For the second guest post on my blog I am very pleased to introduce Alistair Gill. I really admire his Project of 52 New Year Resolutions, reading his blog prompted me to write my 30 by 30 list. I asked him to write a little about resolutions and happiness.
Thank you Alistair for your very inspiring words!
When Catherine asked me if I would write a guest post for her blog, I was delighted. I wanted to keep the theme of this post aligned with Catherine’s Happiness Project. I thought long and hard about how what I do could help. You see, I have my own project. For the last two years I have set myself the task of completing 52 New Year Resolutions. They range from giving up alcohol, to learning languages, from running a 10km to helping others.
It’s fair to say that during those two years, I have learned quite a lot about the goal setting process. I have had mixed results in achieving them too! There are some that I have found easier than expected. While others that seemed like a great idea at the time I set them, well I lost interest in them. What has been interesting looking back is the difference between those resolutions I succeeded with and those I failed at. What is it about one goal that makes it more likely to succeed than another? What I can say is that focus plays a huge part in making a goal successful.
Having 52 resolutions is overwhelming. There is no way I can work on all of them at the same time. I have to pick a few at a time to focus on, and hope that I get around to all of them at some point before the end of the year. It’s part of the challenge! However, when I am focused on a resolution, I am far more likely to achieve it. I put my energy into making it happen. I think about it a lot. I spot opportunities related to the goal that I would have missed if I wasn’t focused.
So how do I choose what to focus on? This is where we come back to happiness. I can’t honestly say I sit there with a list and choose a few resolutions to prioritise. It is far more organic than that. I think subconsciously I am drawn to the resolutions that are going to make me happier. Deep down we all want to be happy. It is just easier to focus on and work toward achieving a goal that brings happiness, than one that brings stress.
So, if I am more likely to be successful with a resolution that brings me happiness, which resolutions have been most successful? I can think of three:
- Go to see the Giant Pandas at Edinburgh Zoo
- Go to 12 live shows/gigs
- Carry my wife up the 99 steps of the Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Mary
At first these three might seem unrelated, but I believe there is an underlying link here with an important lesson for those of us pursuing happiness.
It is not necessarily the goals themselves that are important here. It is the experiences that they created. For instance, I have been fascinated with Pandas since I was a child. Being able to see them in real life, even in captivity, was a huge experience for me. Something I won’t ever forget. In order to achieve this resolution, we also got to visit a city we had never travelled to. That wouldn’t have happened if I wasn’t focused on the goal.
For the 12 live shows resolution, I have been to the West End in London twice. I have been to see local bands twice. I saw a Cirque du Soleil show and various productions at our local theatre. Again these were all amazing experiences. Generally the experience lasts far beyond the show itself. These are the sort of things you look forward to in the days building up to it. You then enjoy the show itself, and then can’t stop talking about them in the days following.
The final resolution I will mention is the 99 steps challenge. I got married in July in Lake Bled, Slovenia. It is local tradition that the groom carries the bride up the 99 steps to the church, which is located on the island in the lake. I had been in the gym for 6 months preparing for the big day! When it finally came down to it, it was raining, so we decided not to bother. I was deeply disappointed, but standing around in the rain is no fun. By the time we came out of the church the weather had dried up, so the photographer suggested we at least pose for a photograph. This was my opportunity! There were lots of tourists visiting the island, but I had to go for it. Within seconds, they were all cheering me on and clapping…all the way to the top! Once again, an experience that I shall never forget. An experience with an extra special place in my heart.
If you want to be happier, I strongly recommend you pursue experiences. Sure, yours will be different to mine, but that is half the fun. Sharing them with other people is the other half of the fun. Do you have any experiences you can share that made you happy? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below.
I’ll leave you with the following passage from a book I read called 59 Seconds by Professor Richard Wiseman:
Buy Experiences Not Goods. Want to buy happiness? Then spend your hard-earned cash on experiences. Go out for a meal. Go to a concert, cinema or theatre. Go on holiday. Go and learn how to pole dance. Go paintballing. Go bungee jumping. In fact, get involved in anything that provides an opportunity to do things with others, and then tell even more people about it afterwards. When it comes to happiness, remember that it is experiences that represent really good value for money.