Hitting January 2 is like going from 60 to zero in one day. The
mandatory cheer, cooking, visitors, glitz, glitter, toys, a million chores --
have drowned out the drumbeats of war, the nuclear posturing, the fear of
downsizing, all the doubts and fears, for a couple of weeks -- then, over, zip.
The usual blah-blah New Year's resolutions -- lose 20 pounds,
go to the gym more, spend more time with your family -- have a way of fading by
mid-January as reality sets back in. You go to the office and facing you is a
blank calendar. Before you get that sinking feeling -- think.
When heart specialist John M. Kennedy, M.D., of Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, stands at the scrub sink before an operation, he breathes deeply with seven-count exhales, visualizing how he wants the procedure to go. "Athletes use these techniques to perform under pressure, but we can all call on them in our regular lives," Dr. Kennedy says. It starts with knowing what kind of breathing works best for the challenge you're facing. Here's what the latest research shows.
"A blank calendar means, literally, a clean slate,"
says Andrew J. DuBrin, PhD, professor of management at the Rochester Institute
of Technology in Rochester, New York. "Think of something positive as of
this very minute," he advises. "Say, you just got a little check from
an insurance company -- even if it's only $36, that's positive. Maybe you got a
compliment from the boss -- that's positive. And old customer calls -- that's
"If you keep looking back at the old year -- especially
last year -- you will get into a downward spiral," agrees Susan Battley,
PsyD, PhD, a leadership psychologist and clinical associate professor at State
University of New York at Stony Brook. "I believe in 'Three Bags Full.' A
BAG is a 'Big Audacious Goal.'" Three is the absolute maximum (mileage may
vary -- one might be more realistic).
Some Big Audacious Goals
What could be your BAG?
Learn a second language. Even pecking at learning a second language can
shake things up and head you in a new direction, DuBrin says. He made the
Spanish-language page of the El Paso Times his computer homepage and picks
through the news in Spanish every morning.
Change careers. Every change starts with a defining moment -- maybe looking
at your blank calendar of impending "same olds" can be that moment.
Remember the job or city where you were happiest -- how could you get back to
Volunteer. You know what they say, "If you want something done, give it
to a busy person." Doing well by doing good can make the other things in
life seem more bearable. Tutor a student. Train your dog to be a therapy dog.
Bake cookies and take them to the firehouse. Something!
Make more money. Start a second business. Find a safe place for your cash.
Ever think of U.S. savings bonds? They are quite a buy now, experts say.
Join a dating service. No, not you married people! But if you are
"between relationships," DuBrin says,
why not do something about it for once? You may also meet people by
Plant a tree. A piece in The Wall Street Journal said tree
planting is on the decline. Learn about your tree and pamper it.
Whatever your BAG, Battley says it is not only important to put
it in writing, but also to put in writing the steps you need to take and the
obstacles you will face (this is allowable negative thinking). "People
vaguely think things, but don't make a plan," Battley says. Strangely, she
adds, it's the peak performers who can be their own harshest critics and get
hung up. "Do this with a buddy and hold each other accountable," she