Monday, January 20, 2014

Monday Vow

It's time to put your distaste of Monday to rest. It's time to stop dreading the work week. You can't prevent Monday's arrival but you can decide how you react to it and the challenges laid out before you.

Instead of anticipating Monday with trepidation, you ought to celebrate its inevitable return. Challenges are opportunities for self-improvement. How you deal with them is a direct reflection of your character.

This Monday I propose we make a vow.

Repeat after me:

"With Odin as my witness, I hereby solemnly swear to crush this week."

Crushing doesn't mean you'll overcome every obstacle in your path. It simply means you will greet challenges with optimism and resolve. It means you'll approach each hardship as an opportunity to learn, adapt, and become a better version of yourself.

Failure is a good tutor but his lessons tend to sting. If you're too busy nursing your wounded pride, you'll likely to miss the lesson altogether.

Let's talk about the two most common challenges you'll face this week.

Challenge #1: Work

Why do so many people dread going to work? It's not like we're working in Dickensian factories here. Even the least glamorous jobs are considerably better than the jobs held by our recent ancestors.

Because most of us view our jobs are a means to an end, not an end unto itself. We work to pay the bills and put food on the table--in other words, because we have to. Very few people are fortunate enough to be working in a field they are passionate about, so that even those who truly enjoy their jobs would rather be doing something else.

Until you find a way to leverage your passion into a paying job, you're going to have to settle for the next best thing. If you absolutely hate every aspect of your job, look for something better. If you've got a decent gig, take steps to maximize your enjoyment of it.

Engage with your job. Treat it like a game. Develop tricks and shortcuts to improve efficiency. Experiment with new ideas, tweaks, and improvements. Set goals for yourself daily so that you can measure your progress and feel like a champ when you crush them.

More importantly, don't let your job stress you out. Do your absolute best when you're there but don't bring it home with you. Don't get caught up in office gossip or politics, either. Don't put undue pressure on yourself and don't let someone in a position of authority put undue pressure on you, either. If a deadline is unreasonable, don't be shy: say so.

Which brings me to challenge #2.

Challenge #2: People 

Your roommate; the guy taking up three seats on the bus and emitting a strange odor; your spouse; the head of your department: remember that each one is an opportunity for you to learn, adapt, and improve.

Because people are so complex and nuanced, it's highly unlikely you will get along with everyone you meet. You might have difficulty connecting with some people and you might butt heads with others. Don't let difficult people wear you down; instead, treat them like puzzles to be solved. Find a way to smooth things over and make your interactions with such people as painless as possible.

We humans are biological machines. We act and react in the face of external stimuli according to our circuitry and programming. Human interaction can rightfully be seen as the pushing and pulling of various levers: when I say this, you react this way; when I do that, you react that way. Behavior triggers reaction, which triggers behavior, which triggers reaction, so on and so forth.

The best way to figure out a person then is to study the underlying mechanisms that dictate their actions. Keep track of how they behave after you say this or do that and amend your actions in order to avoid unpleasant interactions.

And when someone angers, saddens, or annoys you, remember that they are simply pushing your buttons and pulling your levers, nothing more. Don't take it personally. Ultimately, the only one liable for how you feeling is you.

As Marcus Aurelius said, "If thou art pained by any external thing, it is not this that disturbs thee, by thy judgment of about it. And it is in thy power to wipe out this judgment now."

So when your co-worker says something offensive or a messy project gets dropped on your desk or your supervisor critiques your work harshly, remember our vow. Write it down and read it over and over again. Repeat it to yourself as needed. It's easy. Just say it.

I swear to crush this week.


(PS. If it sounds like I'm advising you to manipulate people in your life, it's because I am. We're all manipulators whether we know it or not. The world is composed of levers and buttons. Manipulating a person for selfish gain is different from manipulating a person in order to improve your relationship with them and minimize the number of unpleasant interactions. /rant over)

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