You want 2018 to be an amazing year, right? It will be the year you say, I made it! I did it! I’m happier than I’ve ever been. Maybe you’re hoping it’s the year you meet the love of your life (or spend more time with them), the year you’re a better parent, better partner, finally take that trip, write that book, start that company, build that cabin (insert your passion project here).
If you’re like most people, you’ll set yourself a long list of resolutions with great intentions. Me, I usually have way too many resolutions and push myself too hard.
Here are a few samples of recent resolutions:
- exercise more
- eat less sugar
- spend more time with friends and family
- have a daily writing practice
- have a daily meditation practice
- go to bed earlier
This year, I’m doing something completely different. Because research tells me that if I set and achieve this one goal, it will make me happier and more successful in every area of my life.
So, what is it?
This year, I have one resolution and only one resolution — to make myself happy.
Shawn Achor (author of The Happiness Advantage) has done extensive research that proves that the happier you are, the more successful you are. In every aspect of life. We think that we’ll be happy when we achieve our goals but research has shown that we only achieve a small surge in happiness and then we focus on our next goal. Achor’s research found, “Happiness fuels success, not the other way around.”
- 23% reduction in stress
- 31% increase in productivity
- 39% better health
- 34% more positive social interaction
He also found that happier people had better outcomes in every single business and education outcome tested for.
I know all this. Intellectually. I read Gretchen Rubin’s book, ‘The Happiness Project’ a few years ago, I read Shawn Achor’s book, ‘The Happiness Advantage’ this year. I know it — but living it — that’s the hard part. That’s where the work comes in. And I’m ready. Ready to do the work. To find happiness no matter what.
A decade ago, my mother was dying of Alzheimer’s and through a lot of hard work — journaling and grief counseling, practicing loving-kindness meditation and spending time with good friends and finding the grace to surrender to reality, I found happiness. If I could find happiness in that terrible time, I know that if I can do the work, 2018 is going to be my best year ever.
So I’ve set myself the ambiguous and ambitious goal of being happier in 2018. I’m letting go of my long lists of very tangible goals and flying off into a realm of intangibles. Being responsible for my own happiness rather than looking to others. But I know it’s the right move, not just because it will lead to my success but because my success won’t matter so much.
The best thing I can do for everyone in my life, including me, is to be happy. If being happy will make me a better mom and a more loving wife, a more creative writer and a better consultant, sign me up, because at the end of the day, those things matter more to me than anything else I might accomplish.
Thinking back on the last year, I can see what made me happy:
- dates with my husband (and an amazing overnight trip sans children)
- spending time with my kids — relaxed, easy time (as opposed to stressed out time spent forcing them to bathe while they scream and squirm)
- seeing my friends — this is the year I came out of massive sleep deprivation and overwhelm (but really, kids are worth it ;)) and have had more energy to see friends
- going for walks on the beach and in the forest — quiet time just for myself
- accomplishing goals I set — writing two e-books, finishing my novel, blogging regularly, presenting at a conference — but I have to say it was more satisfaction than happiness and it was short lived before I moved on to my next goal (just like the research says)
To make myself happy is a goal that’s hard to measure so I thought I’d try a practice I use with my coaching clients to break it down a bit more. In order to make myself happy this year I need to:
- Putting so much pressure on myself to be an amazing parent, spouse, friend, writer, consultant — be happy with good enough
- Worrying about people and situations I can’t control (which is 99% of what I worry about)
- Saying yes out of obligation rather than interest
- Doing Loving Kindness meditation every morning for 10 minutes (there’s an app called Calm that has one for free)
- Writing every day for 15 minutes
- Exercising — start with 20 minutes three times a week (walking, yoga, swimming)
- A weekly gratitude journal (that includes what I’m grateful to myself for)
- Spending time with the kids, my sweetie, and close friends
- Dancing around the living room with the kids
- Doing work that I love with inspiring clients
- Expressing appreciation and gratitude to specific people (including myself)
Some of what I’ve chosen is based on the research about what will make us happier — spending time with loved ones, expressing gratitude, exercise, and meditation. Some of it is based on making time to do more of what I love — dancing, writing, yoga.
I think this is the best New Year’s resolution I’ve ever set myself and I’m also daunted by it. That list feels a lot harder to look back on in a year and say I’ve accomplished something. But I know what it feels like when I’m happier — a loosening of the shoulders, a relaxing in my heart, an ease with life, deeply felt love when I look at my loved ones (in contrast to deeply felt irritation), an openness to new people and experiences, more energy for my life. Yes, happiness is hard to measure but it’s worth striving for.
I’ll keep you updated. I’d love it if you want to join me and let me know how you’re going to make yourself happy this year.
Originally published at medium.com