Every New Year’s Eve at midnight we wish each other Happy New Year, but how much do we really do to help make it a happier year than the one before?
In the run up to January I’ve already discussed simple goal setting as a way to ensure you don’t drop your New Year’s resolutions like hot potatoes the minute all of life’s myriad distractions get in the way by around say.. 6th January.
The Difference Between Resolutions & Goals
But according to Gretchen Rubin, whose bestselling book of the same name describes her year long Happiness Project, which she continues to write about on her hugely popular blog, there might well be some wisdom in making resolutions rather than goals:
I’d noticed idly that a lot of people use the term “goal” instead of “resolution,” and one day in December, it struck me that this difference was in fact significant. You hit a goal, you keep a resolution. “Run a marathon” makes a good goal. It’s specific, it’s easy to measure success, and once you’ve done it, you’ve done it. “Sing in the morning” and “Exercise better” are better cast as resolutions. You won’t wake up one day and find that you’ve achieved it. It’s something that you have to resolve to do every day, forever.
Striving toward a goal provides the atmosphere of growth so important to happiness, but it can be easy to get discouraged if reaching the goal is more difficult than you expected. Also, what happens once you’ve reached your goal? Say you’ve run the marathon. What now—do you stop exercising? Do you set a new goal?
With resolutions, the expectations are different. Each day I try to live up to my resolutions. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail, but every day is a clean slate and a fresh opportunity. I never expect to be done with my resolutions, so I don’t get discouraged when they stay challenging. Which they do.
Keeping track of how well you’re sticking to your resolutions though is another matter. Rubin was inspired by Benjamin Franklin’s ‘virtues chart’ to keep her own Resolutions chart where she could tick off each day that she achieved it. You can use the toolbox she provides on her site to do the same, or for a simpler solution, Joe’s Goals does a similar thing (or you could even use a good old fashioned pen and paper).
There Are No Good Answers Without Good Questions
Rubin also has some good suggestions for questions you can ask yourself if you want to be happier in the year ahead. I talk through a few of these in the video below – hope it’s useful (our cat certainly didn’t seem to find it very interesting, and even yawns at one point!).
You can buy The Happiness Project from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk if you want to find out more (Amazon affiliate links). Personally I found I didn’t relate to her life very much so found the details a bit mundane, but I still think a lot of her research was very interesting and the book will definitely make you think about how to improve your day to day life in small but effective ways.