountability, it prompts me to review all my resolutions once a day, it gives me the gold stars I crave — when I manage to follow my resolutions. (If you’d like to receive a copy, check the left-hand column for instructions.)

I love reading other people’s resolutions, their personal commandments, their to-do lists, and a thoughtful reader sent me the link to the daily decalogue of Pope John XXIII. Pope John XXIII was pope from 1958-1963 and was known as “The Good Pope.”

It’s interesting to see that this list emphasizes taking each day as it comes. This mindset can be hugely helpful. Instead of allowing yourself to become overwhelmed and discouraged by imagining how hard it would be to keep your resolutions for the rest of your life, you just take it day by day (or Bird by Bird for you Anne Lamott fans).

Alcoholics Anonymous follows this same approach – emphasizing “one day at a time” to keep a difficult change manageable.

So here are ten tips from Pope John XXIII about how to live a better life, day to day:

1. Only for today, I will seek to live the livelong day positively without wishing to solve the problems of my life all at once.

2. Only for today, I will take the greatest care of my appearance: I will dress modestly; I will not raise my voice; I will be courteous in my behavior; I will not criticize anyone; I will not claim to improve or to discipline anyone except myself.

3. Only for today, I will be happy in the certainty that I was created to be happy, not only in the other world but also in this one.

4. Only for today, I will adapt to circumstances, without requiring all circumstances to be adapted to my own wishes.

5. Only for today, I will devote 10 minutes of my time to some good reading, remembering that just as food is necessary to the life of the body, so good reading is necessary to the life of the soul.

6. Only for today, I will do one good deed and not tell anyone about it.

7. Only for today, I will do at least one thing I do not like doing; and if my feelings are hurt, I will make sure that no one notices.

8. Only for today, I will make a plan for myself: I may not follow it to the letter, but I will make it. And I will be on guard against two evils: hastiness and indecision.

9. Only for today, I will firmly believe, despite appearances, that the good Providence of God cares for me as no one else who exists in this world.

10. Only for today, I will have no fears. In particular, I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful and to believe in goodness. Indeed, for 12 hours I can certainly do what might cause me consternation were I to believe I had to do it all my life.

To conclude: here is an all-embracing resolution: “I want to be kind, today and always, to everyone.”

I’ve started to think more about kindness. I thought of it as an important but bland virtue (in the same class as reliability and dutifulness), but I suspect that I’ve been overlooking something very important. I was just reading Henry James, who echoed the sentiment above: “Three things in human life are important: The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.”

Speaking of tip lists, the great site Gimundo has a terrific post about Five Ways to Break Your Shopping Addiction. The advice is useful even if you’re not “addicted,” but just trying to shop in a smarter way.

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Other posts you might be interested in . . .

  • David

    As Emeril says “BAM!”. The pope’s list hit me between the eyes! I’m very happy you shared the list. The list caused me to stop and think about each item.
    Now for the tough part…following the advice in the list and attempting to “live” the list.

  • JH

    I think you’re right about the importance kindness. For me, my ability to be kind is a “happiness barometer” – if I’m not happy I’m not able to express the kindness that I’d like to be showing to others. So I try to pay attention to it and be kinder than I actually feel like if I’m stressed or hurried.

  • JA

    Boy, I needed this tip today.
    I’m facing several difficult days ahead, and I feel overwhelmed because I’m looking at those days as a whole and wondering how I will get through. But I will get through by getting through each day, and after reading this list, that seems so much more manageable. Thanks for giving me some perspective.

  • This is wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Rhonda

    Kindness is huge!

  • Wonderful. A good reminder for today.
    FYI — The “John” is missing from the title.

  • Thank you so much for this! My grandmother had this posted on her refrigerator many years ago. I remember seeing it when I was a kid but never knowing where it came from. My mammaw died a few years ago, and I never did find out where she got it. Now I know, and I have my own copy.

  • Elissa

    I agree that kindness is all important. Just think of all of the things you can’t be when you are being kind….impatient, bitter, angry, incompassionate, cruel, jealous, envious, hateful. And, of all of the things you can be, while being kind – truthful, grateful, supportive, empathetic, patient, lovely, charitable. One of my guiding principals is giving and receiving great kindness.

  • Jessica

    Gretchen, I know you’ve talked about this book before, but I’m curious what you think of this criticism:

  • Great post – but he sure did cram in more than 10 tips! Kindess, as so many have already said, really might be number 1. I love JHs comment that her ability to be kind is a “happiness barometer”. Funny how that works. Just want to add that the Dalai Lama says “My religion is kindness” & Sylvia Boorstein, a cool Jewish grandmother in her 70’s (who’s also a psychotherapist & a Buddhist teacher), says “…the secret to happiness lies in actively cultivating our capacity to connect with kindness: with ourselves; with friends, family, colleagues; with those we may not know well; and even with those we may not like.”

