Welcome to 2020!
I’m going to assume you’ve already tabled your list of New Year Resolutions, in which case I’m going to apologise for this post upfront – because I’m suggesting we ditch them this year.
I’m not a fan of New Year Resolutions. I have three main gripes. Firstly, they tend to be broad and unrealistic based on the lows of the previous year. Secondly, they lead to feelings of despair and self-loathing when not achieved, and thirdly, mine are repetitive. I’ve been making more or less the same New Year Resolutions for the last 5 years.
Sure, I could revisit goal-setting theory and talk about “SMART” goals, but I’ve been there and done that. I know the theory, I’ve created the vision board, populated the bullet journal and downloaded the App. As a rule of thumb, I still don’t stick these resolutions out.
Ok, so what do I propose? Let’s try something different. Something meaningful and life-changing. Whilst this may sound really grand and time-consuming, what I’m going to suggest is exactly the opposite.
First-up, say goodbye to 2019 (and all hang-ups from prior years). You genuinely need to let go of the past. Then we’re going to really focus on being present and living in the present – all to the benefit of your future. This year #EVERYDAYMATTERS and we’re going to actively pursue happiness.
Sounds a bit airy-fairy I know, but I’m going to share five simple, straight-forward and non-time consuming steps to help you plan for happiness.
The 5 Step Happiness-Plan
In his book “Happy Hour is 9 to 5”, Alexander Kjerulf suggests you make a “Happy Plan” to help change your job for the better. Although the book focuses on finding enjoyment at work, I believe Kjerulf’s Happy Plan is a perfect replacement for our boring, soul-destroying New Year Resolutions.
Step 1: Make a list of things that will create more happiness in your life.
Kjerulf suggests that your plan includes activities or things that are fast, easy and fun. You’ll want some quick wins, and this means cutting back on super ambitious or challenging feats. Start small with items that can be actioned quickly and don’t consume huge amounts of your energy. Most importantly they should be fun.
This doesn’t mean there is no room for challenging actions on your Happy Plan. Perhaps employ the 80/20 rule – 80% of the actions should be quick to implement and immediately gratifying, whilst 20% require a little more legwork and investment to execute.
Step 2: Do one small thing every day.
Craft happiness habits for yourself. We’re talking straight-forward habit formation theory here – take small, regular steps to transform your Happy Plan actions into daily habits that over time will become automatic.
One small thing every day might be the same small thing for 21-days whilst you build new happiness provoking habits. Alternatively, it might mean a series of different bite-sized steps that will ultimately contribute to the successful completion of a larger, more complex or difficult action item on your Happy Plan.
One small thing every day does not mean a Happy Plan of 365 actionable items for the year ahead. Start small, planning only for a handful of actions or items at a time.
Step 3: Follow-up, but without pressure.
Make a concerted effort to follow-up on your list on a regular basis. I’d suggest you formally allocate calendar time to review the list and make sure it’s visible, not hidden away in a book or folder on your computer.
The purpose of being able to see your Happy Plan every day is not so much about keeping you accountable for the items on your list, but more so to serve as a daily reminder that #EVERYDAYMATTERS and you are consciously taking small steps each and every day to be happy.
As you tick off items on your Happy Plan, take the time to add new actions to your plan. And when something doesn’t work out, cut yourself some slack. Give yourself a pat on the back for trying and then move on to the next idea or item.
Step 4: Celebrate your successes (big and small).
According to David DeSteno, author of Emotional Success: The Power of Gratitude, Compassion and Pride, prosocial emotions such as pride, gratitude and compassion can lead to greater success in the future. They are a lot easier to generate than willpower and self-denial.
Stop. Breathe. Take a moment to celebrate your accomplishments – don’t be too quick to jump into the next challenge. Embracing #EVERYDAYMATTERS means living in the present and not constantly chasing the future.
Step 5: Share what you do.
Happiness is contagious – share your ideas with those around you. Let your family, friends and colleagues in on your secrets. You’ll soon find the mood and spirits of your inner circle are lifted, and you’ll be surrounded by people who nurture and create their own happiness.
Besides we are who we spend time with – and there is no room for constant complainers and energy sappers in your Happy Plan.
Hello Happy Plan, Goodbye New Year Resolutions!
I trust that after reading this your New Year Resolutions will be in the trash can and you’ll be having fun coming up with innovative and enjoyable activities for your 2020 Happy Plan.
Take your time and start small, a handful of actionable items that will make a difference in your life over the coming days – not the coming year. Whilst you should try to do something small each day, don’t put too much pressure on yourself if you fall short on some of the items. Challenge yourself to simply try – if an idea doesn’t pan out, move on with the next. As you cross an item off your list – add a couple of new ones, and take a moment to appreciate your successes, before jumping onto the next one.
Remember #EVERYDAYMATTERS – so share your ideas with those around you, and you’ll soon be basking in happy vibes!