You pull the shades down and hunker into your Herman Miller chair. Stretching your fingers and bending your arms to the side, you go through a morning ritual to help punch up your energy. Dark roast coffee, check. Hard candy in a dish to help with sugar cravings, check. Phone muted and vibration disabled to ward off distractions, double check.
And yet--you still feel the cold chill of stress creeping up your spine. You've done everything you can to create a productive environment, but you can't help thinking about the higher mortgage payment due next month or how your son is flunking out of trigonometry.
Negative thought patterns are like gnats that fly around your head at work. You try not to notice them, and yet they still make an annoying buzzing sound that's almost impossible to ignore.
Taken to an extreme, those gnats are zapping your happiness. The good news? There is a way to fend them off that can help you push your way out of a dark cloud.
Here's one technique that works for me. Call it a moment of silence, a prayer, or just a "nothing box" that helps you regain focus. For at least the past decade, I've used this technique to help me recalibrate on the tasks at hand. You don't even need to go for a walk or push away from your desk. What you need to do is just stop. Stop. Look out the window, sit back in your chair--push the Pause button for a few minutes. Then ask yourself a few questions.
What gives you the most meaning and purpose in life?
If your life ended right now, would the next task really matter in the grand scheme of things?
What are you really good at and what gives you the most long-term happiness?
Are you breathing steadily and in a calm manner? Why or why not?
Who are the people you love the most?
Why are you doing the next task or working on the next project?
What do you hope to achieve?
Now go back through those questions again and really answer them. Put some thought into it. Write out the answers in a journal. The idea isn't necessarily to come up with the best answers. It's to turn away from your tasks and think bigger.
This recalibration process helps you find the reasons behind your tasks. They help you find the long term in the short term. A pause during your day is important--life altering--because you take in a bit more of the sounds and motion in the office around you, you sink into the moment a bit and look back at your day and forward to your future. It's a way to revitalize.
I once did this with one of my kids many years ago. We were watching TV and laughing about some spilled popcorn on the floor. She was only about 3 at the time. Then I turned off the TV, put the popcorn back in the bowl, and looked out the window with her. We watched people driving by, but mostly just looked at the clouds. We watched a single ray of sunshine creep along the carpet. We pushed the Pause button on life.
Do that at work. When you reset, it helps you realize you have bigger ambitions in life. You are stressed out about one day, or even one task, but it's best to enjoy it while it lasts. Reflection and taking a pause help you understand that the blip is momentary.
Why is this so critical to your happiness? As I tell my kids, there's a reason they call it work and not having a big party. There's a drudgery that can bring you down. There's also a way to calibrate your emotions and thought patterns to help you realize your work is also a step forward. Maybe you are trying to put your kids through college, or raise enough capital to create a new product, or have lofty ambitions to make your mark on society. Don't let one expense report or business presentation get you stuck. A pause is a way to fight drudgery.
Why not try one right now? Email me if it works. Heck, email me if it doesn't work so I can ask you a few questions about why that is and what it will take to help.