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Tips for Living a Better Life -- From Pope John XXIII

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One of the most important strategies of my Happiness Project has been keeping my Resolutions Chart. It provides accountability, it prompts me to review all my resolutions once a day, it gives me the gold stars I crave -- when I manage to follow my resolutions. (If you'd like to see a copy of my personal Resolutions Chart, for inspiration, just email me at grubin@gretchenrubin.com

I love reading other people's resolutions and their personal commandments, and I was very interested to read the daily decalogue of Pope John XXIII (a "decalogue" is a set of rules having authoritative weight). Pope John XXIII was pope from 1958-1963 and was known as "The Good Pope."

One aspect of the list that's worth noting is the emphasis on taking each day as it comes. This mindset is hugely helpful to me. Instead of allowing myself to become overwhelmed and discouraged by imagining how hard it would be to keep my resolutions for the rest of my life, I just take it day by day (or Bird by Bird for you Anne Lamott fans). Alcoholics Anonymous follows this same approach -- emphasizing "one day at a time" to keep a difficult change manageable.

So here are ten tips from Pope John XXIII about how to live a better life, day to day:

  1. Only for today, I will seek to live the livelong day positively without wishing to solve the problems of my life all at once.
  2. Only for today, I will take the greatest care of my appearance: I will dress modestly; I will not raise my voice; I will be courteous in my behavior; I will not criticize anyone; I will not claim to improve or to discipline anyone except myself.
  3. Only for today, I will be happy in the certainty that I was created to be happy, not only in the other world but also in this one.
  4. Only for today, I will adapt to circumstances, without requiring all circumstances to be adapted to my own wishes.
  5. Only for today, I will devote 10 minutes of my time to some good reading, remembering that just as food is necessary to the life of the body, so good reading is necessary to the life of the soul.
  6. Only for today, I will do one good deed and not tell anyone about it.
  7. Only for today, I will do at least one thing I do not like doing; and if my feelings are hurt, I will make sure that no one notices.
  8. Only for today, I will make a plan for myself: I may not follow it to the letter, but I will make it. And I will be on guard against two evils: hastiness and indecision.
  9. Only for today, I will firmly believe, despite appearances, that the good Providence of God cares for me as no one else who exists in this world.
  10. Only for today, I will have no fears. In particular, I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful and to believe in goodness. Indeed, for 12 hours I can certainly do what might cause me consternation were I to believe I had to do it all my life.

I've read this decalogue several times over the years, and every time I read it, a different admonition catches my attention. Today I found myself mulling over #2: "I will not claim to improve or to discipline anyone except myself." That's a good resolution for a happiness project. It often seems as though I'd be happy if only other people would behave properly! But the truth is, the only person I can really "improve or discipline" is myself.

Which of the ten rang most true for you?

* Speaking of daily decalogues, I was thrilled to see that Abbey, of the blog Beauty and Thorns, has started her own happiness project, and I was particularly intrigued to read her excellent Ten Commandments and her twelve goals for the year.

* It's Word-of-Mouth Day, when I gently encourage (or, you might think, pester) you to spread the word about the Happiness Project. You might:

-- Forward the link to someone you think would be interested

-- Link to a post on Twitter (follow me @gretchenrubin)

-- Sign up for my free monthly newsletter (about 44,000 people get it)

-- Buy the book

-- Join the 2010 Happiness Challenge to make 2010 a happier year

-- Put a link to the blog in your Facebook status update

Thanks! I really appreciate any help. Word of mouth is the BEST.

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