Throughout January, you probably heard and read a lot of people talking and writing about how to have a great year. And, if you’re like me and most people, you probably think that sounds like a pretty good idea.
But although this might surprise you a bit, I'm going to suggest you DON'T aim to have a great year...because a whole year of greatness, happiness and success is just not possible!
In fact, I'd go so far as to suggest that you don’t even try to have a great day! Because even a whole day of greatness and happiness is barely possible; or at least extremely difficult and very rare.
Because things go wrong; and because life's hard sometimes; and because we're fallible and others are too and ... there are so many reasons why life's not perfect and we're not going to be happy all the time. This shouldn't be a surprise and it shouldn’t (hopefully) sound negative or pessimistic; rather, it should be OK and completely acceptable to experience negative emotions such as sadness and frustration and irritation and anxiety.
Yet we constantly set ourselves up for disappointment and failure by saying things and aiming for goals such as happiness (all the time) and a great year (all 365 days of it) etcetera. And by setting unrealistic goals and holding on to unrealistic expectations we place ourselves at serious risk of feeling let down. In the worst-case scenarios, this can even lead to significant emotional problems such as anger and depression.
So, what should we do instead?
I suggest aiming for happy moments. At the end of the day (or week or year) it's likely a few things would have gone wrong. But it’s also extremely likely that some things, possibly many things, "went right"!
Focusing on these “right” and “happy” things more than on the "unhappy moments" is pretty much guaranteed to boost your mood and improve your life (although it should be noted that these “unhappy moments” can teach us important lessons, so they shouldn't always be completely ignored).
Focusing on the positive moments is also guaranteed to reduce some of that frustration and disappointment because you no longer expect EVERYTHING to be great!
Instead of trying to have a great day, therefore, try the following (more realistic) strategies and see how you fare:
- Plan pleasurable moments throughout your day. Don’t just wait for the evenings or the weekends or, dare I say it, the holidays. Include fun and play through every day!
- Plan, also, satisfying moments. Schedule in to your days some of those tasks you don’t necessarily find fantastically fun, but that have to be done and that on completion will provide you with a feeling of pride and satisfaction
- At the end of each day, set aside some time to reflect upon “What Went Well?” Write down a list of all the positive moments; talk to your partner and/or children and/or friends about the good you saw and/or experienced through the day
- At the same time, acknowledge that not everything can go well so accept any negative experiences you’ve had and if possible, learn from them
- And finally, as you lie in bed at night, picture the good that will happen tomorrow and over the coming days and weeks.