Some people spring out of bed on Monday feeling fresh, relaxed, and eager to get back to work. But I’m not convinced those with boundless energy and enthusiasm are of this world. I woke this morning, dragged myself out of bed, showered in a half-dead daze, and made a beeline for my French press to brew some Sumatra roast. For most of us, getting back into the work week can be rough.
As annoying as it is to most of us, Monday has its purpose. It’s a great day to focus on self-improvement. If you take just fifteen minutes out of your morning to focus on a few ideas to put into action this week, you’ll feel less existential dread and more motivation as you start your day. Here’s how to spend those fifteen minutes.
Keep moving forward by ruminating less and noticing more.
We tend to get trapped inside our own heads a lot, ruminating endlessly about things that have happened or might happen. Unfortunately, that can mean getting in our own way, which leads us to feel stuck. Sure, there’s some value in reflecting on your performance and learning from it, or planning for the future. But self-reflection is only meaningful when it leads to positive outcomes. Reflection yields forward momentum when you stop ruminating and start noticing.
Rumination might have you thinking things like Last week was awful. I didn’t get enough sleep most nights, and even coffee wasn’t working for me. I made mistake after mistake!
Can you see any value in beating yourself up like that? I sure can’t. Try noticing what happened last week rather than rolling the events around in your head in a way that churns up negativity.
Here’s what it looks like when you notice rather than ruminate.
Aha! Now we’re getting somewhere. Instead of beating yourself up for last week’s lackluster job performance, you’ve identified a trend. You’ve noticed that your tendency to stay up too late causes you to rely on caffeine, which leads to a crash, which finds you making more mistakes. That’s something you can remedy by developing better sleep habits.
How to Break the Rumination Habit
We all ruminate. It’s a hard habit to break! Fortunately, being aware of your mind’s tendency to be your own worst enemy is the first step toward breaking the cycle.
One of the wisest people I’ve known frequently helped me keep my own rumination habit in check. Any time she caught me beating myself up, she’d ask, “Is this useful thinking?” It would snap me out of my funk and help me recognize that no, laying on a bunch of criticism targeted at myself wasn’t particularly helpful. In fact, it was detrimental.
Noticing, rather than ruminating, leads us to evaluate those tendencies that might be hurting our performance (or even our psyches) in a way that leads to self-discovery, not self-flagellation. If you find yourself ruminating, try these tricks to break the cycle.
- Learn to spot rumination. It’s important to know the enemy! If you’re lost in your own mind, beating yourself up over something in the past or worrying about the future, you’re ruminating.
- Ask yourself “Is this useful thinking?” If you catch yourself ruminating, take a deep breath and consider whether your thoughts are actually helpful. Odds are, they’re only making you feel bad about yourself.
- Practice mindfulness. Make a habit of being in the moment. Mindfulness is a powerful tool for creating peace and positivity. We talked about it a few weeks ago in our Monday Motivation segment on avoiding negativity.
When your tendency to focus on mistakes keeps you stuck, breaking the cycle of rumination can help you move forward. Treat yourself as you would a friend or family member—with kindness and understanding. Noticing the habits you’ve developed that aren’t working for you, rather than beating yourself up for the problems they cause, enables you to make a change for the better.