New Year’s Resolutions

Be at War with your Vices, at Peace with your Neighbours, and let every New-Year find you a better Man.
Benjamin Franklin
1706 – 1790

Once again, it’s the time of the year when people make New Year’s resolutions, typically promising to eat better, shed weight, reduce debt or generally improve their lives. I’ve often suggested that this practice is counter-productive. Since most people who make resolutions end up making the same ones year after year, this cycle of making and breaking resolutions undermines their ability to keep promises to themselves.

In the past, I’ve given specific tips on making and keeping resolutions. This year, I want to take a different approach; I’m going to suggest a resolution you should be able to keep.

Here’s the resolution I recommend you make: this year, I resolve to lead a happier life.

Too often, our resolutions involve things we think we should be doing instead of things we really want to do. When you get down to the basics of what life is about, I think living a happy life is number one. At the end of our lives, I don’t believe all the material possessions we accumulated will be what we cherish most. On the other hand, I believe that whatever we did to make the world better in some small way will help us feel good about our lives.

So the ultimate goal should be to lead a happy and fulfilling life. Just to be clear, when I talk about leading a happier life, I don’t mean seeking more pleasure; rather, I’m talking about being content that you’re doing the best you can with the resources you have.

So how do you keep your resolution to lead a happier life? Start each morning with a commitment to make the day a happy one. Also use a gratitude journal, and resolve each day to focus on the good things in your life. But be realistic. There will probably never be a day without some disappointment or bad news. Learn to accept life as it is.

Many things in life happen without your choice or consent. When there’s nothing you can do to alter those events, you simply must accept them. For those things where you have a choice, learn to ask a simple question: will this decision improve my happiness? We sometimes act “for the principle of the thing” — meaning we want to prove that we’re right. Unfortunately, proving our point rarely adds to our happiness. Could you take a different approach? Can you let go of the need to be right?

Resolve to be happier this year. And remember, this is a resolution you work on each day, striving for slight improvement. Becoming consciously aware of those things that add to or detract from your happiness will greatly improve your ability to influence your mood.

Resolving to be happier is a resolution you can keep — and being happier should yield improvements in those areas of your life where your normal resolutions fail.

Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.
384 – 322 BC

Copyright © 2020 John Chancellor

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