When "Yes, We Can" Comes Before "Yes, I Can"

Democratic strategist and pundit James Carville speaks his mind, and what he says is frequently Train challenged by others. (Did I mention he's married to Republican strategist Mary Matalin?) But I think few will disagree with Carville's opinion on 2008:

You know, people will insist that 2008 had 366 days. I don't believe it. I think it had 36,066 days. It certainly felt much longer than any year that I've ever experienced.

I couldn't agree more. I live in Manhattan where my work as career coach and resume writer includes serving as a volunteer facilitator for a MeetUp.com group of job seekers. Our members range in age from 18 to 70 and include college students, mid-career executives, and seasoned professionals. I've gotten to know and enjoy many of them personally and as the economy has tightened, a collective sense of hope has become increasingly important.

No one wishes for a plane crash, but I think last week's "Miracle in the Hudson River" gave people a dose of optimism which continued through Martin Luther King day. Supporters of the new Obama administration also have it in today's Inauguration. After all, the first definition of inaugurate is "to make a formal beginning of; initiate; commence; begin."

After a year that felt like 36,066 days, a sense of hope and the prospect of a new beginning is both popular and contagious. For many, it puts the swing back into the step. Our MeetUp group met last night and the collective mood was more upbeat than in recent weeks.

But it doesn't work for everyone. I've talked to many job seekers who've said that their New Year's resolutions for the job search are hard to keep. As news of new layoffs and hiring freezes continue, individual momentum can be difficult to maintain. As one of my group members said to me recently, "If I make it outside, it's a good day. It's just hard too keep going."

My advice in these situations? Borrow from the Obama campaign and try "Yes, We Can" before telling yourself "Yes, I Can." Join a group or band together with friends to accomplish your goals. There is a reason why Weight Watchers, Team in Training, and the Biggest Loser often work for weight loss and improved fitness: there is proven strength in working with a community to effect personal change. It works better than trying it on your own.

I share this advice courtesy of one of my favorite authors, Gordon Livingston. A Psychiatrist, Dr. Livingston has experienced an unusual amount of personal pain in his life: He lost two children, one to leukemia and one to suicide. He writes about how he lived through the experience and shares additional lessons learned in Vietnam and through his work with clients in his practice. One of his nuggets of wisdom: Feelings follow behavior.

In other words, if you're feeling down, don't bank on waking up one morning and feeling better all on your own--get moving now! This is why I recommend joining a group and even "faking" enthusiasm if you have too in the short-term. (You can--and should be--honest with yourself and examine the emotions behind your feelings, as part of the process.) In the short-term, you may find that the act of saying, "Yes, We Can" now lead you to say "Yes, I Can" sooner than you think.

Let me know if this works for you, and if I can help you get unstuck.

To your success,


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