Monday Motivation: Making Forward Progress

By Loralyn Mears PhD Loralyn Mears PhD has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Published on January 27, 2020

Monday Motivation, it’s on! We see you, struggling to get your day started and in need of a pick-me-up to launch your week on the right foot. If you’re a podcast person, listen to our Monday Matters content on our Spotify Grit Daily podcast channel. Or read on to get our Monday Motivation quick tips because it’s time to GET OFF that hamster wheel!

Studies show that your morning mood affects your productivity all day. Grit Daily is here to get your work week off to a good start. Pump your fists – it’s time for Monday Motivation!

Repeatedly replaying negative scenarios can have disastrous consequences for our health. Sleepless nights lead to agitated behavior, relationship conflicts and even job loss. Allowing reflection to transform into brooding creates additional challenges, making it even more difficult to advance with forward progress. Sustained replay (aka “dwelling”) for an extended period of time can lead to depression, anxiety, headaches, high blood pressure and other health problems.

Are you stuck in a rut?

Many people lament on how they’re unable to make forward progress. They’re stuck in rut. Some even describe it as a “hamster wheel they can’t get off.” And that’s what today’s Monday motivation column is all about – getting out of the wheel and making forward progress.

Everyone handles each situation differently. And everyone thinks about a past mistake or experience from time to time: some of us simply ponder it for longer than others. Human psychology and behavioral patterns are extraordinarily complex. What works for some people won’t work for others. We’re all different and react based on our unique personalities, set of circumstances and collective set of experiences attained throughout our lifetimes.

Classic “bell” curve

If you created a graph showing how long it takes people to reset and move forward after a given situation, you’d likely see a distribution pattern that repeats itself for just about everything that you look at from grades on a test to age or weight. It’s called a “bell curve” where the majority of people fall into the middle category and a smaller collection of people make up the tail at the beginning or at the end of the curve. Negative or stressful experiences that played out in a social way tend to push our reset time towards the tail-end of the curve as public scenarios are generally more difficult to process than private ones.

How quickly do you reset?

Most people fall into the middle of the bell curve which generally represents the average, plus or minus a little to consider the close-in range around the average. That means it typically takes a person, on average X number of weeks (or months, depending on the severity of the situation) to work through a given situation be it a job loss, relationship status change, death of a loved one or other event. Some of us fall into the section at the front of the bell which means that we reset faster than the average person.

I’m an instant-resetter. I tend not to dwell on situations and don’t like to rehash or replay them in my mind over and over. Generally, for most situations that I’ve encountered, I recognize that “what’s done is done and cannot be undone” and try to move forward. Quickly.

But that mode doesn’t work for everyone. Some people, including many of my friends, are at the opposite end of the curve. Typically, it takes them longer to reset because they tend to revisit and replay the scenario or their situation over and over. The recognized term to describe this behavior is “dwelling” but I think that sounds negative so I don’t like to use it. Instead, I prefer to think of people at the tail end of the curve as those who have suffered more, suffered longer and are in need of some extra time to work through whatever issue(s) is on their plate. As an empath, and as a practitioner of my own Monday motivation tips and words, it means that I need to be even more patient nurturing them to a reset point than is typically required for the “average” person.

Tips to make forward progress

I certainly can’t expect people to reset “overnight” the way that I do. Why would I even consider such an expectation? Because I feel pressure to be productive All. The. Time. That said, there have been one or two beastly experiences in my life that took a long time to work through and process – much longer than I expected. But, I did the work, reset, and here I am helping others with Monday motivation!

So it can be done. It just takes time. And work. The past is there to learn from so that we don’t make the same mistakes and suffer the same losses over and over again. It is not there, etched in an iron anchor, to be carried around forever and ever as an eternal reminder and burden in our lives. We need to learn to let go so that we can make forward progress.

#1 – give yourself a time-limit

Recognizing your own behavioral patterns and needs is a critical part underlying today’s Monday motivation. If you’re someone who’s at the tail end of the bell curve and needs more time than the “average” person to process a situation, so be it. Perfectly normal.

And you need to take the time that you need to work through it but you do need to set boundaries. For example, if your situation is particularly daunting and you need to cry about everyday, then do so. But set a limit: perhaps you can control your behavior so that you only cry in the shower. By the time that you’re clean, your cry session is over and you have to move on with your day. You may opt to set a timer and literally allow yourself 30 min before you go to bed to revisit your situation – what’s important here is that you reflect on the most joyous moment of your day or recent past so that your head hits the pillow with a positive thought before you drift off to sleep.

Having an end-point is less important, but will need to be considered if you’re rethinking your past on a daily basis for an extended period of time.

#2 – contain the scenario

You’re probably thinking, “How do I ‘contain’ a humiliating experience that I suffered at work?” Or something along these lines. The answer is, “Whatever it is, it can be contained.” Monday motivation recognizes that we are all different, no two situations or people are the same but they can all be processed in time – with work.

Memories are an important part of living that only higher-order species are capable of. Admittedly, memories can be hurtful as well as wonderful. But it’s up to us to put a wrapper around them. If photographs are painful reminders, zip them up in a file and archive them or delete the folder. If you have printed photos and mementos like travel or concert tickets, put them in a box and hide it in the depths of your attic. Better yet, burn them! If you have jewelry, donate it or sell it a pawn shop. Dump it!

Truth: yes, I burned my wedding photos when my divorce was finalized. And, DAMN, it felt good!

#3 – trick your mind to get off the wheel

Some of us simply can’t control when those negative experiences begin to replay in our minds. Usually, they happen at the most inopportune times: like during a meeting when you’re pitching your boss or you’re out in public and about to enter crocodile tears territory. If tears are coming, look up – that gives you just enough of reprieve to slow down or stop the water works altogether.

When you need to put the brakes on the scenario rewind to pause it, try this trick. Shift your thinking to a linear task. Start making your grocery list or try to recall all the items – in order – on the menu of your favorite café or restaurant. Or start listing all the songs by your favorite musical artist and begin ranking which songs are your Top 3 favorites. Redirecting your brain’s energy and focus to something innocuous or silly so that it shifts your thinking away from the negative thoughts anchoring you and frees your mind to open up to happier thoughts.

Monday motivation recognizes that life if not a series of one joyous and super-awesome moment after another. There are pitfalls, low points, valleys and troubled waters that we have to make our way across. We can not bury our heads like ostriches and pretend it didn’t happen or we will never be able to learn from our experience, heal and make forward progress.

Anything is possible – with time – and work.

1. You must let the pain visit.
2. You must allow it to teach you.
3. You must not allow it to overstay.
Ijeoma Umebinyuo, from the book, Three routes to healing

By Loralyn Mears PhD Loralyn Mears PhD has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

Journalist verified by Muck Rack verified

Dr. Loralyn Mears is a Columnist at Grit Daily and a podcast host (The Grit Files, which aims to shine the spotlight on female founders). She is a content marketer, founder of the WORKtech startup, STEERus, specializing in personal and professional development to address gaps in soft skills - communication in particular. In her consultancy practice, she helps clients with content and strategy. Loralyn spent over a decade playing with mosquito DNA, got her PhD, decided she would rather market science than be at the bench and has never looked back. Along the way, she’s wined and dined her way around the globe. She's authored two books, including the 2018 Gold Medal Indie Book award-winning, One Sip At a Time: a Memoir and the hard science thriller, "The Battle for Humanity: How Science Saved Us." 

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