Monday Motivation: Weekly Cycles


Every week has its Monday.


I know that sounds pretty obvious and maybe even a little stupid, but it’s important to remember. Our lives run in cycles, and one of the cycles our lives run through is the weekly cycle.


You start out on Monday, and the thing about Monday is that everybody hates Mondays. Honestly, if we talked a little less about how much we hate Mondays we’d probably hate Mondays a little less.


But after Monday comes Tuesday. Tuesday’s kind of weird, because it’s still early in the week but it’s not Monday. Tuesday has a bit of an in-between feeling, where you don’t quite know how to feel about it. (To my knowledge, nobody has strong feelings about Tuesdays.)


Then there’s Wednesday. It’s hump day! Wednesday is the turning point. It’s as if all week up to this point you’ve been climbing a mountain, but from now on you’re going to be headed downhill. There’s a real sense of relief when Wednesday ends.


(In fact, the only downside to Wednesday is that some people get a little too enthusiastic about the whole “Hump Day” thing, and it gets to be kind of grating.)


Next comes Thursday. Thursday is a little like Tuesday, in that it’s not particularly distinguished in any way. To use a mathematical analogy, Thursday is what you get if you take the average of Tuesday and Friday. There’s the meandering quality of Tuesday, combined with a vague annoyance at the fact that it’s still not Friday.


But sure as ever there comes the big day: Friday! There’s nothing like the feeling of a Friday evening, just sitting back and anticipating a nice, relaxing weekend. I’d go so far as to say that the Friday evening anticipation is the best part of the week.


Because Saturday comes along, and it’s great. You go camping, or hiking, or in the winter you look out the window and wish global warming would hurry up. But here’s the thing about Saturday: it’s never quite as good as you imagined it being when you were looking forward to it on Friday. The sun’s a little too bright, or there’s rain, or you can’t meet up with your old friend on account of a death in the family.


Whatever it is, something happens so it’s not perfect.


And last of all comes Sunday. For some of us that means a day of church activities, and for some of us that means a second attempt at a perfect Saturday. No matter what, though, Sunday ends pretty much the same way: Sunday evening. When Sunday evening comes around, you feel down. The weekend’s dried up, and there’s Monday, dead ahead.


So Monday comes back, with all the responsibilities and all the worries that were put on hold for the last two days. The next round of the cycle begins, and the wheel keeps on spinning.


Well, what about it? What’s the big deal about all this “weekly cycle” stuff?


The point is that if you’re anything like me, there’s part of you that fights against this cycle even though it’s inevitable. It’s that part that wants to get everything that’s good in the process without having to accept anything that’s bad. We want our whole week to be Friday evening. We hardly realize that the whole joy of a Friday evening comes from the sudden release of pressure after a week of hard work.


So we fight the inevitable, or at least we resist it in our minds. But as we all know, time is going to pass. There are going to be unpleasant times and pleasant times, moments of dread and moments of breathless anticipation.


You know that already, though. I’m not saying anything here that hasn’t been said a million times before. So what am I trying to tell you? What point am I driving at that isn’t so obvious?


Just this: you’re going to feel this resistance on Mondays. It’s part of the way the week works. There’s nothing wrong with you for partially fighting against it, and there’s nothing wrong with the week for being the way it is.


I think there’s a part of us that wants to take Monday as a personal insult, as if it came around to ruin our day and ruin our fun. But the fact is, life doesn’t work that way. It’s just the nature of things. You don’t get the good without the bad.


You have to pay for Friday evening with Monday morning, in other words. As long as you’re resisting Monday morning, there’s a part of you that’s not accepting reality.


Now don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying you have to accept reality. I’m not trying to preach. If you want to accept reality, you can accept it. If you want to fight it, you can fight it. All I’m saying is that you should be conscious of what you’re doing.


Because there’s a way in which you can say that really getting annoyed on a Monday morning makes the weekend that much sweeter when it comes. Emotional states are conditioned by their opposites, so if you’re going to experience the highest joys you’re going to have to accept the lowest misery. In that way it can be quite healthy and good to let yourself get a little down in the dumps on Monday. Just know what you’re doing, and you’ll be fine.


The fact is, motivation is a funny idea. You can motivate somebody in one of two ways: either you tell them a lie they want to believe but can’t keep up for very long, or you tell them the truth in such a way that they see their place in reality and accept it.


