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January is a really stressful month.

If only January could live up to its potential. It has so much potential. And every year, with the changing of the calendar January gets sidetracked by the onslaught of “shoulds” and false expectations and promises of the future. I was preparing to write what somehow seems to be a required “get motivated” call to action, and I noticed the dramatic yet inevitable shift in energy that happens that first week back in the reality of January.


That first week back, for example, I was walking my two small children to school and there was excessive honking and a fender bender in the road right next to us. Statistically, you have a 20% greater risk of having a heart attack on a Monday compared to other days of the week, and I can only imagine that it spikes on the first Monday back in January. The honking was continuous almost the entire way. I live in the city, but San Francisco is not a particularly high honking city, particularly in the very family friendly area in which I was walking. But so many of us are filled with the impatience and anxiety of January that we actually risk crashing in the rush.


It didn’t seem to get better. The very next Monday, when I was coming home from the gym (because January) and I was again walking up my quiet street, I noticed a 20-something young women crying while sitting in her car on her phone. And another unrelated older individual sitting just across the street from her crying on the side of the curb. What was happening?


Many of my clients in January were upbeat and motivated to do great things in their organizations and careers as you might expect from professionals seeking executive coaching. And also, the month was littered with frustration about toxic team meetings, performance reviews focusing on capturing weaknesses and insecurities, and general puzzlement that the same management team that was celebrating all the success in December was critical and gloomy in January.


I note this January phenomenon because I think collectively, we can do better. We can do better to calm the anxiety of January. I came across this slide about anxiety.

It surprised me because anxiety is so easy to miss. These anxious qualities are also the characteristics that make a good MBA. Or a star employee. And women often excel at anxiety.


What I wish we could all remember in January:

  • Executive teams please postpone doing performance reviews until later in the year (and please redesign them to be more affirming - but that’s a different post!).

  • People Managers please look out for your team during this challenging time. Remember that you are the first line of defense. Ensure that your team is engaged and productive by reducing uncertainty and eliminating what is unnecessary.

  • Job seekers please remember that February will be better. It takes time for the new year momentum to take hold.

  • Parents please resist signing you children up for summer camp until at least March. You will get a spot and likely something even better or a discount will turn up if you wait.

  • Emailers please filter and delete any email promotion that has the word “resolution” or “gym” or “pounds” in the subject.

Thankfully, January has ended and we can all move away from the “should” of external expectations and self-doubt and put one foot in front of the other to set and achieve small, positive goals each day.


If you are ready to move past January and set the next eleven months on fire, please contact me at unpackingthebox.com or set up a free consultation on how you can free yourself from the Januarys. We can collaborate to set realistic, bite sized goals and a create a personalized strategy to move you forward sans outside expectations!

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