Think in terms of
the day's resolutions, not the year's.
Setting resolutions in August might seem a little out of the ordinary -- unless, like me, you're part of a Happiness Project. Yesterday was the very first meeting of the local Happiness Project near me and the first topic we tackled at the meeting was setting a resolution for the month. By the next meeting, which will take place at the end of September, members of the group will have to have completed their resolution and will be held accountable by the rest of the group. Intimidating as that might seem, I think that setting resolutions and sharing them with others is a great way to motivate yourself into actually doing what it is that you want to do. Especially when it comes to happiness. As we discussed in the meeting last night, sticking to happiness resolutions is difficult because there is no one there to force you to do things to bring you happiness and it usually seems (though this is not always true) that if we don't complete our happiness goals there are no serious consequences. For example, one member of my group has decided that her happiness resolution will be to download all of the pictures from her camera, organize her photos, and post them online. This is a great resolution, but if she doesn't do it, what's going to happen? Nothing. She's not going to lose her job or friends or family. She's not going to get sick or be hurt emotionally. Without definitive, obvious consequences, it can be hard to motivate one's self to do tasks that would really bring about a great deal of happiness in the long run. Just as this group member doesn't necessarily have concrete push to do her happiness resolution, I am the same way about my resolution. Because it's not a live-or-die requirement, I can put it off or rationalize why I can't get it done right now. Or, at least, I could. Now I have my Happiness Project group to be accountable to.
My Happiness Resolution
My resolution probably won't be much of a surprise to those of you who have been reading my blog for awhile. I want to write a novel. Desperately. I have tons of ideas (and one in particular that I want to get started on) and I clearly love to write so what's stopping me? The only thing stopping me is ME. I always come up with excuses, reasons, rationalizations for why I can't work on the novel right now. But now that I've made myself accountable to my Happiness Project group (and, now, to you!) I have to get to work. But how? I feel overwhelmed when I hear the word "novel." My heart starts pumping and my palms get sweaty. First it's excitement, my mind singing, "A novel! How wonderful!" and then it quickly turns to dread, moaning, "A novel. How in the world are you going to do that?" My mind races through ideas and sentence structures and chapter layouts and then I'm too mentally exhausted to even think about actually writing something. So then I have to wonder: how am I going to do this?
How To Stick To Your Resolution
I'm a planner. I like to have a plan. So I've decided that I need a plan on how I will stick to my resolution. In bold, I'll write the general ideas, but then, for my own benefit (and for yours if you want an example of my resolution-sticking ideas) I'll add the details about how I plan to stick to my Happiness Project resolution.
Step 1: Set a reasonable resolution. Many of us have grand, lofty goals of what we want to have/be/do in life, but if you set unreasonably high goals you'll never feel like you're achieving anything. For example, I used to always say to myself, "I want to be happy." Well, that's a great goal, but it's way too broad and undefined. I had to figure out a way to break it down. One of the reasons I picked writing a novel as my happiness goal is because writing makes me so happy and I love the thought of someday having an actual book that showcases my hard work. When setting a resolution, it's important to pick something tangible, something you can work toward in a physical sense. As Gretchen has noted on The Happiness Project's website, grand goals like "lose weight" or "be more social" don't work as well as more specific goals like "don't eat out more than once a week" or "volunteer at a local charity." Setting a concrete, specific goal is the first step in sticking to a resolution.
Step 2: Divide and conquer mini-goals. Whatever your resolution is, it's important to divide it into manageable goals, which will then be easier to conquer. When you conquer a goal (and, yes, crossing something off of your To Do list isconquering), you feel good about yourself. Breaking down your overall goal into smaller mini-goals will allow you to make progress bit-by-bit, which will encourage you to keep moving forward and tackling even more. For example, when I think "novel" I think of all the chapters and characters and concepts and I begin to feel overwhelmed. However, when I break it down into the following: Outline, Character Development, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, etc. it feels a lot more manageable. My plan now is to come to the Happiness Project group at the end of September with a detailed outline and a draft of Chapter 1 in my hand. I'm sure I'll feel so great when I do that and I'll be ready to move on to Chapter 2. Mini goals are definitely the way to go!