You’re a human being. That means you’re a limited being. But you’re a limited being with a specific role to play in the life of the human race. No matter how much you’d like to fight against that role, and no matter how much it feels like an imposition on your personal freedom, it’s a real, meaningful role.


It’s a meaningful role, and it’s a role that only you can choose to play to the best of your ability. Even on Monday.


Why Do You Keep Losing?


Monday sets the tone for the rest of the week. A good Monday gets your week off to a great start, and a lousy Monday can set you up for a week-long game of catch-up. So the problem is: how to make sure you have a great Monday?


The answer is so simple you’ll probably want to slap me: the way to make sure you have a great Monday is to want to have a great Monday.


“Well, obviously,” you say. “What, do you think I want to have a lousy Monday?”


No, I don’t think you want to have a lousy Monday. But the really important thing is that you need to allow yourself to have a great Monday. And that’s where the whole thing gets hard.


Because you’ve already decided that what you’ve got to get done this Monday is not what you’d like to get done this Monday. You’d like to spend this Monday morning lying on a beach, sipping your favorite cocktail, and listening to the rolling surf. But instead you’ve got sales to make, accounts to file, meetings to attend, and decisions to make.


No wonder there’s a part of you that resists it.


So when I say that you need to choose to have a great Monday, it takes some doing. It means you’ve got to say to yourself, “No, I don’t want to be out enjoying myself. I want to be here, now, working on the things that will make a better future.”


It’s hard to do that. It’s hard to do that because there’s a part of your mind that hates anything to do with long-term planning or discipline. It’s that part of you that craves instant gratification and wants to see the world burn. It’s the part of you that wants to sleep, eat, mate, and cause chaos.


You know how it is, when you wake up on Monday morning and your first thought is something like, “Gee, I wonder if civilization has finally crumbled so now I can do all the things I wanted to do but couldn’t do because they were illegal.”


Then you turn on the TV and there’s the weatherman going on about a warm front and the morning commute, and you think, “Not today, then. I must be civilized today.”


So no wonder it’s a little tough to motivate yourself on a Monday morning. But you figure it out by the time you start sipping that first cup of coffee. You remember, “Oh right… the whole point of this career is so I can turn my antisocial urges into planning and productivity. And the whole point of planning and productivity is so I can do better than everybody else around me. Sure, it might be illegal to destroy my enemies and drink their blood out of their skulls, but the free market economy allows me to outcompete them and thus symbolically kill them in an entirely legal way.”


Because that’s the real wonder of civilization. It manages to turn the drive to chaos and destruction into a force for creation and order. The fact that you want nothing more than to take most of the people you meet and squish them into jelly is turned (by the logic of the market) into a beneficial force for the community.


So if you’re feeling unmotivated on a Monday morning, you just need to hone your killing instinct. I want you to think of everybody you’ve known who ever made you feel small, or weak, or helpless. I want you to feel as angry as possible at that person. I want you to imagine taking a club and using it to beat their face in while they scream and they scream, “Oh, for the love of God, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean it, I swear I didn’t mean—”


But you’re not listening because the blood lust has taken hold by now, and anyways you really disliked them to begin with.


Imagine all the people who have ever hurt you. Everyone who ever insulted you. Everyone who ever made you feel insignificant. You want motivation? Just imagine how tiny and insignificant they’ll feel after they see how massively successful you’ve become.


Granted, if you’re one of those people who generally likes the human race and doesn’t have any problem with other people, this isn’t going to be the best method for you. You can go imagine gumdrops and teddy bears and making the world a better place, if that’s what floats your boat.


Otherwise, you just need to cultivate as much negative emotion as possible. People always talk bad about negative emotion, but here’s the thing: you don’t accomplish great things because you have great intentions. You accomplish great things because you have cruel, subterranean, and generally antisocial intentions.


You just need to think of all the people you’re going to beat and how devastated they’re going to feel when they lose. If you motivate yourself with the need to beat others, you may never be happy, but you’ll have a ton of energy and you’ll be able to keep going till you die of your heart attack at fifty.


So maybe you can’t go to the beach today. But you can get a heck of a lot of stuff done, and that will set you up for a great day tomorrow. And if you can have a great day tomorrow, you’re on track to have an amazingly productive week. Have enough amazingly productive weeks, and eventually you’ll be able to conquer the known universe and have all the human worms in the universe bow down before your awesome power.


