A Secret to Happiness: Don’t Try to Keep That Resolution.

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One of my Secrets of Adulthood (cribbed from Niels Bohr) is “The opposite of a great truth is also true.” So whenever I’m very convinced that something is true, I ask myself, “Is the opposite also true?”

The main strategy for my happiness project is to make and keep resolutions. I’ve made dozens, maybe hundreds of resolutions, and I have Resolutions Chart where I score myself on the most important resolutions. I constantly remind myself, “It’s important to keep that resolution! It will make me happier!” and usually it does.

But I have at least one resolution that I just can’t seem to keep, and I’ve decided to resolve to do just the opposite, to “Give up that resolution.”

I’m giving up my long-standing, often-repeated resolution to “Entertain more.” Fact is, I’ve never really committed to that resolution: I never broke the goal down into steps that I could follow and pushed myself to keep them. Well, why not? Why was I able to keep resolutions like Stop gossiping and Read more and Don’t expect praise or appreciation, but not this one?

I want to entertain more, but clearly, I also do NOT want to entertain more. Finally I realized – I need to give up this resolution for a while.

If I’m honest with myself, I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. The Happiness Project book is finally about to hit the shelves, and that means a lot of work – not just writing work, which I’m used to, but other kinds of work. My children need a lot of attention. My husband has been traveling a fair amount. When I have some spare time, I want to just hang around the apartment and read; I don’t want another to-do list, even for something fun. Some people like party errands (flowers, food, fixing up the house, figuring out whom to invite), but I don’t.

So I’ve decided to abandon that resolution for a while.

Starting an exercise routine. Learning Italian. Cleaning the basement. We all have longstanding resolutions hanging over our heads – resolutions that we want to keep, but we don’t really make much progress towards, and which can therefore give us a feeling of powerlessness or failure. As important as it is to try to keep resolutions, sometimes you need to give up a resolution.

Sometimes, too, I think a resolution can block you. You don’t have any nice clothes because you want to lose weight. You don’t read any novels because you’ve promised yourself to read War and Peace. Letting go of one resolution might make it easier to keep other resolutions.

The thing is, I know if I’d keep the resolution to “Entertain more,” it would make me happier. But I’m going to admit to myself how happy it will make me not to keep that resolution.

How about you? Have you ever boosted your happiness when you gave up a resolution?


From 2006 through 2014, as she wrote The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, Gretchen chronicled her thoughts, observations, and discoveries on The Happiness Project Blog.

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