a letter to my older self
how to be beautiful from the outside in

5 steps for setting happiness resolutions (yes, in August!)

Think in terms of
the day's resolutions, not the year's.

Henry Moore

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:

Top 10 Tools for Sticking To Your Resolutions

Stages of Change: How To Keep a Resolution

Wishful Thinking: 6 Tips for Keeping a Resolution

12 Tips for Sticking To Your Resolutions

10 Reasons To Set Resolutions All Year Round

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?



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I didn't know you aspired to write novels, though it is not a surprise to me that you aspire for happiness. What a cool idea for a group. I will have to see if there is one in our area. When my internet connection is fixed, I will have to google it.

I have been in your position, feeling intimidated by the idea of completing a novel. So start with a chapter, and then go to the next, that might be less scary. And if you think more in terms of writing down a STORY for yourself, whether or not you share it with others, you will probably get in the groove. Good luck with your goal. You can do it!!

I always used to say "I want to be happy", I've never had career goals (I still don't, so now I'm just trying to accept that a career isn't on my happy list), but I always just wanted happiness. It seemed to me like it was somehow tangible and outside of myself, that I would need things to make me happy. Becoming happy and more true to myself has been my resolution since moving back to the States. And it's been going really well! I've learned so much, and I stuck with it despite lack of support and accountability. Happiness comes from within, and only you have the power to make yourself happy. My tips for pursuing this are the same as yours - but I feel we all need to remember that we need to be able to push ourselves, without external help. I think the Happiness Project is a great idea, but in reality we may not always have someone keeping an eye on us. I know that you'll finish your novel, and I know that I'll read it!

I think divide and conquer is the way to go and mini-goals are the path. In fact, to help you reach mini-goals, you can set mini-objectives.

Taking daily action increases the chances for success. Planning your day around achieving your goals can do wonders. Creating a to- do list of all the tasks you expect to complete is a nice way to stay organized and focused. Without focus, you tend to lose motivation, energy and begin blaming circumstances. As you begin to focus more on the contribution of your goals , you increase energy, find motivation and feel great about yourself.

Major changes can be made by just learning how to think positive a bit more. Positivity can be gained from action. Don't sit around waiting for something to happen, instead make it happen.

SO awesome to see you working on your dream PP! I'm cheering you all the way from Aus (hope you can hear it)!

I'm writing a book myself and I've found that once you start, it seems to flow and momentum carries you. The starting is the hard part. Your plan of breaking it all down into smaller chunks is how I went about it too. It takes the overwhelm out of it. I won't say good luck because you don't need it. All I'll say is good management because I know you'll get there!!

Jewel - You should definitely look for a Happiness Project in your area. There are groups all over the world! Great advice about novel writing. If I think of it as a story for me and I think of it as one chapter at a time I'll probably have it finished in no time!

Ia - I completely agree that happiness comes from within and, like you, I was searching for it all over the place. I would definitely say I am a happy person now and I hope to bring even more happiness to my life by doing what I love to do. If there's a Happiness Project near you, you should join. It's great!

J.D. - Excellent point about having mini-objectives. When you break things down it really does make it a lot easier to deal with and it's always a great feeling to know you're making progress (even if it's only a bit at a time!).

Jonathan - You've made some great points here. In order to achieve my goal I need to take action, be positive, and remained focused. If I do all of those things and work on it on a daily basis, I know my dreams can become realities.

Sami - Thanks so much for the support! :) That's awesome that you're working on a book too. I need to get into the groove like you and just get going on it. This weekend I'm going to get to work creating an outline and starting chapter 1. YAY!

Reading your blog inspires, motivates and makes me happy! Thought I'd share that with you!

Mary - Thank you for your comment! :) It makes me so happy to know that this site does all of those great things for you.

Great post! Great idea! One thing that may help you with writing your book ----- don't use the word BOOK. Start writing. Write a page a day - at least - and every single day. See what you have at the end of the month. You can throw out a lot of it and just keep what it is that you really like. Seriously. We are mentally intimidated by thought of a whole book - don't know where to start etc. Just do it. One page at a time.

mine is here http://fromcheaptherapy.wordpress.com/2009/08/26/the-secret-o-life/ thanks for the inspiration to find it, Dani!

Happiness is a choice! I am glad that you are making a commitment with meetings and group discussions. Great way to get started - even in the month of August! All the best!

Thanks for finding my blog! Because of that I found yours and there is so much here that I can't wait to read.

I too am writing a book. It is something that I have been talking about for years, but when there is no outside deadline, it's easy to put off. What has been most helpful for me this year, is having a writing buddy. My friend is also writing a book. We try to get together every other week or so and we each have a deadline to meet (finish the rough draft of a new chapter, for example.) I would be happy to be an online source of accountability for you!

My happiness resolution is to start working on my ebook.

I set New Year's Resolutions only because I usually achieve them. I hope that the Happiness resolution is on different :)

Great idea and good luck, Dani.

