Don’t Try to Keep That Resolution — Part II.

I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you could have one, too! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in -- no need to catch up, just jump in right now. Each Friday’s post will help you think about your own happiness project.

Several weeks ago, I posted about why I’d decided to give up my oft-repeated, but never kept, resolution to “Entertain more.”

I decided that I needed to let go of this resolution. Even though I knew that in the long run, it would make me happier to have friends over, I realized I was feeling too overwhelmed to keep that resolution; it was weighing me down without prompting me to action; and I needed to let myself off the hook.

The funny thing is that about two days after I decided to give up that resolution, I invited my two (yes, two) children & young-adult literature reading groups over for a holiday party! Now, was this a coincidence? Nope.

This is what happened: the minute I went on the record saying “I can’t handle trying to invite people over right now, I’m not going to do it,” I let go of the fantasy of being the perfect party-giver, and then I could give a party. When I invited my friends over (by email, by the way, not with a mailed invitation), I stressed that the evening would be extremely casual and that I couldn’t manage a “real” party. They didn’t care! The party was last night, and in the end, I managed to do a good job. We all had a great time, I was a reasonably good hostess, my house looked nice, and I didn’t make myself crazy beforehand. (This despite the fact that my husband had to go out of town that week, so he couldn't help.)

One of my Secrets of Adulthood (cribbed from Voltaire) is “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” My mother sets a high bar for me to consider – she does everything, including parties, absolutely beautifully. She enjoys doing it, but for me, it’s stressful. When I think about trying to have a holiday party the way she’d do it, I can’t cope. Telling myself that I wasn’t “really” entertaining let me do it in my own way, at a level that I could handle.

So if you’re having trouble keeping a resolution, consider pursuing it in a less “perfect” form; settle for the "good." If you can’t make yourself go to the gym, try to go for a walk around the block. If you can’t tackle your crowded garage, clean out one corner. If you don't have time to volunteer for the adult-literacy program, you can sign up to be an organ donor.

A nice thing about settling for “good” when “perfect” is too daunting is that achieving a small thing often gives you the energy to attempt a bigger thing. Having such a good time giving my un-party makes me more enthusiastic to do it again.

If you feel inspired to try to keep some resolutions – either small ones or big ones, good or perfect – consider joining in 2010 Happiness Challenge, to make 2010 a happier year. Each month I'll suggest a theme (e.g., Energy, Work, Family) and resolutions to help you boost your happiness. Learn more -- sign up!

* I've been a fan of Bob Sutton's books (especially The No A**hole Rule) and his blog Work Matters for a long time, so I sent him an advance copy of The Happiness Project. I was HAPPY beyond description to read his incredibly kind response, and I can't resist linking to it here: The Happiness Project--I Hate Self-Help Books But Love This One.

* In the category of goofy yet compelling, check out this short video of people recreating the London skyline out of fruits and vegetables.

* Free bonus materials: Pre-orders give a big boost to a book, so to thank readers for pre-ordering, I've put together some bonus materials. After you pre-order, just email me at gretchenrubin1[at] and write "I've pre-ordered," and I'll send them to you. Honor system. (Don't worry if you pre-ordered a while back, just email anyway.) Materials include:
--The Happiness Project Manifesto: a quick summary of some of the most important observations about happiness (Bob Sutton's fascinating 15 Things I Believe helped inspire me to write a manifesto)
--Top Tips: tips that people have found particularly helpful
--Resolutions Chart: my own personal Resolutions Chart, for you to consider as an example. The last page is blank, so you can use it as a template for your happiness project.

icon emailNewsletterLight

One Last Thing

Interested in happiness, habits, and human nature?

Sign up to get my free weekly newsletter. I share ideas for being happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative.

icon schooled

Find out if you’re an Upholder, Obliger, Questioner, or a Rebel.

The Four Tendencies explain why we act and why we don’t actOur Tendency shapes every aspect of our behavior, so understanding your Tendency lets us make better decisions, meet deadlines, suffer less stress and burnout, and engage more effectively.

Take the quiz

Get My Weekly Newsletter

Sign up to get my free weekly newsletter. It highlights the best material from here, my Facebook Page, and new original work.