There is no one-size-fits-all solution to a Happiness Project. You can start at any time—the New Year, your birthday, after a big change or revelation, or right now, today—and it can last as long as you want. It's up to you. But when it comes to being happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative, what we do every day matters more than what we do once in a while.
For sticking to your resolutions, consider these strategies:
1. Be specific. Resolutions like “Make more friends” or “Strengthen friendships” are vague, and there's no way to measure your success. Resolutions that are concrete and measurable might be: “Start a group,” “Say hello,” “Make plans,” “Show up,” and “No gossip.”
2. Write it down.
3. Review your resolution constantly. If your resolution is buzzing through your head, it’s easier to stick to it. Keep a resolution chart or write it on a sticky note in a place you'll see it every day.
4. Hold yourself accountable. Tell other people about your resolution, join or form a like-minded group, use a habit tracker, think about a key identity that you want to cultivate—whatever works for you to make yourself feel accountable for success and failure.
5. Think big. Maybe you need a big change, a big adventure—a trip to a foreign place, a break-up, a move, a new job. Let yourself imagine anything, and plan from there.
6. Think small. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that only radical change can make a difference. Just keeping your fridge cleared out could give you a real boost. Look close to home for ways to improve and grow.
7. Ask for help. This can be hard, but you'll be amazed at how much easier your task becomes.
If you have an especially tough time keeping resolutions, if you have a pattern of making and breaking them, try these strategies:
8. Consider making only pleasant resolutions. We can make our lives happier in many ways. If you're struggling to keep your resolutions, try resolving to "Watch a movie every Sunday," "Read for an hour every day," or whatever resolutions you’d find fun to keep. Often, having more fun in our lives makes it easier to do tough things. Seeing more movies might make it easier to keep going to the gym.
9. Consider giving up a resolution. If you keep making and breaking a resolution, consider whether you should relinquish it entirely. Put your energy toward changes that are both realistic and helpful. Don't let an unfulfilled resolution to lose twenty pounds or to overhaul your overgrown yard block you from making other, smaller resolutions that might give you a big happiness boost.
10. Keep your resolution every day. It’s often easier to do something every day (exercise, post to a blog, deal with the mail, do laundry) than every few days.
11. Set a deadline.
12. Don’t give up if something interferes with your deadline.
13. “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Thank you, Voltaire. Instead of starting your new exercise routine by training for the marathon, aim for a 20-minute walk each day. Instead of cleaning out the attic, tackle one bureau drawer. If you break your resolution today, try again tomorrow.
But the opposite of a profound truth is also true, and you might succeed by ignoring these tips! You might do better when you don’t feel accountable to anyone, or when you don’t have a deadline, or don’t follow a schedule. If a strategy doesn’t work for you, try something else.
There are many ways for us to achieve our aims, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Do what works for you. When we know ourselves better, we can make aims that we're more likely to keep.