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On starting the year the way I mean to go on. And the secret to happiness.

'The way I mean to go on' ... what does that mean?

At New Year, we ask ourselves and each other, 'What are our resolutions?' I have written about this before. Hundreds of people have written about this before; every minute of every hour of every January 1st ever since someone first had the bright idea that on the strike of midnight when December 31st trips over into January, it would be a bright idea to recalibrate; to promise ourselves that we would change. And we all know what happens to most promises. They get broken; most of them before the end of January. No, strike that out and let's be honest, most are broken by the end of the second week of January; sunk with everyone else's broken promises into the murky gloom of dying resolutions and dark mid-winter.

So for a moment, let's break this ramble down, reiterate a bit, and return to where I started - resolutions are pointless promises made out of desperation when we look at the lives we have created for ourselves and somehow feel that we haven't done enough. Load that with a hefty topping of competition where our resolution has to be more worthy than the resolutions of everyone else and it's not surprising that we fail.
Aha ... we fail! Yes - right after the highs of Christmas and the drunken celebrations of New Year; close on the heels of remorse over eating too much, spending too much, and buying the wrong presents for your loved ones. It's tempting - seeing it written like that - to regard this failing as some twisted self-inflicted form of flagellation. Flagellation that leads to gloom, a feeling of unworthiness and a hopeless sensation that nothing is ever going to change because we - are - failures.

Failures before the New Year has properly started.

This is my point. This is not how I mean to go on. I have unsubscribed from my annual membership of the January Failing Club. This New Year and through this decade, my resolution is that I will not be making resolutions. I know myself well enough not to embark on this once a year voyage to Destination Disappointment.

Instead of making resolutions, I will share a little nugget with you. A nugget called the Secret to Happiness. Yup! That one; yes, really! A tiny daily practice that takes at most two minutes to complete. It will - if you do practice it - change your life for the better. It doesn't need a book written about it - the book would be too short. It does though, I think, need to be shared and that is why I am telling you about it here. It has everything to do with the way I mean to go on precisely because it has everything to do with going on. It is strikingly simple, yet deceptively fulfilling and infinitely powerful. I'm bigging it up on purpose. Because if you think carefully about what I am about to suggest, then you'll see that it encapsulates everything - all that we hope to be; all that we hope to accomplish for ourselves, our communities and our world. It is entirely positive.

Drum roll ... this is it; this is the way I mean to go on and it will change your life -

Find two minutes at the end of every day to ask yourself two questions -

What in the day just passed am I grateful for?


What today did I do well?

Reflect properly on these things; write them down if you want (apologies if that takes you more than the promised (!) two minutes). They can be as tiny or momentous as you choose - from making another human-being smile, to watching the path of a raindrop as it runs down a window; from holding a loved one's hand to let them know that you believe in them, to seeing a great film that made you cry; from solving a crossword puzzle, to hearing a baby laugh. All such things as were noticed by you. In noticing them, you start to build a mental library of the things you notice so that you will notice increasingly when and how you can make a difference not only to your own life but to the lives of others. You will grow not only your awareness of what makes you happy but also your social conscience and that will build a better life. This is the way I mean to go on. You can do it too. Go on - whisper it to yourself. And start today.

Beware though, of stumbling by adding the obvious third question - What could I have done better? Avoid it. Block it out. That is flagellation again. It's negative. Don't beat yourself up about what didn't go well, even if you plan to do it better - that planning is like a promise and if you don't keep it, will lead to disappointment.
Everyone is capable of gratitude and of doing things well. Be grateful and do things well today. Do them well tomorrow. Go on doing them well. That way lies happiness. And if you think about it, if all of us go on this way, it is also the way to better understanding; to better toleration of others; to better caring and protection of the environment, and perhaps even to peace.

I can hope. And so can you. Go on - join me in starting the year the way you mean to go on.


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