Since the holiday lights, gatherings, and disruption of normal routines have now long come to an end, I’ve heard many people say they feel blue, blah, and have neither interest nor oomph to resume their routines. Holiday activities, travel, expectations, finances, changes in habits all add stress, and, for some, contribute to post-holiday malaise and doldrums.
Of course there are also those who feel recharged, joyfully embracing the start of another year. Most of us probably settle somewhere in the middle, hoping to improve and enjoy life, but some find a new year daunting, due to both changes and sameness, and for many, it’s uncomfortable to share – or even listen to – feelings of being unsettled or unhappy.
Are you feeling stuck or discouraged? Negative, false (but convincing) and anxious thoughts can cause us to avoid certain situations. This increases anxiety and can become a vicious cycle, robbing us of enjoyment, productivity and accomplishment. For each of us the answer will be different, but what is your approach to reorganizing for another year and meeting your needs? And in what ways do you try to disguise them? Even though people are social beings, holidays can create mixed emotions of “glad we did it, glad it’s over.”
For some, time with family and friends is enjoyable; for others, an exercise in dashed hopes rather than acts of goodwill. Some have a general feeling of isolation. It’s normal, and usually temporary, to feel lonely at times, but loneliness or sadness often occurs by comparing “then” and “now” expectations and memories of past events. Being able to cope with loneliness is a critical skill, because it’s a fact of the human condition: no one can really spare us from some life situations which we truly must face alone, but the longing that accompanies separations stem from our need for connection to others. We are not alone in that feeling.
Staying in the present moment can increase our ability to face adversities. When feeling lonely, make human contact – a phone call, eye contact, exchanging pleasantries with whoever is available. Show curiosity and interest in understanding another. If you care enough about people to miss them, communicate that caring. Share your experiences and be interested in others lives; really listen to them. Be honest in your evaluation of your current relationships: some inspire us and make us stronger while others drain us. When we settle for those that do not fulfill us, we miss the point of having relationships.
During low-energy, uncertain and lonely periods, perhaps it seems as if everyone else is living life better, stronger, getting there more quickly. Yet we all have individual natural talents and differing desire for and definition of business and personal success. Some are content in their comfort zone; others are risk takers. Some quietly work toward changes; others have spasms of enthusiasm. Some are genuinely enthusiastic about numerous things, and some are harried, constantly spreading stress. We’re told gym memberships typically skyrocket the first days of the year, and that within a few weeks, gym attendance returns to, or even below, pre-holiday levels.
This is also true in other aspects of life with some who start strong but engage more in wishful thinking than accomplishment. People sometimes feel they “must” or “should”, until resentment sets in and they become stuck or quit. However well intentioned or genuine our enthusiasm, it can be difficult to maintain without burning out, because we all encounter life events that sometimes drain us. Honestly and sincerely assess your motivation. Is it authentic for you? Is it strong enough to sustain you? Be reasonable in the pressure you place on yourself.
Literally and figuratively, it’s better to walk 100 steps today, 101 steps tomorrow, 102 steps the next day, continuing to increase incrementally, than to walk 1000 steps today and become overwhelmed and give up. Build momentum. Since we are all subject to human foibles, we’re likely to have bouts of any of these things – and more – from time to time. Many repeatedly recommit and seek motivation but the key to actually accomplishing our goals, even our responsibilities, is not motivation alone. And it’s no secret… it’s simply follow-through. Simple, yes, but not always easy. The easy part is “wanting.”
Many want to…have good intentions…mean to do…gonna do…but never follow through. They wait for the right mood, the right words, the right time which often never magically appears. Motivation and enthusiasm exist in the mind; momentum and follow-through occur only through actual doing. Our thoughts often defeat the very motivations they created, and we argue with ourselves, sometimes to the point of self-sabotage. We’ve all done it; thinking, “I need to do this…,” and then we think…but I’m tired, I don’t have time or enough money, it can wait until tomorrow, perhaps I’ll fail or embarrass myself, or I have nothing of value to add… pick any excuse. Sometimes it’s best to stop thinking and simply follow through.
The argument with yourself won’t last long once your mind realizes you can, and will, override its objections. Often the hardest part of any activity is simply putting on your shoes and getting out the door: it’s the same mentality with other aspects of life. Star athlete Michael Jordan said: “Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen.” Take charge of your choices. Actively look for ways to increase your happiness and momentum. Success doesn’t come automatically just because someone is lucky; it comes also to those who most consistently followthrough with appropriate actions. As we’re often reminded, it’s not just about what you know, but what you do with what you know!