Why Can’t I Floss Regularly?

DentalflossOne question that comes up all the time with my happiness project, and one which fascinates me is – how do people successfully make changes in their lives? Why can one person stick to a resolution, and another person can’t? How do we boost our chances for sticking to our resolutions

For example, one small, everyday activity that I just can’t get myself to do regularly is to floss. I know I should. I realize that it’s ridiculous to be a full-grown adult and not have good dental habits. But I just can’t get myself to do it.

Now, flossing didn’t seem to rise to the level of being a real “resolution,” so I never added it to my Resolutions Chart. (If you want to see my charts, for inspiration, just email me at grubin, then the “at” sign, then gretchenrubin dot com. Sorry about writing it in that roundabout way; I’m trying to thwart spammers. Just write “Resolutions Chart” in the subject line.) But maybe I need to do that. After all, I’ve been half-heartedly vowing to floss more for the last few decades, and that approach hasn’t worked.

Not flossing isn’t good for my teeth and gums, of course. But it also has a subtle effect on my happiness. Knowing that I should be doing something for my health, but not doing it, makes me feel irresponsible and out of control in a small, but real, area of my life. Managing to stick to my resolution would turn those feelings around, so that flossing would make me feel effective and competent (in a very small arena, true, but I’d feel it).

Have you found any strategies for prodding yourself to do things that you know you should do – but just somehow don’t do?

The days are long, but the years are short.