  • A Texas Reader

    Me, too! I had an abridged version of this list, without a source. I read it daily to myself during a rough circumstance in my 30’s. I gotta tell you: this works.
    Funny though, my copy uses “attractively” vs. “modestly” to describe dress. I suspect a female gave her own little twist to the Pope’s directive.

  • Kindness indeed is so crucial. It’s funny how we seem to benefit more than the person we’re being kind to (but only if you do not do it for that reason.)
    These are great tips. Baby steps can eventually help us climb a great mountain.
    As far as the step by step approach with Alcoholics Anonymous, there is actually an approach that uncovers the root cause for alcoholism and addresses it so that the person does not have to live a tortured existence of one day at a time. Instead they get up looking forward to each day because there’s no need for alcohol. It’s an awesome program and free in my area.

  • Lorre

    Every night before I go to bed, I journal “Good Things” for the day – it can be as minor as “beautiful sunrise this morning” or as monumental as my coworker and I re-establishing communications. It ends the day on a happy note.

  • As I get older, I find myself valuing simple kindness more and more. I’m not sure why that is, but it’s definitely the case.

  • These are perfect. It’s a good list of things we should remember to do, but always forget. Thanks for posting it.

  • James Todd

    Have you noticed, Gretchen, that all the advice that is passed out especially on the web is called “tips”? The word sounds cheap in my ears – why must we call wise words from the Pope “tips”. Methods to organize plasticware in my kitchen might be a “tip”; stopping a run in pantyhose with fingernail polish is a “tip”; guidance for being a compassionate, unselfish, giving person seems somehow beyond mere tips. Thank you for collecting and passing on such wisdom. JT

  • Just found this blog and am very impressed! I’ll be stopping by often and look forward to your upcoming book! 🙂
    Thanks for a great site!

  • Old Man

    Buddhist monks who practice lovingkindness meditation actually change the way their brains function.

  • Mary

    Thank you for sharing this. It is truly inspirational and great advice.

  • Thank you, Gretchen.

  • Wonderful list.
    I have used the Al-anon list for several years which is similar.

  • Tessy @ Thriving

    Superb Post!

  • EAC

    Oh, ha! I just realized what is obvious/known to everyone else: the list is meant to be read, and practiced, every day.
    I initially read it as: do a number each day for 10 days, then repeat. Do the kindness thing each day, since it’s most important. And I thought, “gee, that’s kinda doable.”
    Then I had my moment of realization and went back to look at the list again. It’s trickier to do them at all once! Maybe I’ll go with my mistaken approach anyway!

  • Stacy

    Regarding the link for breaking your shopping addiction — I am a relentless consumer of furniture and home decor items, and I recently read somewhere about the psychology behind people like myself, as well as catalog shoppers, and clothes buyers – that related to the “promise” of an item to give us a better life. A more organized, more stylish, more “together” life, and it stopped me in my tracks. YES! It’s like my brain thinks that a new sofa will finally make me feel like a person who has a beautiful home, whose decor is worthy of a magazine shoot – a person who is totally in control, confident, and will garner the envy and admiration of others. Really. And I just was bowled over. It’s not about the shopping and how to avoid it (I don’t even have a credit card!) but to unravel this veil I’ve woven around items I see in the photos of other people’s immaculate and expensive rooms — if I run out and purchase what they have, my room will look identical to how it is now, but I’ll have a $600 sofa in it. (duh!) I shattered all the “promise” I’d been placing in every item I purchased (or coveted). It feels good to know this, but a bit sad as well to accept that I can’t just “fix” things with a new purchase. (Happy shopping…)

  • Judi Hale

    I love the list, and all the great comments. I do agree with James who said tips is an inadequate word to describe such wisdom. Over the last few years, I have received some very uplifting messages from a retired priest friend. I keep them in a WOW file. (Words of Wisdom.) So, Gretchen, you have such a great site going, maybe it is time to ‘graduate’ your tips into something more. They are so far beyond Heloise! Thank you for what you are doing. jaydee

  • Sylvia I Osborn

    I teach a Ladys Bible Study…I Like The Widsom from Gods WORD….Thank You, Sylvia

  • Terry

    Oh, thank you, thank you for the James quote! I read it years ago, but never remembered its attribution. I’m so thrilled to have found it, especially at the end of another wonderful, thought-provoking blog entry.

  • Its amazing what we allow ourselves to do if we microtask as SARK calls it…

  • Its amazing what we allow ourselves to do if we microtask as SARK calls it…