I’ve been doing some thinking lately about the difference between happiness goals and happiness resolutions, and the role of habits in helping me or thwarting me.
What’s discouraging is that many of my most important happiness resolutions aren’t getting much easier. That’s why I think it’s important to think of these as “resolutions” that I approach anew each day, rather than “goals” that I’d expect to achieve and be done with.
One of the main things I’ve worked on in my Happiness Project is my sharp tongue. I snap, I nag, I “talk in a mean voice,” as the Big Girl put it when she was younger.
I worked hard on this tendency, and I did improve.
Lately, however, I’ve been relaxing my vigilance a bit. Maybe I thought I’d reached my “goal.” And you know what? The snapping, the nagging, the sharp tone has come right back.
I can HEAR the words come out of my mouth in a nasty tone. Sometimes I even sound more aggravated than I actually am.
I guess I thought my struggle would get easier, once I’d been keeping my resolutions for a while.
My tendency to speak harshly is one my worst traits and the reason for a lot of my resolutions. It’s one of the main reasons I felt compelled to start my Happiness Project. It’s the reason I’ve more or less quit drinking alcohol. It’s the reason I try so hard to get enough sleep and not to let myself get too hungry or cold. It’s the reason I resolved to quit nagging, and to stop gossiping.
These steps have helped, but the sharp tongue is still there.
I think back on last Saturday morning, for example. We’d all slept badly. The Big Man was at the gym, and I was giving the girls their breakfasts. Both girls were being whiny and demanding.
My resolutions and my Twelve Commandments started ringing in my ears: “Laugh out loud,” “Lighten up,” “Acknowledge the reality of other people’s feelings,” “Sing in the morning,” etc.
Did I do any of that? No. I scowled at them both. I spoke in a harsh voice. I clenched my jaw.
It was the Big Girl who turned the mood around. Unbelievably, she suddenly pulled herself together and started distracting the Little Girl with a funny story. The Little Girl cheered up once she’d eaten some breakfast, and I cheered up after I had some coffee. Peace descended.
So often, it just takes one person to change the mood. I hope that next time, I’ll be able to meet the challenge, instead of leaving it to my eight-year-old.
New York Times reporter Tara Parker-Pope has an excellent blog, Well, where she writes about a variety of health-related issues. Fascinating stuff there.
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