My happiness resolution is to see the brighter side of life even in the face of difficulties. :-)

Dani, I am so glad I found your blog. I printed out a copy of the letter you wrote to yourself and a couple of other things and took it to work to have my friends read it. One person I knew probably wouldn't go to the web site so I gave her a copy so she could read it. The letter you wrote to yourself was great. I could actually relate to it. It was like I could hear myself saying those things to me. Thanks.

Suzen - That's GREAT advice. I'm going to start that way, just writing one page at a time, and stop thinking of it in terms of a book. Thanks for your suggestion!

Lisa - So glad you found this post inspiring! I checked out your site and, as I wrote on there, I loved it. You inspired me in return. :)

Evelyn - Happiness is absolutely a choice and I'm glad I've decided to start a Happiness Project group in my area. I think I'm going to get a lot out of it and it's a great way to set aside time to think about happiness.

Kathianne - I'm so glad you came over to check Positively Present out! The idea of a writing buddy is a great idea. I'll have to look into that. I'm looking forward to hearing more about you book in the future!

John - Great resolution! I'm sure you'll achieve your resolution and I can't wait to see what the ebook is all about.

Walter - That is an excellent resolution. Focusing on positivity (even in the face of adversity) makes life a MUCH better place!

Keri - I'm so glad you found it too and I think that's so great that you printed out some posts for your friends to read. :) It makes me happy to know you're spreading the word about being positive in the present!

Hi, Dani! First of all, I love that you want to write a novel. You're a great writer, and seem to do it effortlessly. Your novel will write itself, I have a feeling.
I like the idea of having resolutions in August - I know that with certain things I could use more goal-setting and accountability in my life, so your post was perfect. The reminders aspect is huge for me --- I write out reminders as affirmations, so it's less "do this now" and more "Holy Cow! I did it! I accomplished XYZ and feel so great!" I was telling someone recently that I did that for a goal I had, and not only did I accomplish the goal, but I accomplished the feeling & idealized nature of it.
I look forward to reading more posts about your progress. Write on!

Oh, this is a great reminder and has some advice. I am totally on board about taking it one step at a time and not becoming overwhelmed. Best of luck with the outline and Chapter 1 this weekend. Now to think about my own happiness project...

Hey Dani,

It's funny you mention this. I've been trying for almost 6 months to write the story of my time in Brazil and turn it into a novel. But I imagine if I wrote just a paragraph a day, I would have a chapter a week and by the end of the year I would have it done. Also once you get going the momentum will kick in and my guess is you'll be writing more than you realize. Great ideas.

Hi Dani .. excellent that you're set to start. Good for you. Happiness is what makes you happy .. if that's what you want to do - then you'll be happy doing it.

Brilliant that you've found a group you can relax with and share your achievements -

I look forward to reading the first chapter! All the very best -
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Hi Dani,

I spent years thinking about writing. I always wrote a journal, but never got started on my novel. I frequently made myself promises about starting. Two years ago I was inspired to write books about awakening, and that got the flow of writing started.

I know all the self-help books talk about "do it now" and "get it done" or similar themes. In my experience, these never work for long.

My experience is that when I am truly inspired, there is no need for self-help or motivation or overcoming procrastination or setting resolutions.

There are some excellent ways to distinguish between the inner voice and the voice of egoic desires. Egoic desires pit one set of beliefs against another, so there is always conflict. If you ask yourself, and a verbal answer comes up, this is the voice of an egoic desire. The inner voice is quiet. The voice of the egoic desire is frequently acrimonious or critical; the inner voice is nuetral. And finally, the voice of egoic desires is frequent, in that we frequently feel we should be doing this, and looking for quick ways to motivate ourselves, looking for resolutions to problems that don't exist.

I always wanted to write but I did not start by writing--I started by expanding awareness and releasing the rubbish of beliefs. And what is left are divine inspiration, which does not require any tricks to get started.

In any case, one-step-at-a-time is excellent advice!

Hey Dani
Thanks for this. I always feel admiration when I read your posts..your enthusiasm and positivity really do come through your writing. That channelled into a novel and there's is no way that not gonna happen!
All the best and thank you for another positive reminder.

Megan - Thanks so much for the compliment about my writing. It means a lot to me! I'm excited about starting the novel. I figure I've already written one (and a 300+ page thesis!) so I should be able to go it if I can just keep myself motivated. Thanks for your support!

Lynn - Yes, one step at a time is the way to go. It makes it all SO much easier. Thank you for encouraging me and I wish you the best of luck with whatever you decide your happiness resolution should be!

Srinivas - You should definitely write that book! It sounds so interesting and I would certainly read it. I definitely think if I write a little bit at a time it will all add up into something of actual substance. Now I just have to get started!

Hilary - Thanks! I think I'm off to a good start and it's definitely great that I have the Happiness Project group to keep me accountable for what I say I'm going to do. Hopefully someday you'll see my book in a store near you! :)

Kaushik - You've raised a good point about how you have to reach a point where you're really ready to write. It's so great that you've made progress writing about a topic that is meaningful to you. Thanks for sharing those insights on desire vs. inner voice. You're so right about that and I really need to listen to my inner voice rather than my ego. If I do, there will be no need for resolutions and I will just begin doing what it is that I need to do. Thanks for your input!

