New Year’s Resolutions That Will Actually Lead to Happiness

Arthur C. Brooks: When I ask people about the resolutions that fail, they often say that what seemed important in the abstract wasn’t really worth the effort. For instance, losing weight didn’t seem worth it if it meant forgoing family meals. In other words, people imagine the benefits of meeting a resolution without the costs of doing so; when the costs actually present themselves, the resolutions often fail the cost-benefit test, leading the resolutions to be abandoned. To solve this problem, we need to ask what we are really trying to improve. In almost every case, it is happiness. Our failed resolutions are often attempts to gain happiness indirectly — like losing weight or exercising to become more attractive and, we hope, happier. Instead, we need resolutions that bring happiness directly, so the benefits outweigh the costs immediately. Let me suggest two direct happiness resolutions for 2021: forgiveness and gratitude.

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