I decided to make 2016 the best year of my life. So, was it?

A year ago today (Dec. 31 2015) I came up with an odd plan. I read the quote The most important decision you make is to be in a good mood* and I decided to challenge myself to make 2016 the best year of my life. It’s been a year now. How did it work?

Well, implementation was challenging. A few days into 2016 I realized that I had already forgotten my plan, which wasn’t exactly an encouraging start. So I considered how most mornings I write down anything I have to do that day, often adding things I’d like to get to, errands I’ll run if I have time, that kind of thing. This daily note to myself works to ground me, it keeps me from worrying that I’ll forget something important, and it often sets my mood for the day.

Aha. Mood for the day. Well, it looked like I could just make my little lists the key. Soon, instead of merely putting a date at the top, I was writing out things like January 16 2016, the best January 16th of my life. It was a little goofy (and cumbersome) but it got me in the right frame of mind. Why shouldn’t this be the greatest January 16th I’ve ever had? I mean, I don’t remember the others.

The good news was that after a few weeks of this I didn’t have to write out the whole thing. I got the point where I could merely write down February 2, 2016 and the voice in my head would oblige by chirping out the rest. The best February 2 of my life. And instead of yelling at the little voice to shut up, I’d go out the door and try to make it so.

blessed weird 3Some days, I forgot my mission by the time I got to my car, as a minor irritation like forgetting my coffee or finding my gas tank low took over and I never recovered. Other days I kept at it for a while, or for all of the day, and occasionally I got a second wind. When any of these happened I actively looked for evidence that this March 10th was special. It won’t surprise anyone that when I did look for evidence of how fine the day was, I found it.

Glitches occurred on days that had strong past memories. Take March 17. It’s going to be hard to ever top the year I was in Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day, so I had to aim for my second best March 17 ever. Or take March 28, the day my dad died two decades ago. I tried to have a less painful day than usual, one with a bit of unexpected comfort. Yes, I found it, too.

As spring turned into summer I realized that I was helped by the fact that some things about this year really were particularly good for me. I’ve recently moved to a part of the country I like much better, and I’ve been able to go from working full time to part time and to put my extra free time into taking better care of myself and doing more things I enjoy. That’s got to be good, right?

My husband likes to point out how we seldom notice what doesn’t happen and he’s right. Late summer and early autumn brought more time than usual with those I am close to, and my new focus forced me to notice how those I love have remained healthy and safe this year, and even in many cases found more happiness of their own. Wow. A good year for them is a better year for me. Chalk up more evidence on the “best year ever” side.

But not everything in 2016 could be classed as “best ever.” There were challenges I did not anticipate on December 31, 2015. I believe strongly in tolerance and in the important of treating each other with compassion and consideration. As the presidential race came into the home stretch, and concluded with the worst of all possible outcomes in my opinion, I was horrified that so many of my fellow humans placed such little importance on these traits. I’m still trying to get my arms around that, and around my own fears for the future based on the outcome of the election.

raising ecstacy 1So, was 2016 the best year of my life? Probably not, though it offered me a lot for which to be thankful.

Was it a better year than it would have been without this goofy challenge to myself? Absolutely.

Is 2017 going to be the best year of my life? Maybe. Probably not, but I hope it will be. Am I going to try to make it so? You bet I am.

Tomorrow’s little list will say “January 1, 2017, the best January 1 of my life.”  I’ll take it from there.

(Visit “My Best New Year’s Resolution Yet” to read my Dec. 31, 2015 promise to myself to make 2016 my best year ever.)

*The quote is from François-Marie Arouet (1694 – 1778), more commonly known as Voltaire, a French Enlightenment writer famous for his wit and his advocacy of freedom of expression. He also said Common sense is not so common and Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. He was man at least 300 years ahead of his time.

My Best New Year’s Resolution Yet

To be fair, a lot of my previous resolutions have been half-hearted, born of the need to answer someone else’s question about what I was striving for in the year ahead. So I was surprised when yesterday, out of nowhere, I knew exactly what it was that I would resolve to do in the coming months.

I am going to wake up every day and decide that I am in a good mood.

true voice 9I see no reason why I can’t do this. I decide that I’m in a bad mood lots of times. It is true that I always have a reason. My foot hurts or I have a dentist appointment or I have to finish a task I hate or whatever. The reasons to feel sort of pissy are endless. However, there is no question I have as many reasons to be irrationally cheerful. Some might even argue that I have more, and that the joy I plan to acknowledge is quite rational instead.

Either way, I’m going to do it.

It would be nice to take credit for this brilliant idea, but I can’t. I’ve read lots of places that being in a good mood was the best thing  you could ever do for yourself, although I have no idea why the message picked yesterday to randomly sink in.

Today I became a little curious about who in the world had given me this gentle push towards good cheer. So I did what everyone does who wants to know something. A quick internet search showed many variations on this piece of wisdom, but I found only one original attribution.

The most important decision you make is to be in a good mood. Voltaire

VoltaireInteresting. You know, I have heard of Voltaire (haven’t we all?) but after reading his quote I realized that I do not know the first thing about him. Or at least I didn’t. Good old Wikipedia just informed me that that François-Marie Arouet (1694 – 1778), who was known by his nom de plume Voltaire, was a French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit, and his advocacy of freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and separation of church and state.

In the 1700’s. Wow. He sounds like a quite a guy. I’m all for freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and separation of church and state and I think the world can’t have too many witty writers with flowing long hair.

So, this will be my year of Voltaire. Among his few works of fiction is “Micromégas,” a science fiction short story written in 1752 about aliens visiting earth. That is something I have got to see. I’ll read that soon, and I’ll make every effort to heed his wisdom for the next 366 days. I doubt that I’ll be more than a little  successful, because my grumpy habits are pretty well ingrained. But you know what? Even if I only manage to do this 10% of the time, that means I’m going to have 36 days next year that were better than they could have been. Thirty six whole days.

Is this the best New Year’s resolution ever, or what?

For more year end fun see some of the oddest predictions for 2016, read about whether it is an honor to be person of the year,  take a look at the top women of 2016 and catch 2016 plans for world peace.