Jen - Thanks so much for your support! It's great to know that other people think I can do it (even when I'm not so sure myself). I'm glad you enjoy reading Positively Present and I really appreciate the comment.

My resolution was to do a random act of kindness every day. It has been an enlightenment. Just to smile, let a car go in front, pay for someone's coffee behind me in line, pick up something that someone has dropped, open doors for people, etc. Too many to mention but all made me feel really good.

I think the hardest part about obtaining happiness is identifying what makes you happy and then pursuing it no matter what. My personal belief is that what will make a lot of people happy defies convention, and going against the grain is not an easy thing to do! But happiness is totally worth it. Otherwise, really, what's the point (of anything)?

Obviously I'm a fan of accountability because it's an essential tool in coaching. I have never been excited about resolutions. I prefer to make declarations in very big areas of my life and only one at a time. And only when I have lined up tons of supportive structure and energy.

But I certainly wish you all the best with yours. You have obviously thought things out well and are in the midst of success.

Great article Dani,

Believing in yourself and your own capabilities is something essential as well as the only honest and true happiness you can rely on. Others cant make it happen for you, only you can.

Syd - That's a great resolution because it'll benefit you and others. I always feel so great every time I do something for others, and I'm sure you feel the same way. Great resolution!

Melissa - Very good point. I think you have to figure out what makes you happy and go after it no matter what, even if that means going against the grain which, as you note, is NOT always easy. The best things in life are always worth a lot of hard work.

Tom - That makes a lot of sense, the connection between coaching and accountability. I like the idea of declarations instead of resolutions. I think they can work together even! Thanks for your encouragement. I still have a long way to go, but I'm working towards it at least.

Bunny - Absolutely! As much as I love the idea of having others around to help me be accountable, it definitely comes down to me. I have to take responsibility for my own happiness! :)


My everyday happiness goal is to be an encouragement to someone, preferably several someones. :-)

To reach goals, I like the concept of taking some action EVERYDAY toward my goal. The old cliche' about a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step is still very true. As long as I take some action each day, even if it is seemingly small, I will always be getting closer to my goal.

Great article and I am more than confident your novel is already underway...

Dani, Could you please give me the link of your very first blog post of this positively present journey. I want to read how you started this journey. Thanks, Keri

Keith - That's a great goal. Feel free to stop on by PP and encourage me! Haha, just kidding! :) I completely agree with the every day action plan. If you do something every day -- even just a little thing -- it makes you feel as if you're making progress and you can continue to get closer to your goal. This weekend I plan not only to work on my novel but also to work on a plan for how to work on the novel that will incorporating writing every single day.

Keri - Absolutely! Here is my very first post, written about six months ago: http://www.positivelypresent.com/2009/02/positive-present.html. Thanks so much for becoming a fan of Positively Present and wanting to know more about my journey!

Hi Dani...for me, who each new year resolves not to resolve lol, bite-sized resolutions, self-forgiveness for lapses, and constantly reaffirming those resolutions or changing them as needed works the best.


Cannot wait to read your novel! :D


Karen - Great points, Karen. I think it's important to forgive yourself for lapses, do whatever you can to reaffirm your resolutions, and make sure that you're flexible in case your resolutions need changing.

Meream - Thanks for your support! I can't wait to actually have a novel so I can send it to supportive readers like you. :)

Hi Dani,
What an incredibly awesome post. I love the idea of a resolution in August :) i have never really been a resolution person myself either. But maybe an august resolution instead of a new years resolution will do the trick :)
I am so happy to read that youre going to write a novel. I am surely gonna be the first few to grab my copy cause i do so love your writing. I might not comment on your blog too often...but i do read every single post. I am a Fan..;)
The five points you mentioned are just great. They do truly work. I have tried them before...excluding the mini goals one. Now i am gonna try that one as well.
Your will, determination and passion is all you need to start writing. Make up your mind and go for it...we are all here to cheer you on.
My happiness Goal for August--”I want to be remembered as a person who shed light & made a positive impact on the lives of others."
See my resolution makes me happy and everyone else happy as well :)
Big Hug!

Zeenat - Hopefully these August happiness resolutions work out well! It's worth a try at least. I'm so glad to know you're a fan of the blog. That makes me so happy! :) I'm about to get started on the outline for the novel now. It really helps to have my Happiness Project group behind me, as well as the support of readers like you so thank you! I think your goal sounds like a great one. Having a positive impact on the lives of others is one of the most amazing things you can do...and you're doing it right now, in this comment! :)

I like this idea! I found the Lightning Process very good for both happiness and chronic fatigue (see blog post http://bit.ly/johnlp). It made me realise being a pessimist and being fatigued go hand in hand.

John - I'm going to have to check out that post because I completely agree that being negative and being exhausted are tied together. It's so funny that you wrote this comment because just this morning I was thinking about how much more often I was tired and had a hard time getting up in the mornings when I was living a negative life. Perfect timing for this comment!

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