Fix Your Life in 50 Easy Steps

Why we've become your self-help guru—for one issue

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How about some good news already? Geez, what a bleak run of luck. We have this fascinating presidential election, and even people who voted for the other guy feel good for about five minutes, then the bottom drops out of a stock market that we thought was already on the bottom, and we find out we've been in a recession for 12 months without knowing it—did anyone really not know it?—and we're going to be in it for a lot longer. Unless it becomes a depression, in which case all bets are off. Happy New Year.

So I'm sure you'll understand if we take a few minutes to focus on some good news. Or at least news that might turn out to be good, depending on what you do with it. Believe me, this is not an easy feat for your standard hard-boiled journalist. Bad news is our stock in trade. "We don't write about the banks that don't get robbed," an old city editor of mine used to explain somewhat impatiently. True enough, but my other favorite definition of news—I tend to stick to the basics—is man bites dog. And at this point, the least hint of good news would qualify as a dog-biting man.

These thoughts coincide with another journalistic truism: the year-end issue. We can't help ourselves. Part of our DNA makes us want to organize an inherently chaotic world. We seize on the close of the calendar as an opportunity to sum up, to take stock, to look ahead. You will see endless "year in review" packages, the year in pictures, the outlook, somebody even does Person of the Year (Barack Obama? Now there's a surprise!). We're half-guilty. We can't resist, either, but we decided to stop rechewing the events you already knew about and concentrate on something you could control: your life. And how to make it better. We let our eclectic crew of writers and editors rummage through their interests and talk to the experts. The result is "50 Ways to Improve Your Life in 2009," a collection of useful, provocative tips to help you focus on your money, your health, your mind, and more. Maybe you should spend time with great authors (there's a lot more to like about Edgar Allan Poe than just "The Raven"). Or explore microblogging. And we offer some of the inevitable common-sense reminders that we all somehow keep forgetting (slow down on spending). No, we're not going into the advice business. We'll have more weighty matters to cover as the year goes on. But everything doesn't have to be about life and death. And sometimes that's a good thing.

Let me know what you think of our ideas, and give us some of your own. E-mail me at editor@usnews.com or join the real-time back-and-forth discussion here.

—Brian Kelly