My current emphasis: how to make good habits and break bad ones (really)

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It’s Friday: time to think about YOUR Happiness Project. This week: Start a Happiness Project for 2008!

Not long ago, I had an epiphany – happiness projects for everyone! Join in! No need to catch up, just jump in now. Each Friday’s post will help you think about your own happiness project.

January 1, the most inspiring opportunity for resolution-making, is just a few days away.

You can start a happiness project with just one resolution – some aspect of your life that, if changed, would make you happier. Or maybe you want to come up with five or six resolutions. Or maybe you want to do what I did, and have a different set of resolutions for each month of the coming year. Zoikes, I’m here to say — it really DOES make a difference. You can make yourself happier.

Two things are important:

1 – reminders. You need constant repetition to keep your resolution uppermost in your mind. Review a chart daily (that’s what I do), post a sticky note on the bathroom mirror, put it on your screensaver, or whatever works to have the resolution flash constantly before your eyes.

2 – accountability. You need to mark your progress. Give yourself gold stars, or a check mark on a chart, or email with a friend, or make plans to meet someone at the gym – whatever it takes to make yourself feel accountable for sticking to a resolution.

If you’re not sure where to start, consider focusing on your energy. Energy makes everything easier. So maybe you should resolve to go to sleep twenty minutes earlier each night, or going for a twenty-minute walk each day. No matter WHAT your life is like, you can probably manage to keep one of those two resolutions, and, research shows, it will have big happiness paybacks.

If energy isn’t an issue, working on strengthening your relationships. Draw closer to your family or make more time for friends. Bonds with other people is THE key to happiness, so taking steps in this area will give you a real boost.

As I’ve been working on my Happiness Project, I keep making the same resolutions over and over, and I keep backsliding, over and over. I comfort myself with examples of Tolstoy, Pepys, and St. Therese, all more elevated souls than I, who re-made the same resolutions throughout their lives.

Samuel Johnson, who repeatedly records in his diary his vow to “avoid idleness” and “rise early,” is another patron saint of resolution-makers.

I often think of his diary note: “I have now spent fifty-five years in resolving; having, from the earliest time almost that I can remember, been forming schemes of a better life. I have done nothing. The need of doing, therefore, is pressing, since the time of doing is short. O GOD, grant me to resolve aright, and to keep my resolutions.”

Just making a resolution probably won’t be enough to get yourself to 100% compliance. That’s okay. Small steps can mean big changes in happiness.

As I mentioned, along with all my tremendous stack of resolutions, I’ve made a new resolution: not to criticize the Big Man to other people. I’d love to hear other people’s resolutions – great inspiration.