“The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time.”                                                                –Abraham Lincoln

Each January, when the next year unfolds, we are bombarded with articles on goal-setting and New Year’s resolutions. Many of these otherwise helpful articles fail to mention just how difficult it can be to change- especially when tackling old time worn habits. Often we need to be hit in the side of the head with a two by four (metaphorically speaking) before we get up the courage or willingness to address our problems.

As Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Traveled, says so eloquently,”The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling uncomfortable, unhappy or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.” If your goal is to create a happy family or have more fulfilling relationships, don’t wait for a crisis. Instead, start with small steps, and make tiny changes one day at a time.

If you want to laugh and think and be inspired about how uncomfortable change can be, watch or re-watch the movie Groundhog Day, made in 1993 with Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. The movie is about Phil Connors, a weatherman who is the proverbial “glass is half empty” kind of guy. Phil is self-absorbed, sarcastic, and unhappy. In an odd magical turn of fate, he keeps repeating the same frustrating day, which just so happens to be Groundhog Day, over and over and over again, trapped in a time loop.

Like all the rest of us with our own repetitive tapes of self-defeating behaviors, Phil is doomed to remain stuck if he keeps doing the same thing. On the other hand, if he changes, people will respond to him differently, and new opportunities and realities will slowly but surely begin to emerge. Watch the movie with your family or friends; ask yourself or each other what is your personal “Groundhog Day” and what do you want to do about it?                                           

A wonderful book and on-line resource for parents and non-parents alike is called The Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin. The so-called project that Rubin undertook was to see if and how she could become happier over the course of one year.

She began by setting specific measurable goals in different areas of her life such as in her marriage, her work, and her parenting. Next she started making concrete changes which give the reader some ideas and tools. What is delightful about this book is that it is well written, funny, and doesn’t feel preachy even though it easily could. The fact that this book and others on the same topic are now bestsellers says something about just how universal is the desire to be happier.

For those of you who have already read How’s Your Family Really Doing? 10 Keys to a Happy Loving Family, this is the perfect book for anyone wanting to work on Key #8, “Seeing the Positive”. Rubin describes some of the research that reveals how happiness does not come from selfishly trying to meet our own individual needs. Greater happiness instead arises from things like having good relationships with others, from practicing how to be more loving and generous, and from finding concrete ways to give back to the world.

Even though I am an avid reader, it is challenging to find the time to read all the great books collecting dust on the shelves let alone trying to take the steps to build my happiness quotient.If you are currently too busy or overwhelmed even to think about reading another great book, you can enjoy Rubin’s writing by checking out her blog.

Or simply take one minute, click on the link that follows and watch The Years Are Short. This short and sweet video reminded me of how important it is to treasure each moment and to remember how to see the world through the eyes of a child once again. When you celebrate the coming of this new year, perhaps forget the big resolutions for the future. Take a deep breath, and look around you. What can you do right now to make yourself or your family members feel loved and appreciated? Just do that, one day at a time.