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4 New Year’s resolutions you should make

Categories: Hacking Life, Uncategorized

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Lose five pounds — or, ideally, 10. Stop smoking. Exercise more. Be more patient with frustrating coworkers/spouses/children/parents/siblings/bosses. Eat better. Get more sleep. Make room for “me time.” Save money. Etc. Etc. Etc.

It seems like we make — and don’t keep — the same New Year’s resolutions over and over again. But what are we really trying to achieve?

“We’re all longing for happiness,” says Todd Patkin, co-author of Finding Happiness: One Man’s Quest to Beat Depression and Anxiety and—Finally—Let the Sunshine In. “We think we can achieve it by losing ten pounds or kicking a bad habit or making more money, and that’s why we vow to do those things year after year after year.”

I believe that being happy is a choice. And I believe that it’s possible to make resolutions that you can actually keep — and that the success leads to more happiness down the road. Here are four New Year’s resolutions you should try for 2011:

1. Decide to be happy. I’ll admit it: I struggle with this, sometimes. Sometimes, it’s easier to stew and steam and focus on the negative, because it fills me up with self-righteous anger that I mistake for strength. But deciding to be happy is much more powerful. It can be as simple as searching for the silver linings that really are in everything. Start there. See where it goes.

2. Put effort into the relationships that matter. One of the hallmarks of working motherhood is that we put our marriages and our spouses on the back burner, choosing instead to focus on career and kids — and feeling guilty about not doing enough. “If you’ve gotten to a place where you resent your spouse or feel chronically angry with him or her, only you can change that,” says Patkin. “Make an effort to speak gently and kindly. Surprise her with a small gift, or do one of his chores, or pick up something special for dinner. Random acts of kindness are always powerful, and that’s even truer inside a marriage.” There’s a difference between being kind and pandering. There is a difference between being gentle with people you love and being taken for granted. Try to remember that your partner is on your team — and when you are having a rough day and need help, be sure to speak up, rather than expecting him or her to read your mind. (I can’t be the only one who does this. If I confess that I do it, will anyone else admit to it, too?) Not partnered? Pour your effort into your relationships with your kids, your closest friends, your extended family, or yourself.

3. Don’t make other people’s insecurities your problem. As I’ve said before, dimishing yourself in order to make someone else feel better about herself is a foolish waste of time and energy. There’s a difference between living your life and tailoring it to make someone else feel better. That’s not to say that we don’t have a responsibility to help others; in many situations, I think we do. But that doesn’t mean we’re responsible for other people’s actions. Do what you know to be right, and let other people handle their insecurities about it.

4. Let go of resentment. Esther Lederer — better known as Ann Landers — once wrote: “Hanging on to resentment is letting someone you despise live rent-free in your head.” What’s worse is that the person you resent is often completely oblivious about how you feel, so you’re the only one who is miserable. A better way to cope: Air your grievances (calmly, politely, constructively), look for solutions, and implement them or move on. Life is short. Don’t waste it on the things — or people — that make you miserable.

Do you make New Year’s resolutions? What do you resolve to try to do in 2011?



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2 comments so far...

  • Good point about deciding to be happy. (That’s one of my favorite mantras.) It’s a process and I’ve been working on it for years. So I make what you might call sub-resolutions. For me, this year I want to focus on choosing to be positive rather than negative in my reactions to what life dishes out.

    SKL  |  January 2nd, 2011 at 4:14 am

  • Thanks for this- I needed to read it. It seems like articles and blogs everywhere are telling me the “Top 7 ways to grow your business this year” and “11 things you’ll regret not doing in 2001,” etc, etc. Your suggestions are simple and totally attainable.

    Number 1 really resounded with me, particularly the line, “it’s easier to stew and steam and focus on the negative, because it fills me up with self-righteous anger that I mistake for strength.” Wow, does that ever describe me. I’m definitely deciding in advance that my attitude will be positive this year. Thanks for challenging me!

    Rachel Heath  |  January 3rd, 2011 at 8:19 pm