Emotional Physics

Have you noticed that some days are harder than others to put a happy face on things? Saturday was like that. I’d gone to bed the night before with a list of things I planned to accomplish the next day. By the time I’d fully woken up and had my tea, I realized I felt discouraged. I didn’t feel like doing anything.

There’s nothing wrong with changing your mind, especially on a Saturday. But it wasn’t that I’d decided I’d rather do something else. It was that I didn’t feel like doing anything at all—except beat myself up for how I was feeling.

I recognized this trap; perhaps you have a similar one. If I simply did nothing, my downwardly spiraling mood would get worse. However, I knew I was incapable of forcing myself to tackle the “to do” list. My friend Allen taught me a neat trick to handle this dilemma—just do something. On the days he can’t get going on what he’s “supposed” to do, he does chores. So that’s what I did. I had already planned to do some cleaning later on in the weekend so I tackled it then rather than later.

What’s brilliant about this strategy is that it accomplishes two important things:

1. It gets you into motion and, no less than the esteemed Sir Isaac Newton taught us that a body in motion tends to stay in motion (and a body at rest tends to stay at rest). Once I’d finished cleaning one room on Saturday, I was in a completely different mood. I was able to move on to a few other chores and eventually tackle some of the things on my list.

2. It staves off the “guilts”—those thoughts and feelings that accompany the “shoulds”—I should be doing this or I should be doing that. We “should” all over ourselves, don’t we?

Had I done what my mind was telling me to do—sit on the couch and play a video game—I would have been feeding the downward spiral. At the end of the day, I knew I would feel terrible, full of guilt and a feeling of desperation. Instead, when my head hit the pillow, I’d accomplished enough to feel I’d had a good day, even if I hadn’t accomplished all that I’d set out to. The most important things on the list were done and the entire list was completed on Sunday when I had the energy for it.

The Law of Attraction dictates that you attract more of what you’re focused on. When you get into motion, it is the first step toward reversing the downward spiral and your emotions begin to cycle upward into a more positive state of mind. You cannot, however, go from a down mood to a happy state of being in 2.5 seconds (unless there are drugs involved and who needs those after-effects?)

How can you apply this at work? I once coached a woman who had a lot of trouble with becoming “frozen” at work. She realized there were things she had to do but, similar to my Saturday experience, just couldn’t seem to get motivated. She compiled, for just those occasions, a list of mindless tasks—those things you can do well without having to be fully engaged. When she became frozen, she would go to her list and do things like filing, pre-addressing envelopes for future use, or cleaning up her work area. Whatever activity she chose, it successfully put her into motion and in a short amount of time, she could get back to where she needed to be. Her productivity skyrocketed.

If this is a problem you sometimes face, I suggest you make your own list of mindless tasks. Keep it handy so when you get frozen, you can get yourself into motion. A body in motion tends to stay in motion—and wards off atrophy of the mind and the body. Happy melting!

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