One of the most important strategies of my Happiness Project has been keeping my Resolutions Chart. It provides accountability, it prompts me to review all my resolutions once a day, it gives me the gold stars I crave -- when I manage to follow my resolutions.
I love reading other people's resolutions, their personal commandments, their to-do lists, and a thoughtful reader sent me the link to the daily decalogue of Pope John XXIII. Pope John XXIII was pope from 1958-1963 and was known as "The Good Pope."
It's interesting to see that this list emphasizes taking each day as it comes. This mindset can be hugely helpful. Instead of allowing yourself to become overwhelmed and discouraged by imagining how hard it would be to keep your resolutions for the rest of your life, you just take it day by day (or Bird by Bird for you Anne Lamott fans).
Alcoholics Anonymous follows this same approach - emphasizing "one day at a time" to keep a difficult change manageable.
So here are ten tips from Pope John XXIII about how to live a better life, day to day:
1. Only for today, I will seek to live the livelong day positively without wishing to solve the problems of my life all at once.
2. Only for today, I will take the greatest care of my appearance: I will dress modestly; I will not raise my voice; I will be courteous in my behavior; I will not criticize anyone; I will not claim to improve or to discipline anyone except myself.
3. Only for today, I will be happy in the certainty that I was created to be happy, not only in the other world but also in this one.
4. Only for today, I will adapt to circumstances, without requiring all circumstances to be adapted to my own wishes.
5. Only for today, I will devote 10 minutes of my time to some good reading, remembering that just as food is necessary to the life of the body, so good reading is necessary to the life of the soul.
6. Only for today, I will do one good deed and not tell anyone about it.
7. Only for today, I will do at least one thing I do not like doing; and if my feelings are hurt, I will make sure that no one notices.
8. Only for today, I will make a plan for myself: I may not follow it to the letter, but I will make it. And I will be on guard against two evils: hastiness and indecision.
9. Only for today, I will firmly believe, despite appearances, that the good Providence of God cares for me as no one else who exists in this world.
10. Only for today, I will have no fears. In particular, I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful and to believe in goodness. Indeed, for 12 hours I can certainly do what might cause me consternation were I to believe I had to do it all my life.
To conclude: here is an all-embracing resolution: "I want to be kind, today and always, to everyone."
I've started to think more about kindness. I thought of it as an important but bland virtue (in the same class as reliability and dutifulness), but I suspect that I've been overlooking something very important. I was just reading Henry James, who echoed the sentiment above: "Three things in human life are important: The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind."
* Interested in starting your own happiness project? If you'd like to take a look at my personal Resolutions Chart, for inspiration, just email me at grubin, then the "at" sign, then gretchenrubin dot com. (Sorry about writing it in that roundabout way; I'm trying to thwart spammers.) Just write "Resolutions Chart" in the subject line.