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Make It Easy To Do Right.

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.

In order to keep all my happiness-project resolutions – making resolutions is fun, but keeping them is tough -- I’ve been trying hard to follow the resolution to “Make it easy to do right.” I try to make it as easy as possible to do the right thing. Instead of working to exercise my self-control, as I used to do, I abandon my self-control and try to find ingenious ways to make a resolution easier to keep.

For example, my husband loves to bake sweets, but I’m happier if I don’t eat them. I used to try to persuade him not to bake tempting treats at all, but now I realize that a) he should be able to bake if he wants, without me pestering him, and b) he’s going to go ahead and bake anyway, no matter what I say. Now though, as soon as he’s finished, I make sure the baked goods are wrapped up and put in a cabinet. That keeps them fresher, and once they’re out of sight, I forget they’re even there.

Along the same lines, I’ve heard of people freezing their credit cards in pans of water, to make it very tough to use their credit card.

A friend of mine moved his stationary bike in front of the TV. Now, whenever he feels like watching TV, he’s also prompted to exercise, and it’s very easy just to hop on the bike.

It’s funny how much more likely I am to do something, if it’s just the slightest bit easier (or harder). A few days ago, I mentioned that I put a wastebasket where I sort mail, so I can toss junk mail effortlessly. It’s ridiculous how much more quickly I get rid of junk mail with the wastebasket right there, compared to how much longer it took when the wastebasket was just a few steps away.

One good way to exercise more is to get a dog; it’s much easier to get yourself out the door when your dog is begging for a walk. In fact, one study (admittedly, by a pet healthcare company!) showed that dog owners get more exercise, and enjoy it more, than people who go to the gym.

But of course, these are small, concrete steps that make it easy to do right. I also try to make it easier to do right by taking steps that aren’t quite as direct. I work to get enough sleep, because sufficient sleep makes it easier for me to stay patient with my family. I have a system to deal with giving away things we don’t use anymore, so it’s easy to donate.

On an even more abstract level: when I find myself getting judgmental or annoyed, I try to turn my thoughts to happier subjects, so it’s easier for me not to lose my temper, gossip, or complain. When I feel defensive, I try to laugh at myself. When I feel resentful, I prod myself to find reasons to feel grateful.

If I change my frame of mind, I find it easier to behave properly.

These days, when I find myself having trouble keeping a resolution, I push myself to find ways to make it easier to keep them. How about you? Have you found ways to make it easier to do right, to stick to your resolutions, to push yourself to do the things you want to do, or to avoid doing the things you want to resist?

* A study of people around the world showed that communication devices -- cell phones and computers -- boost happiness. Technology is a bad master, but a wonderful servant.

* The book The Happiness Project has bounced around the New York Times bestseller list for eighteen weeks! – including hitting #1! You can...
Order your copy!
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