There’s no doubt that most of us were pleased to see the back of 2020, but with the dawn of 2021 bringing more national lockdowns across lots of countries, tougher restrictions, and a new strain of COVID running rampant, it’s no wonder that so many of us feel like there’s little hope even for this year. But surely, there must be something to look forward to, besides a vaccine we ask ourselves. And this got me thinking, we all want to know how to live a happier life, whatever comes our way, so what’s the solution?
Starting as you mean to go on
For many people, a new year means making new year resolutions, and these resolutions are typically short-lived. With the added stress and mental struggles that lockdowns have brought, sticking to resolutions this year is probably not on many people’s list of priorities. That’s why it’s time for a new approach. A focus on promises instead of resolutions.
But what does all this have to do with finding out how to live a happier life?
I’m not sure about you, but I’ve always found new year resolutions left me feeling as though I’d made a contract between me and the rest of the world. Now, while I agree that making your intentions known to all is valuable and beneficial, because it gives you accountability, the problem with new years resolutions is that we’ve all seen too many people make them, only to swiftly break them, and if you’ve done this, then you know it leaves you feeling, well, not so great. Because you’ve started your year with what feels like an epic fails from the get-go.
The more I thought about this, the more I felt that perhaps what we really need to focus on isn’t new year resolutions, but personal promises and commitments to ourselves. Promises that we honor through the year no matter what happens. These promises are less about completing specific actions or achieving specific goals. Instead, they can guide you through the year and keep you on track to achieving your goals no matter what life throws at you. What’s more, they can ensure you stay true to yourself, which I believe is a big part of the secret to living a happier life.
As I reflected on this idea, I realized that there are some promises that I needed to make for myself. These promises are promises that many of us could benefit from making. And I think they can definitely move us closer towards a happier life.
Here are 5 promises that will help you to live a happier life.
1. I promise to only use empowering language
While this might seem unrelated to your happiness, the language you use and the words you speak have real power over your life. Your language and your words can make you feel, so why not use them to make you feel good, strong, positive, powerful. Choosing the right words will definitely help you live a happier life. And there’s more to this than using positive, happy words and avoiding negativity and complaining.
One of the biggest things I learned last year was how much we all use language that’s disempowering or weak. Lots of different things fall under these categories. For example, having self-talk that puts you down, telling yourself you can’t do things, that you’re not good enough or that you’ll NEVER be able to achieve something is obviously disempowering. But we also use weak language like saying maybe when we want to say no or saying we’ll TRY to do something when deep down we know there’s not a chance we can fit it in.
What about using lots of words when a few words will do. Have you ever noticed that the people you trust the most and have the most confidence in are the ones that say fewer words and are also more clear in their language? I certainly have.
If you can’t do something say so if you don’t have time for something say so, if you don’t like something that’s ok. But many of us don’t do this. We tread a mirky middle ground leaving us exhausted from all the faux commitments we’ve made because we just couldn’t say what we really thought and feel frustrated when no-one knows what we really want.
This year, if you mean no, say no, if you want something say so, and if you think something is wrong, speak out.
2. I promise to get out of my comfort zone
One of the reasons we use wishy-washy weak language is because to be strong makes us uncomfortable. To take a stand or to do something which might expose us or make us seem … dare I say it… not nice or even horrible is unthinkable.
This goes for actions too. You stay in a familiar situation because even though you want something else the process of change is uncomfortable and scary. We all know that nothing amazing ever happened in the comfort zone, but it’s just too easy to stay there. There’s a reason it’s called the comfort zone.
Pushing yourself to do things that feel uncomfortable is something that takes conscious choice, but the more you do it, the more you get used to it and the more you experience new things.
If last year taught me anything it’s that anything can happen, anything is possible, so with that in mind, I’ve committed to just doing the thing, whatever the thing is however scary it might be, and I urge you to do the same.
3. I promise to notice what’s good
As I was getting my hair done, before lockdown 3.0, my hairdresser said something which woke me up. She said, “This year has been tough for everyone, but the truth is, for some it’s been a year of growth and there have been some benefits, while for others it’s been all negative.”
I thought about this and wondered what made the difference. And it reminded me of an incredibly inspiring story I’d heard about a new business owner. A friend of an old boss of mine had just opened a bar when COVID19 hit. What a scary predicament for a fledgling new business. Of all things, hospitality was up there on the list of industries impacted. Yet this person had evolved the business model changing and shifting and trying to adapt as best they could to keep going. I was so inspired and touched by this story and I deeply hope that they will survive this pandemic.
The point of this is that it was a great example of someone who could have thrown in the towel and given up, but didn’t. Similarly, I also know of those who have lost their jobs and are pushing on in whatever way they can. Starting businesses, looking for new jobs outside their industry, or retraining and learning new skills. But I also know of others who have struggled to come to terms with the uncertainty of this new world. What these different experiences show is that we do have a part to play in how we come out of the other side of this.
By adopting an attitude of not giving up, building our resilience, and also supporting each other, there is the hope that some good things can still happen.
4. I promise to be true to myself
We all feel better when we’re true t ourselves. So it makes sense being true to yourself is a factor when it comes to living a happier life.
But here’s the thing, how many things do you long for deep down? How did you want your life to be? And what are some of the things you really wanted for yourself?
The answers to these questions will no doubt include many things that you haven’t done or gone for and even things that you’ve simply given up on.
We’re so busy living life as we think we should. Doing what we think we ought to do and being the person that someone, somewhere at some point expected us to be or wanted us to be. We’ve all but forgotten who we really are and what we really want.
I hope that something as unprecedented as a global pandemic has pushed you to question this and caused you to remember who you are. Make this the year that you let yourself finally be you. If you want to know how to be happier in life, then this is a good place to start.
5. I promise to trust myself
We’re always looking for answers outside of ourselves. I know, since I can be the worst for it. I’m a review maniac. If I want anything I will research and research until there’s nothing left to read on the topic. But does this make the decision easy? Not always! As trivial as this example seems, the point is that sometimes we need to just do what we know in our hearts is right for us and not look for approval from others, or wait for permission from outside ourselves.
There’s nothing wrong with getting input, weighing your options, and being informed. But you know when it becomes more than that. When you’re afraid to do anything unless someone else gives it a seal of approval. This year, trust yourself more because deep down you know what’s right for you. Always waiting for others to tell you what the best decision is can be a dangerous thing. It can also be a crutch we use to stop us from taking action. Rather than waiting from the go head or approval from someone else, take action and learn from your mistakes which will also help you overcome perfectionism in the long run.
I’m sure there are plenty of other promises that you could make that will help you live a happier life. I also know that change is hard and starting to live by these, or any other promises you choose to live by will sometimes be a challenge but I think it will be a challenge worth taking on because what you discover on the other side could be the happier life you dream of. And at the very least you’ll learn a thing or two about yourself, which is always worthwhile.