Sometimes you’re at a dead stop. Maybe it’s just a tough morning to get up. Maybe it’s a tough year. You need to cold start yourself.
It could be a full on depression, a reaction to a disappointment in life or business, or something else.
But the result is the same: you are at a dead stop. No momentum. No energy. No desire to get up and go.
We are used to turning the key in our car and having the engine fire up on warm days and cold. That’s what we’re like most days.
But there are other kinds of engines, industrial diesels and such, which require more of a process to start when cold. Block heaters, oil pumps, and other tools are needed to prepare the engine to be ready to be engaged.
This is what we’re like on the days I’m talking about, and I’d like to share a three step process to cold start yourself.
You see, with those big industrial engines, it’s not just that they won’t start or will run rough if cold. If you try to start them without all the warm up steps you could seriously damage the engine.
Sound like you on a bad morning?
Step 1. Get Up, No REALLY Get Up
The human brain is a funny thing. Nerve signals run bidirectionally. When you are happy, your brain sends a signal to your face to smile, but when you smile, your face sends a signal to your brain that you are happy.
When you are feeling fired up and ready to rock, when you feel your best, you tend to make yourself look your best.
When you’re down and disrupted, you are more likely to skip the shower, work in pajamas, and leave your hair a tangled mass. This tells your brain that you’re not fully up.
This can especially be a problem if you are working from home and don’t need to get dressed up (or dressed at all).
No matter how low you are feeling, go through the full morning process. Get up, brush your teeth, shower, do your hair, get dressed in clothes you could leave the house in, put on shoes. Prepare yourself as if someone might drop by for a visit or you might be called into the office (even if you don’t have an office).
This will signal to your brain that you are ready for action.
By doing this when you’re really not feeling like action, it will create a cognitive dissonance. Your mind will now be holding two contradictory ideas: that you are at a dead stop and that you are ready for action. While this alone won’t get you moving, it will at least create some dissent.
Step 2. Do One Action
In the first step, you planted a seed of doubt in your mind about this whole no momentum thing. Now we water that seed.
Take one action. Do the next right thing. It doesn’t have to be big. It doesn’t have to be related to goals. It just has to be one thing that engages you and will make you feel you did something.
It could be exercise. A walk around the block. Jumping jacks. Running up and down the stairs.
I have a Ping Pong Table in my house that can fold up so I can practice solo. I do that for ten minutes and it gets me going.
It could be mental like writing, drawing, or crafting.
It could even be going through your emails and acting on them, but I caution you about this one. Don’t get sucked into social media rabbit holes. Social media never made anyone happier. If you’re going through the emails, really go through them. If you open one, finish it: respond, archive, delete, or snooze. No opening and closing to look at later.
The important thing is that it be active. Not watching TV. Not playing mobile games. I’d even stay away from reading, although reading could be an intermediate step to work up to the action.
By taking an action, you are putting yourself in a place where it getting harder and harder to say you have no momentum. How can you have no momentum when you’ve already showered, dressed, had coffee, and done a thing?
Step 3. Make a Plan
Often we become overwhelmed because our plans are too big, especially if we are discouraged or depressed.
It can be hard to start with why or begin with the end in mind when we’re not sure if we can make it happen.
Start smaller. Don’t worry about grand plans and ambitious goals. Just think about what you’d like to have done by the end of this day, this week, this month.
Now write down some things that would move you closer to that end.
Copy that list over in order of the amount of time it takes to complete the tasks. Quick stuff like sending short reply to an email, paying a bill, making a list of people to call, etc goes first. The longer stuff goes later.
Phone calls go later. While quick calls exist, the potential of a quick call going half an hour and breaking momentum is too great. The exception is if you’re calling someone that you know is good at getting you back on track.
Calling your coach or best friend who makes you feel better: good. Calling the bank or customer service: bad.
The point is to build the momentum. Get so busy that you forget that you’re not up for doing anything today. That’s why all the easy stuff is first on the list.
Once you’ve made the list, pretend you are your employee and just follow the list. Don’t worry if the order doesn’t make sense (unless you actually can’t do an item before a late item). Don’t worry if the priority order seems out of whack.
Don’t question the boss who made the list. Just do what you’re told.
This allows you to rest your executive function and simply focus on doing one task at a time.
You can reply to one email, right? You can pay one bill, right?
Of course you can!
What Momentum Issue?
You’re dressed, up, working. You’ve crossed numerous items off an action item list.
Cold start isn’t so cold anymore.
What was that you were saying about having no momentum and feeling stuck?
Are you feeling stuck? Schedule a free half hour coaching session with Michael. It’s not a sales pitch. Just 30 minutes to work through whatever you’re dealing with. If you want to work with him more, you can talk about that later. Click here to schedule.
This article is meant for people who periodically find themselve facing situational depression. If you find that you are frequently having difficulty functioning due to depression, you should seek medical attention as the problem may be more severe, calling for medication or other treatment. There is no shame in seeking whatever help you need to bring you to become your best self.