Those of you who have been following me on LinkedIn or Facebook know that Mondays are hard for me. Partly it’s the way the pandemic has reshaped our workflows and life in general. Each day for a work-at-home entrepreneur is basically the same. I feel like Mondays used to mean something for my work-life that they don’t really mean anymore. Partly also it’s my weird relationship with my venture, Inner Citadel Consulting. Monday is just another day after all, but it is also a day with which I tend to mark the passing of time toward work goals.
Usually what happens on a Monday is a spiraling of thoughts and worries about “the plan” and “the work”. This all drives me outward from both of those things, reinforcing my reaction, until I get a hold of myself and deal with it. Today, I thought I’d use this experience to talk about an emotional reasoning cycle you can do, employing ICC’s Notice-Engage-Empower model. The model is essentially a way to practice emotional reasoning.
Notice – awareness.
I write down what feeling I think I’m having: “worry”. Yes, actually write it down. I think about the context of that feeling – have I had it before? Is there a pattern to the feeling (like increasing intensity)? Does a person trigger the feeling? Or an event? We have an emotional memory system deep in our limbic system – and it can be very useful. The goal in the Notice stage is to acknowledge the feeling but also to observe the context of the feeling. My pro-tip is to examine where I am feeling it. For me, this Monday feeling hits me in the pit of my stomach.
Engage – evaluation.
Now that I’ve centered the feeling in this context, in what other contexts does the feeling happen? For example, I get a similar feeling when I realize I’ve made a mistake, or am doing something complicated for the first time, or am standing on a cliff before jumping into the lake. And I get it in the same place in my body. But when I worry about other things (like my kids, the state of the world, finances, making travel connections), I feel it in my heart/lungs/ribs. My chest can get tight, breathing gets shallow, or sometimes my heart even seems to ache. I can even generate this different feeling right now by imagining something I feel is more accurately called worry (like how kid#2 is doing with health concerns, or how kid #1 is managing work). But my pit of the stomach feelings come from different things.
In fact, I can create that similar pit of the stomach feeling pretty easily, by focusing on my failures. This is exactly the physical feeling I get on Mondays. Could what I am feeling be a sense of failure? Worthlessness? “I suck at this?” “Why aren’t I moving to my goals?” “This whole idea was a mistake. I can’t do this.” And so on. Yep, I’m not worried. I am afraid I will fail. With the Engage step my goal is to examine the content of the feeling. What emotional memories help me analyze it? How is my body responding? Can I pick the feeling up and turn it around to look at it from the other side? Can I be open and honest with myself, so I can seek a solution? No solution will work if it’s not aimed at the actual problem.
Empower – action.
When I have noticed and engaged with my feeling, the emotional reasoning cycle insists that I have to do something. Years ago, I would have shoved it down, pushed it aside, or spent time looking at job ads. As if a different job would have generated different feelings!! Oh, my. But once I am aware of what I am feeling and where I’m feeling it (Notice), and once I have evaluated that feeling and where it comes from as accurately as possible (Engage), I can consider a course of action to mitigate the unproductive emotion. I’m pretty sure now that, while there is overlap with worry, I am not “worried” about work. I’m afraid I’ll fail. I can empower myself to “resolve” this feeling by thinking what has worked in the past.
Years ago, I wouldn’t have done anything and the feeling would have turned toxic, emotionally and physically. Over the last 10 years or so, I’ve learned that the people who love me or admire my work will be honest with me. That people whose opinions I value can help me be objective about what’s going on. Most important I realize that usually just naming and expressing the feeling is enough to “resolve it”, release it. Objectively, intellectually, I know I am not a failure and that success is coming, whether slow or fast. Emotionally, subjectively, I feel what I feel. It’s what I do while I’m feeling what I feel that matters; I express my humanity with what I do and why . I am learning to embrace what I’m feeling, accurately and honestly but I’ve always been in complete control of what I do.
So, here I am expressing to you what I’m feeling on this Monday morning, and probably every Monday for a while to come. I’m hard on myself. But as I type this, I also realize that my grit, my insightfulness, my empathy and my intellectual curiosity and capacity have made me very successful at many things, even against the odds. Have I failed before? Absolutely, sometimes stunningly. Can I recover from failure? Absolutely, sometimes stunningly. Where does all this leave me with that feeling right now? After taking the time to feel that feeling, evaluate it, locate it, empower it… it’s subsided.
I’d be lying if I said it was gone. But I’m not in the spiral now, and next time I feel that feeling, in that context (this is how emotional memory works, folks), I can get here quicker. Until some day I’ll wonder when the last time I felt like a failure on a Monday is. That is the nature of growth, that when we look back over time, we can see how inevitable, incremental, and incredible our progress has been.
Well, hello, tense Tuesdays!! I guess there’s still work to be done, eh?