Step 3: Keep reminders everywhere. One of the best ways to keep your focus on your resolutions, whatever they might be, is to remind yourself. All. The. Time. It's so easy for things -- especially things like Happiness Resolutions -- to slip to the bottom of the pile of your To Do's, but don't let it happen to you. Avoid this by putting reminders everywhere. Use sticky notes (virtual or paper) on your computer monitor and bathroom mirror (or even on the visor in your car!). Send yourself emails as reminders. Ask friends and family members to remind you. Set alarms to keep you motivated. One tactic that I'm going to try (and it's a lot easier to do this now that I'm accountable to the Happiness Project group) is writing my resolution on my To Do list. One thing I hateis finishing a day without crossing off things on my list. If I break down my Outline, for example, into parts and add each part to my To Do list each week for the next month, I will remember to do it and I will be dying to cross it off my list. Resolutions are not necessities so they are easy to forget. Remind yourself constantly!
Step 4: Find a way to be accountable. If you aren't fortunate enough to have a Happiness Project group in your area (visit The Happiness Project site to found if there's one near you), you still have some great options for being accountable. One is to start a Happiness Project group in your area. Yes, YOU! You can start one and share your resolutions and other exciting things with your Happiness Project group. Last night was the first meeting of my local group, but I'm already excited about it and looking forward to talking about our resolutions and progress at our next meeting in September. If you don't feel like starting a group, you can turn to your friends, family, coworkers, or online pals and recruit their help. Tell them what you're working on and ask them to ask you about it. Trust me, when someone is asking you about something all the time, you're going to want to have a better response than, "Oh, yeah, that...Well...Um...Yeah, I haven't started yet..." (at least the 2nd and 3rd times you've been asked!). I'm pretty sure you can find someone who will check in with you and ask about your goal and it's a great way to keep yourself on track.
Step 5: Do a little bit every day. This step ties in with Step 2 but it's a little more specific. I really believe that incorporating something into your life daily helps to reinforce it so find a way to incorporate whatever your resolution is into your daily life somehow. Even if it's something abstract, there is almost always a way to work on your resolution every single day. For example, now that I'm working on my novel (and, yes, I'm working on it! yay!) I plan to think about it and work on it daily by observing the world through writer's eyes. I'm going to be looking for characters, for scenes, for descriptions. I'm going to sharp my writing skills weekly by writing on Positively Present and, to keep up with the weekly goals I've set for myself, I'm going to dedicate time every day to write and work on my Happiness Project resolution. I'm sure there will be some days I won't feel like doing it, but I'm going to remember that all of the small amounts of time spent on a daily basis will someday add up to the realization of my resolution.
If you have resolutions you want to set (And, hey, who says you can't set them in August? You'll be way ahead of the curve come January!) and you'd like some more resources for sticking to your resolutions, check out the following sites:
Start a Resolution (a site for tracking your progress!)
Personally, I've never been a big fan of resolutions. I haven't made a New Year's resolution in years and used to laugh to myself when someone else would ask me what my resolution was. Actually, that's not true; I would actually laugh out loud and scoff, "Resolution! Ha! I don't do those," wrinkling my nose like a snooty princess just asked if she'd like to date a poverty-stricken peasant. I used to think resolutions were stupid, petty, common. But now I realize that if I don't push myself to do something, set goals of some kind, I won't ever really do the things I want to do, especially the things that involve only me, that really don't (yet) impact the lives of other people. One thing that I find so important in the whole resolution/sticking to your resolution process is actually making yourself accountable to someone other than you. Even if it's just on this blog, in the comments section, it helps to tell someone else about what you're trying to work toward. So, tell me...
What about you? Do you have any resolutions you want to set?
What advice do you have for sticking to your resolutions?