Because that’s what life is all about, right? It’s all about making sure everybody knows that if they step as much as a single toe out of line you’ve got the legal and moral right to have them vaporized. Everything else is a bunch of sentimental hogwash that has nothing to do with how you can keep yourself motivated on a Monday morning.


Monday Motivation: How You Can Break the Slump


It happens to the best of us: the dreaded slump. You can’t even say why, but you just feel yourself slipping.


You’re not getting as much done as you usually do. You’re not as enthusiastic as you usually are. You find yourself spending way too much time wondering How can I get myself working like I usually do?


Of course, everybody knows how you get out of a slump: you snap out of it. You just get yourself going and pretty soon you’re making progress like you’ve always done. That’s easy enough, right?


I mean, if you’re not working very well, what could be easier than sitting yourself down and doing better work? That should be simple enough, shouldn’t it? If you’re running into problems, you’d think that going straight at them would be the way to fix it. But it’s a little more complicated than that, and I’ll tell you why.


The word slump is a term from baseball. When a player hasn’t gotten a hit for a long time, they say he’s in a batting slump. Why don’t we take a look at the way a hitting slump feels, and that way we can figure out how you can get out of your slump?


So how does a slump start? You have a bad game. Maybe you strike out a couple of times. Sure, you feel a little down because you didn’t do so hot today, but it doesn’t really mean anything. You’ll get them tomorrow and more than make up for it.


Most of the time that’s the end of the story. But sometimes you have another bad game the next day. You strike out, you ground out, and you make an error that gives the game to the other team.


So what now? If it happens once it’s a fluke. But if it happens twice, it’s starting to become a trend. It’s not quite a slump yet, but it’s getting there.


By the third day, you’re starting to wonder. This is when we start getting into slump territory. Because it’s times like these that your mind starts playing tricks on you.


You start wondering if maybe you’re starting to slip. What if this is all part of a long downward spiral into failure and nothingness?


You’re a little on edge when you step up to bat. You’re already wondering if you’re hitting a slump, and you can see it in your teammates’ eyes that they’re wondering too. You’re feeling tense. You’re feeling so tense that when you go up to bat you keep trying to relax. And the more you try to relax, the tenser you get.


A slump happens when a little bad performance gets blown out of proportion. Your mind takes one or two failures, and from that data it extrapolates that you are a failure and you’ll always be one. So a slump is really a negative thought-loop where your expectation of failure and your anxiety over your performance ends up causing you to fail.


So the fact is: a slump isn’t something that’s objectively out there in the world. You can’t point to it, and you can’t isolate it. It’s created in the pattern of your thoughts. In the end, a slump is only your mind deciding to make too big a deal out of a few bad at-bats.


Now what does all this mean? It means that if you’ve involuntarily created this slump with your thoughts, you can also end the slump with your thoughts. And how do you change your thoughts?


Well, there are any number of ways to do it. You can try affirmations, for one. I know they’re not for everybody (they’re a little too woo-woo for some), but if you practice them in the right way, they can get results over time. They’re good if you want to avoid slumps, but they’re not the best for getting out of a slump now.


What do you do to break a slump that’s going on right now? You change your thoughts. But how do you change your thoughts?


I know this might seem counterintuitive, but one of the best ways to change your thoughts is to change your habits. The best way I’ve found to end a slump is to experiment with my daily routines until I find an arrangement that gets me into the right mental state. It’s like there’s something in my mind that’s out of alignment, so I have to keep experimenting with my routines until something clicks and I’m ready to go.


There’s an incredible amount of feedback between what we think and what we do, and between what we do and what we think. So even though it might sound counterintuitive, sometimes the best way to change the one is to experiment with changing the other. We’re continually caught up in a feedback loop between our mind and the world around us, and the trick is to set things up so that feedback loop grows in a positive way instead of a negative way.


Success breeds success, just like failure breeds failure. So when you’re in the middle of a slump, it’s easy to slip into this thought-habit of thinking, “Oh no, this is the end!” But If you can keep your mind from slipping into failure-mode, you can reverse the process and start making progress before it does too much damage.


The thing you need to take away from all this is that the mind creates its own successes and failures. You have the power to change the course of your thoughts, and you can overcome the mental blocks that hold you back.


Because progress is about vision, and vision is about seeing yourself succeeding. If you want to get out of this slump, you have to believe you can get out of it. As soon as you know you can get out of your slump, you’re already out of it.


