Among the best parts of starting a New Year is the ideal opportunity it creates for hitting re-start on many aspects of our lives.
As we use this (and the next) edition of the News to look backward at last year and forward to the next, we can see lots of moments when we – as individuals and as a community – might have done better.
A new year is a great time to take stock and perhaps look for areas where we might improve during the coming year. For many, that takes the form of New Year’s resolutions. More often than not, they may be broken or forgotten before the first week or month of the year have passed. But some resolutions really change lives.
For those who can do it, losing that weight, walking more, quitting smoking, being a nicer person and otherwise taking better care of ourselves are important. And if resolutions help us get even part way to the goal, it’s a positive. Part of the reason we so often fail in our resolution making and keeping is that the promises we make are so detailed or so grand that we’re doomed from the outset. When we fail, whether it’s on day two or five or 10, we give up and count the whole resolution as a failure instead of trying again on day three or six or 11.
As a person who makes resolutions (many) and keeps them (sometimes), I welcome each opportunity to try again and am a better person not only for the resolutions I kept but for those I could only keep half way. That said, “better” is a relative term and there remain vast opportunities for improvement. So this year, as always, I’ll make resolutions; for my personal life and for my professional life. This year though, my resolutions will be driven by an insight shared with me earlier this year.
Just before Thanksgiving, a friend shared an article by Brian Portnoy in MarketWatch about what brings people the most happiness in life. It made sense to me then and when I was reminded of it this week, it seemed the perfect answer to this year’s resolution making.
Portnoy posits that deep, long term contentment is found in experiences, in relationships with other people and in time well spent. It’s hard to argue with his concepts. The author notes that no matter how much money we have, fancier cars, bigger houses, more expensive clothes and toys can only bring so much happiness. The “pleasure fades, leaving us wanting what everyone else wants: More.” He says that “Plenty of research substantiates that above a modest family income, there is zero relationship between a higher income and more happiness.”
Experiences, from a long walk in the woods to pot luck suppers with friends, watching high school sports to visiting art galleries, all “stoke a deeper sense of joy.” The more multifaceted our experiences are, the better, because they give us something to do in real time and also re-create the joy when we share the memories or the stories in days and years to come. This seems to be true whether we’re having the experiences alone or with others.
Which brings us to the second leg of Portnoy’s three-legged happiness stool; relationships with others. Portnoy says “Those who spent money on others are measurably happier than those who spent it on themselves.” Behaviors that deepen our connections to others in our families and in our communities are the behaviors that bring the most joy and meaning to our lives.
Time is the third leg under Portnoy’s stool. “We live in an age of being ‘busy.’ Many feel overwhelmed by obligations and distractions, leaving little time to enjoy life’s pleasures.” Eliminating distractions, and devoting the time we do have free to experiences and other people will make life better for everyone involved. Taking all of Portnoys elements together, time for experiences with others, cultivating relationships, engaging in hobbies or charitable works, will bring us out ahead at the end of a year.
So for 2019, our wish for our readers, if not our resolution for ourselves, is that each of you will find time in every week or every month, to create a year filled with incredible experiences, with people you like. The results could be life-changing. Happy New Year to all.