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January 27, 2015

Bye Bye January Blues

Ruth Hill

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I don’t know about you, but I always find January a bit depressing.

Aside from being one of the darkest months of the year, here in the Northern Hemisphere, it usually brings foul weather, failed new year's resolutions, fallout from the excesses of Christmas - inflated debt as well as expanded waistlines - and an awful lot of mud (as I've mentioned before, I have dogs, and they need to be walked, in fair weather or foul).

If you’re feeling deflated because you’ve broken or abandoned your own resolutions already, look on the bright side for a moment. According to innovation consultant Steven Shapiro, a staggering 92 percent of new year's resolutions fail.

My own “Dry January” pledge lasted barely a week. On the 8th, at a friend's party, someone offered me a glass of champagne to toast his good health, and all my good intentions flew out the window. But I don’t worry about that, and neither should you. The reason new year's resolutions fail isn’t through a lack of self-discipline or poor willpower. It’s because you set yourself unrealistic goals that are doomed from the start. So, instead of setting yourself up to fail, make yourself a winner by following our Five Golden Rules of Goal Setting.

And besides, you’d have to be some kind of masochist to commit yourself to a goal that’s all about denying yourself something you love. From now on, I pledge to give up giving things up. Will you join me?

I’m going to focus on the positive instead. So, rather than instigating a ban on booze, I’m all about blending my own tea, discovering fun new places where alcohol isn’t on the menu, and getting up early on a Saturday morning with a clear head, so I can make the most of my weekends.

So, if your goal is to lose weight/give up smoking/stop being late for work… turn that frown upside down and eat more fruit/get sweeter breath/enjoy the sunrise… Don’t beat yourself up. Find something that floats your boat and motivates you to really make a change.

There’s more good news, too. If, like me, you’ve been feeling a little down lately, you’ll be pleased to know that the worst is now behind us. Yesterday was the first working day of the last full week of January. "Blue Monday," as it has become known - the worst and most depressing day of the year - is over. Now, doesn’t that feel better…?

No…? Me neither. But sometimes, feeling blue is a necessary part of leading a full and, yes, fulfilled, life. I think the Germans, who have a way of putting words together that really express the nuances of how we feel, say it best. “Weltschmerz” - literally translated to “world pain” - seems to have become a bit of a buzzword lately. It’s that familiar sense of disillusionment you feel when the world fails to live up to your expectations.

Last month, former Obama administration staffer Ari Ratner published an essay on the subject, in which he describes weltschmerz as the “dominant zeitgeist” in America today. We’ve all been there: when the news is filled with war, inequality, pain, and poverty, the state of the world can feel hopeless - and 2014 seems to have had more than its fair share of bad news, but let’s put that behind us now.

It’s time to embrace our weltschmerz for, without it, there can be no reform. So, next time the feeling hits, resist the urge to pull the duvet over your head and hide. Instead, take a long hard look at yourself and examine your situation to find meaning and purpose in what you do. Figure out what makes you happy and put the love back into your work. In short, channel your weltschmerz to make your world, if not the world, better.

I recently channeled my own weltschmerz to change the way I work, so that I can spend more of my time with my family before my daughter decides it's not so cool to hang out with her mom any more. What is your weltschmerz telling you to do?

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Save 50% in the Mind Tools store!

Our massive Black Friday sale continues in the Mind Tools store! Save 50% on all resources until December 8.
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