So use your vision, use your action, and use your mind to get out of your slump. Get your mind in the right place, and reality will catch up.


Monday Motivation: What You Do Right Now


There’s nothing easy about motivating yourself. Let’s face it: if it was easy, you wouldn’t have to do it all the time. Motivation would be something like graduating from school, where it happens all at once and it’s done with.


I think that way of thinking is one of the things that really sucks away at our motivation. Because we always want to think of our work as something we could get all over and done with, if only we made one big push.


We’ve got a painfully linear way of looking at our lives. Everything has a clear starting point and a clear endpoint in time and space—or at least that’s the way we like to think of things.


I don’t know why it is, but we’ve got a tendency to think of life (and all the events in our lives) in terms of a linear structure. You’ve got your rising action, you’ve got your climax, and you’ve got your falling action.


So we always think that if we can only push hard enough, we can get to that climax and finally get the whole thing over and done with. That’s basically the model of time and motivation we walk around with in our everyday lives.


Good and well. Except for the fact that it turns out to be an outrageously inaccurate way of looking at the world.


Granted, there are some genuine division points in a human life. Graduation, or marriage, or having your first child are definitely paradigm shifts that we could think of in a linear way. So on a broad time scale, the linear model makes a lot of sense.


On a very short timescale too, the linear model makes sense. Let’s not get too precise here, because I’m just putting these concepts on for size… but when I say a “very short timescale,” let’s just take that to mean anything less than a full day.


With a very short timescale, I can wake up, go through my morning routine, do my morning work, eat lunch, do my afternoon work, entertain myself for a few hours, and go to sleep. There’s a high degree of linearity on that scale, because every event is separate and not likely to be repeated.


I only wake up once.


I only eat lunch once.


I only go to sleep once.


It’s clean, it’s linear, and it makes sense. And on the scale of one individual day, it makes sense for me to think I can get everything done in one big push and not have to worry about it again after that. So you can see how the linear model of time makes sense on the scale of a whole lifetime or on the scale of a single day. But what about in between?


In the average week, let’s say, I wake up seven times and go to sleep seven times. I eat lunch seven times. I work five or six days.


The specifics of my life aren’t important here: what’s important is that we start to see patterns emerging. I know it’s a pretty elementary point to say that a day is a 24-hour cycle, but that’s exactly the point we need to remember: when we’re going through our lives, we’re going through a pattern of nested cycles.


A day is nested in a week. A week is nested in a month. A month is nested in a quarter. A quarter is nested in a year. A year is nested in a decade… and so on, and so on, and so on.


The point is, when you start looking at life in terms of weeks, months, and years instead of days, you notice different things. You start to notice that habits become important. And that’s what I’m trying to establish here: in the long term, the habit of sustained action is far more important than any moment of inspiration could ever be.


So often we think of motivating ourselves to “get over the hump,” or to reach some point where everything will be pretty much clear and settled forever. But the point I’m trying to drive home here is that nothing ever gets settled forever.


So if you’re trying to motivate yourself to move forward, you need to work on motivating yourself in such a way that you can accept what you’re doing as part of a day in, day out process. In the long term, it’s more fruitful to think of your actions in terms of habits.


Think of it this way: when you sit down to do something, imagine there’s a part of you saying “I choose to do this, in this way, at this time, every day for the rest of my life.


That’s a bit of an overstatement, but it confronts you with something very real: with every action you take, you form your character. If you allow yourself to put off some task you’re dreading, you’re training yourself to put things off in the future. But if you tackle the thing you’d like to avoid head-on, you’re training yourself to tackle the things you’d rather avoid before they get out of hand.


There’s always going to be that piece of you that would rather avoid doing things that are hard. There’s no shame in admitting that.


But what’s shameful is when we allow that desire to avoid things to keep us away from doing what we know we really ought to be doing.


It’s shameful to spend half your afternoon scrolling through Facebook instead of getting to work on that project.


It’s shameful for the guy to avoid approaching the pretty woman because “She probably won’t like me anyways.”


It’s shameful to hide and turn away from reality because you’re not sure how you’ll deal with it.


So what’s the takeaway here? The takeaway is that you should never forget that you’re deciding who you are every moment of your life. Who you are today has a real effect on who you’re going to be twenty years from not.


Form yourself through your actions, consciously and intentionally, and you won’t be disappointed.